Congress has rejected a proposed $70 million rescission by the Coast Guard related to funding previously appropriated to initiate the acquisition of a 12th high-endurance cutter until the service weighs in on whether it wants the ship.

“The Coast Guard is encouraged to officially convey a determination to the committees as to whether a 12th vessel is needed,” says the fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations bill that was expected to be passed by the House and Senate on Monday. The bill includes funding for all federal departments and agencies for FY ’21, which began on Oct. 1.

Congress provided long-lead funding for the 12th National Security Cutter (NSC) in the FY ’20 spending bill, but legislators held off providing funding for construction of the ship until the Coast Guard provides a definitive answer as to whether it wants the vessel. The original program of record for the NSC was for eight ships but Senate appropriators have successfully added funding for three additional ships the past few years.

The NSCs are replacing 12 aging Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. The newer ships have more capability than the legacy vessels, but the Coast Guard’s missions are continuing to expand, putting pressure on the service to spread its assets more widely.

The current fleet of NSCs has helped capture more than 226 metric tons of contraband out of the U.S., the omnibus bill says.

Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding [HII] builds the 418-foot NSCs.

The Coast Guard’s top acquisition priorities currently are the medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutter, which is fully funded by Congress, and the new Polar Security Cutter heavy icebreaker, which is also supported in the budget.