The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a bipartisan authorization bill for the Coast Guard that failed to include a provision that service members would be paid during a shutdown of the federal government.
The two-year bill covers fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and has a provision that requires the Coast Guard’s long-term acquisition plans to include costs to operate and sustain vessels and aircraft, aligning the service with the other Armed Forces.
The bill must still be approved by the Senate and signed by the president.
The bill requires the Coast Guard to report to Congress on its inventory of unmanned systems and how they are used and to prioritize a list of mission requirements that could be met with additional unmanned maritime systems and related acquisition and operational costs. The Coast Guard is beginning to use small unmanned aircraft systems aboard its National Security Cutters and partners with Customs and Border Protection to operated Predator drones for longer-range maritime surveillance.
Within a year of enactment, the bill also directs the Coast Guard to report to Congress on the readiness of the specifications, drawings and detail design for the new Polar Security Cutter (PSC) heavy icebreaker before it begins construction. It also requires the service to report on the degree to which the first three PSCs are science ready and the fourth hull is science capable.
The bill also includes a “Sense of Congress” provision that a new icebreaker is needed to replace the Coast Guard’s most capable Great Lakes icebreaker, the Mackinaw.