Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on Thursday said he plans to introduce an amendment next week to provide funding for a 12th Coast Guard National Security Cutter (NSC) when the House Appropriations Committee marks up the fiscal year 2019 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
The House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee (HAC-HS) unanimously approved by voice vote sending the $51.4 billion DHS bill to the full committee, which will markup the spending measure next week. The proposed appropriations bill, the last of 12 to be considered by the full committee, doesn’t contain any funds for a 12th NSC.
The bill does contain $4.9 billion for more than 200 miles of physical barriers along the southern border, $3.3 billion more than the Trump administration requested. The Senate Appropriations Committee funded the border fencing at the administration’s request but like the measure offered by the HAC-HS, didn’t include any funding for the 12th NSC.
Palazzo, a member of the HAC-HS, said during the panel’s markup of the DHS bill that he concurs with an initiative in the bill to achieve 100 percent scanning of cargo and conveyances entering the U.S. along the southern border within five years. But, he pointed out, “the Coast Guard has a history of removing more cocaine, stopping more cocaine, from reaching America via our maritime border than any other government agency.” He added that “I think this essential craft is providing, not only protecting our communities, but it is also providing for the national security of our nation.”
A spokeswoman for Palazzo told Defense Daily the amendment is still being drafted and will include funding for long-lead time materials for the 12th NSC. Long-lead funding for the vessel is typically around $95 million and precedes construction funding, which is closer to $500 million.
Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is the shipbuilder for the NSCs, which are built at the company’s facilities in Mississippi. Congress funded the 10th and 11th NSCs earlier this year within the FY ’18 Omnibus Appropriations bill. In March, the Coast Guard awarded HII a $94 million long-lead contract for the 10th NSC.
The HAC-HS bill also doesn’t have any funds for the Coast Guard’s first new heavy polar icebreaker, which is funded at $750 million by the Senate appropriators, in line with the requested amount. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the HAC-HS, said the U.S. should buy “at least two, if not three, heavy icebreakers in FY ’19.”
The Coast Guard has a requirement for three new heavy and three new medium icebreakers.
“The United States is at an increasing disadvantage in the Arctic compared to the Russian fleet and we can no longer afford to delay, and this is a major area of weakness in our national security,” Roybal-Allard said.
Roybal-Allard and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the full committee, strongly oppose the $4.9 billion proposed for the new southern border fencing. Lowey also joined Roybal-Allard in supporting funding for the heavy icebreaker.