Legislation to authorize the Coast Guard that passed the House last year as part a larger bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security was approved by the chamber again on Thursday with passage of the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019.
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 would allow for around $2 billion in acquisition spending by the Coast Guard in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019, permit a multi-year contract to acquire the 10th, 11th and 12th high-endurance National Security Cutters, require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a land-based long-range unmanned aircraft system program operated by the service, and give authorities for block buy contracts for major acquisition programs.
A Senate committee in March also approved the DHS bill, although it excluded the Coast Guard measure and several others dealing with certain department components, including the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The DHS authorization bill, if it can get through the full Senate, would mark the first time the department has been reauthorized since standing up in 2003.
The Coast Guard legislation, which is 279 pages long, on Wednesday, was approved by voice vote as an amendment during debate on the NDAA in the House. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee panel that oversees the Coast Guard. Getting the measure into the NDAA gives it a better chance of becoming law as Congress is routinely able to pass an annual defense authorization bill.
The Coast Guard measure also calls for the service to work with the National Academy of Sciences on assessing available unmanned and autonomous technologies that can be used in various maritime domain awareness missions, and for the service to develop a plan to extend the life of its only heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star, at least through 2025.
The Coast Guard, in conjunction with the Navy, is preparing for a new heavy polar icebreaker award next year with entry into service planned in 2023.