The House on Tuesday approved a comprehensive authorization bill for the Coast Guard that authorizes the procurement of up to four polar icebreakers and a 12th National Security Cutter (NSC) and directs the service to provide Congress with a bevy of studies on its icebreaker program, unmanned maritime systems, cyber security, and surface ship programs.
The bill, which was included as an amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also recommends that the Coast Guard’s acquisition account be funded at $3.3 billion in FY ’21. House appropriators have agreed to provide nearly $2.2 billion for Coast Guard acquisition in FY ’22. Senate appropriators haven’t marked up a funding bill yet for the Department of Homeland Security.
The legislation authorizes $550 million in FY ’21 for a 12th NSC. Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is the prime contractor for the high-endurance class vessel.
The authorization legislation requires the Coast Guard to report within one year of enactment on the completion of specifications, drawings and detail design of the heavy Polar Security Cutter (PSC) before construction begins, the readiness of the first three hulls for science missions, and actions taken to ensure the fourth hull is science capable. This spring, the Coast Guard and shipbuilder VT Halter Marine completed a preliminary design review for the PSC.
The bill also directs the Coast Guard to undertake an “enhanced maintenance program” on the service’s sole operational heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star, to extend the service life of the ship until at least December 2025. The Coast Guard is already planning a service life extension of the Polar Star until PSCs begin coming on line.
Another set of studies is linked to maritime domain awareness and is related to unmanned systems. The bill directs the Coast Guard to report within a year of enactment on the use of unmanned maritime systems, including those operating in the water and air, and satellite vessel tracking technologies on their mission effectiveness to the service. The report would also include a prioritized list of mission requirements that could be met with additional unmanned maritime systems and satellite vessel tracking technologies, and the costs associated with acquiring and operating these systems for use on new and legacy surface assets.
The bill also requires a report from the Coast Guard on the feasibility of using long-range land-based unmanned aircraft systems for surveillance of marine protected areas, the drug transit zone, and the Artic as part of routine maritime domain awareness of these areas.
The bill also prohibits the Coast Guard from buying or operating UAS and related systems and equipment that are manufactured in covered foreign countries, which refers to countries like China that the intelligence community doesn’t trust the Chinese government isn’t trying to use its industries to collect intelligence on the U.S.
The legislation permits the Coast Guard to enter into agreements with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the military departments to participate in prototype projects and follow-on production contracts that are related to the services cyber and C4I initiatives.
In the area of cyber, the bill directs the Coast Guard to report on its cyber security workforce, including plans for preventing and responding to operational technology and industrial control system concerns in national port and maritime environments. The report should include how the Coast Guard’s cyber workforce will be integrated with the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Hunt and Incident Response Teams.
A separate report is requested on the Coast Guard’s response capabilities for dealing with cyber incidents on vessels entering ports or waters of the U.S.
The bill also directs a report on the service’s helicopter lifecycle support and recapitalization plans.
The House version of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020 must still be reconciled in conference with the Senate NDAA.