The White House on Monday sent Congress a $47.5 billion discretionary budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in fiscal year 2019, a roughly 7 percent increase over what Congress appears to be leaning toward in the yet to be completed appropriations for fiscal year 2018.

The Trump administration’s request for DHS also includes $750 million for the Coast Guard for detail design and construction of a new heavy polar icebreaker, which the service hopes to have delivered in FY ’23. A competitive Request for Proposals for the icebreaker is expected to be released in February or March with an award planned in FY ’19.

Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star. The cutter was built by the former Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company and was commissioned in 1977. Photo: Coast Guard
Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star. The Coast Guard is seeking $750 million to buy a replacement heavy polar icebreaker. Photo: Coast Guard

The Coast Guard has previously estimated the cost of the first heavy icebreaker to be about $1 billion.

Ultimately, the Coast Guard hopes to buy three new heavy and three new medium polar icebreakers to replace its current fleet of one heavy and one medium polar icebreaking vessels. The Polar Star, the service’s heavy icebreaker, was commissioned in 1976 and is nearing the end of its service life.

The Coast Guard is also seeking $15 million for a service life extension program of the Polar Star. Prior to a two-year budget deal outlined by Congress last week that would add billions of dollars for defense and domestic spending in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the DHS request didn’t include the new icebreaker construction funds.

With the icebreaker in the mix, the administration is seeking $1.9 billion for Coast Guard acquisition projects. Senate appropriators are hoping to provide $1.8 billion for service procurement projects in FY ’18, about $600 million more than requested because they propose adding funding to build a 10th high-endurance National Security Cutter (NSC), a plus-up not included by House appropriators.

The administration’s request would stop the NSC program at nine vessels. It would provide $400 million for the medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), to the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority, for construction of the second vessel and long-lead material purchases for the third of a planned 25-ship buy.

The Coast Guard would also get $240 million in its budget for four Fast Response Cutters (FRC), which would cover hulls 49 through 52 of a planned 58.

Bollinger Shipyards build the FRCs, Eastern Shipbuilding the OPCs, and Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] the NSCs.

The largest single ticket item in the DHS request appears to be $1.6 billion for construction of new border security wall in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector in South Texas. Senior administration officials told media on a background call that the request for the wall funds is based on Border Patrol requirements.

That request for wall funding is in line with expected FY ’18 spending levels for more than 70 miles of wall in the San Diego area. The Trump administration has said it eventually wants $18 billion to fund hundreds of miles of a new border wall system along portions of the southern border.

Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, is also seeking nearly $56.7 million for the procurement of two Sierra Nevada Corp. Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, which are used for maritime and land border surveillance missions, $43.7 million for 54 sensor towers for the Remote Video Surveillance System, which is supplied by General Dynamics [GD], and $44.2 million for  refreshing and recapitalizing large and small-scale non-intrusive inspection technology at ports of entry.

The Integrated Fixed Tower program, provided by Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT], would get less than $2 million under the budget request.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in a statement said the budget request demonstrates President Trump’s commitment to border and cyber security.

Despite the administration’s concerns that cyber security threats continue to increase, the DHS request in this area is slightly down from a year ago, $713.1 million versus $720.6 million respectively. In FY ’19, DHS wants $237.6 million for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program and $407 million for the National Cybersecurity Protection System, better known as EINSTEIN.

The CDM program is focused on monitoring threats inside federal networks while EINSTEIN is used to try and prevent threats from entering these networks. A number of contractors provide tools under CDM. Raytheon [RTN] is helping DHS with EINSTEIN.

DHS’ cyber security operations are carried out within its National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). NPPD’s request includes $47.8 million in research and development, a $36.7 million jump from a year ago due to a shift in funds from the department’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate.

Senior administration officials on Monday’s call said the shift in cyber security R&D funds to NPPD is being done to better align that spending with operational requirements, adding that the S&T Directorate will continue to assist in the cyber R&D efforts. A DHS budget document says that shifting the funding to NPPD will enable it “to take the next step in the R&D lifecycle to identify and fund the development of next-generation cybersecurity tools.”

Within the S&T request, which is $583.3 million overall, representing a $44 million cut from a year ago, the DHS Budget-in-Brief document says that $54 million would be cut from cyber security R&D efforts, with $46.2 million being transferred to NPPD, and the program being eliminated for an $8 million savings.

For the Transportation Security Administration, the agency is seeking $73.9 million for the purchase and deployment of computed tomography (CT)-based scanners to screen carry-on bags at airport checkpoints. TSA says the request covers the purchase of 145 CT units and the hiring of 19 new specialists to help respond to increased alarm rates expected with the new technology.

In FY ’18, TSA requested less than $1 million for its CT at the checkpoint program, which is in a test and evaluation phase at two airports with plans to expand. However, the agency has said it will ask Congress to reprogram $35 million in FY ’18 funds toward additional CT purchases.

Still, industry providers of CT systems have been hoping that the administration would seek more funding for their systems, which provide higher resolution than the current Advanced Technology X-ray systems used to screen carry-on bags, and offer the potential to automatically screen for explosives and other threats.

Mark Laustra, the vice president of Global Business Development and Government Relations for Analogic [ALOG], which expects to provide TSA with CT systems soon for checkpoint evaluations, told Defense Daily that the FY ’19 request is a “marked improvement” over FY ’18. However, he said, “The request unfortunately leaves a number of high-risk airports with inferior screening technology in place for upwards of three years.”

McCaul said in his statement that TSA needs additional funding for the CT systems.