The House Appropriations Committee along party lines on June 24 approved a $60.3 billion discretionary spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal year 2023, $3.6 billion more than the Biden administration requested.
Nearly half of the funding increase, $1.5 billion, is needed just to maintain the current level of DHS services, Rep. Lucile Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the committee’s panel that oversees the department, said at the outset of the bill markup.
A copy of the bill was released the previous week and would increase requested spending in a number of areas, including Coast Guard acquisition and operations and support, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, border security technology, disaster response, and science and technology.
During the markup, two Republicans withdrew their amendments that would have further boosted the Coast Guard’s acquisition account. Rep. Steven Palazzo (Miss.) withdrew his measure that would have added $254.5 million to the national security cutter (NSC) program, including $167.5 million for a 12th vessel. Rep. Julia Letlow’s (La.) amendment would have raised the fast response cutter (FRC) program by $340 million for four additional craft.
In the case of the FRC, the committee’s bill recommends $131 million for the program, which in part will complete funding for two vessels that Congress attempted to fund in FY ’22 beyond the current program of record of 64 boats. However, due to rising costs, the FY ’22 funding isn’t enough for the two FRCs.
Roybal-Allard said she would work with Letlow and the Coast Guard on whether additional FRCs are needed. The service is reviewing its requirements for the program. The vessels are built by Bollinger Shipyards in Louisiana.
Roybal-Allard agreed with Palazzo that the NSC is “an incredible asset that is proving to be important to an array of Coast Guard missions” but said both the Trump and Biden administrations have had opportunities to add the 12th ship and have declined in favor of higher priorities, which include the offshore patrol and polar security cutters.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said he backs the “amendment in principle” because the ship will help the Coast Guard in its missions, adding he will work with Republicans on the matter.
The Coast Guard’s program of record for the NSC was eight vessels but Senate appropriators successfully increased the program to 11 ships, where it has stalled despite efforts to add one more ship complete a one-for-one replacement with the legacy Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters that have all been decommissioned. HII [HII] builds the NSCs.
Democrats on the committee defeated several Republican amendments to increase border security spending by taking funding from elsewhere in DHS.
The committee’s bill will have to be reconciled with Senate appropriators, who have yet to mark up their version of the FY ’23 measure for DHS.