The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill for the Coast Guard that would authorize an additional national security cutter (NSC) and six more fast response cutters (FRCs) beyond what the service has requested.
However, unless congressional appropriators agree to fund the purchase of additional ships, they won’t be purchased. The appropriators haven’t included funds for new ships in their earlier markups and drafts of the fiscal year 2022 federal spending bill.
The Coast Guard is currently funded to build 11 418-foot NSCs, all of which are under contract or already delivered by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII].
Bollinger Shipyards, which is constructing the 154-foot FRCs, is under contract for the planned 64 cutters. The six additional vessels, if funded, would bring the program of record to 70.
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 authorizes $600 million for the 12th NSC and $420 million for six FRCs.
The committee’s support for the additional ships recognizes the increasing mission demands being placed on the Coast Guard. However, the service is focused on its top two acquisition priorities, which includes the offshore patrol cutter (OPC), a medium-endurance vessel that will bridge the mission space between the high-endurance NSC and the FRC, which operates closer to the littorals for several days at a time.
The other priority is the polar security cutter (PSC), a heavy icebreaker designed to operate in the polar regions and in particular, sustain U.S. presence in the Arctic. The Coast Guard plans to acquire 25 OPCs and at least three PSCs.