The Coast Guard’s acquisition account would remain wholesome under a draft bill released by a House spending panel, which proposes to add startup funding for a second heavy polar icebreaker and a 12th National Security Cutter (NSC) and would fund the service’s acquisition account at $2 billion, around $800 million more than requested but in line with what the Coast Guard says is the minimum it needs annually to sustain its modernization program.
The Trump administration didn’t request any funding for a 12th NSC in the fiscal year 2020 budget and only asked for $35 million for the Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program to keep the program management team running.
The Coast Guard’s original program of record for the NSC was eight ships but Congress over time has added funds for three more and if the draft House Appropriations Homeland Security bill holds up, a fourth ship will be added. The NSCs are replacing 12 legacy Hamilton-class high endurance cutters that are aging. Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] builds the NSCs.
The Coast Guard this year awarded VT Halter Marine a contract for the first of up to three PSCs. Company officials said they were hopeful Congress would add long-lead material funding for the second 460-foot icebreaker to provide predictability for the supply chain. VT Halter Marine is part of Singapore’s ST Engineering.
The draft bill fully funds the $457 million request for Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), which will replace a fleet of medium-endurance cutters. The budget funds the third ship and long-lead material funding for ships four and five as the 25-ship program transitions to construction of two ships annually beginning inf FY ’21. Eastern Shipbuilding Group is building the OPCs, with delivery of the first 360-foot cutter slated for 2021.
The subcommittee, which will markup its bill on Wednesday, is also proposing $290 million for five Fast Response Cutters, which are built by Bollinger Shipyards. The administration is requesting $140 million for two 157-foot FRCs. So far, Congress has funded 52 of the planned buys of 58 patrol craft for the Coast Guard.
In a separate proposed bill, the Seapower Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) wants the Navy to report by February 2020 on the possibility of using FRCs to replace the service’s Cyclone-class patrol vessels that are being decommissioned for operations in the Persian Gulf. The Coast Guard is already procuring six FRCs beyond its planned needs to meet requirements of U.S. Central Command in its area of responsibility, which includes the Gulf.
The HASC panel wants the Navy to compare the FRC versus the service’s Littoral Combat Ship and larger surface combatants for the Persian Gulf operations.
The panel also wants to increase funding for the Coast Guard’s readiness account, the top priority of Adm. Karl Schultz, the service’s commandant. The draft bill would provide $8 billion for operations and support, $156 million more than requested and $385 million more than appropriated in FY ’19, according to a summary of the proposal.
The draft appropriations measure also includes $215 million for two Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built HC-130J aircraft, which would be aircraft 17 and 18 towards a planned acquisition of 22 of the turboprops. The administration didn’t request any HC-130Js in FY ’20.
To pay for the increases in the Coast Guard account and other Department of Homeland Security operations, the draft bill would eliminate $5 billion requested by the administration for 206 miles of physical barriers on the southern border. The draft also doesn’t include additional funding for more Border Patrol agents or checkpoints.”
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within DHS would receive a handsome increase as well under the subcommittee’s proposals, which includes $2 billion for agency, $408 million more than requested and $335 million above the enacted amount in FY ’19.
The proposed increase includes $156 million more than requested for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program and $41 million more for the National Cybersecurity and Protection System, better known as Einstein. The summary doesn’t breakout which funds are for operations and support and which are for procurement.
The CDM effort provides software tools for federal civilian agencies to help them protect their networks and Einstein is used to detect and prevent intrusions at the perimeter of federal networks.
Overall, the subcommittee recommends $49.7 billion in net discretionary spending for DHS in FY ’20, about $2 billion less than requested.
In other areas, the draft bill proposes $7.9 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, $581 million more than requested. Included in the funding increase is $28 million more for computed tomography-based checkpoint baggage scanners, which would bring the total amount to $176 million for the technology.
The subcommittee also includes $59 million to maintain Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams.
To enhance border security, the panel is adding $242 million to the request for new technology, including $105 million for systems between ports of entry, $20 million more for systems at ports of entry, $30 million more for a third Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, and $30 million more for trade enforcement enhancements.