The Coast Guard on July 20 sent to Congress its list of unfunded priorities in the FY ’18 budget request, including $750 million for construction of the first heavy polar icebreaker to keep the program on schedule and potentially accelerate the acquisition.
The unfunded priorities list also includes $400 million for four missionized Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130J aircraft to keep the service on track to achieve its program of record of 22 airframes. The list was published on Monday on the website of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will host a hearing on Tuesday to examine Coast Guard acquisition.
In an interview last month, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Defense Daily the polar icebreaker tops the Coast Guard’s list of unfunded priorities. Zukunft, who will testify before the committee today, said in the interview that if Congress can’t approve an FY ’18 budget on time and the federal government ends up operating under a continuing resolution that could mean the service isn’t able to award a construction contract in FY ’19 for the new icebreaker as planned.
House appropriators have recommended the Coast Guard receive $19 million in FY ’18 for the heavy polar icebreaker program. Congress in the FY ’17 Consolidated Appropriations Act provided $150 million in the Navy’s shipbuilding account for long-lead production funds for the first icebreaker.
The Coast Guard eventually wants to purchase three new heavy polar icebreakers and three new medium polar icebreakers. The service currently operates an aging heavy icebreaker and a medium icebreaker. The National Academies of Science recently issued a report recommending the Coast Guard procure four heavy icebreakers as the most cost effective solution to its polar icebreaking needs.
The overall unfunded priorities list is $2 billion, with just over $1.5 billion in various acquisition programs. The list also includes $125 million for follow-on acquisition needs for the ninth Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII]-built National Security Cutter, $100 million for two more Bollinger Shipyards-built Fast Response Cutters, and $5 million to create a land-based unmanned aircraft system for the Coast Guard to operate long-range, high-endurance UAS to patrol the source and transit zones in search of illegal drug activity.