Republican Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.) on Monday urged President Biden to increase funding for the Coast Guard in the forthcoming federal fiscal year 2023 budget request, particularly to close a yawning gap in shore side infrastructure needs.
“I ask that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 continue to support the U.S. Coast Guard’s recapitalization efforts, account for increased operations costs, and, for the first time, adequately address the $3 billion in shore side infrastructure needs,” Wicker, who is the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, wrote in the March 21 letter to Biden.
The Biden administration is expected to release at least high-level details of the FY ’23 federal budget request next week. Congress appropriated nearly $9.2 billion for Coast Guard operations and support in FY ’22, an 8 percent increase over FY ’21. Another $2 billion was appropriated for the acquisition account, $391 million more than requested.
The increase to the acquisition account included two multi-mission fast response cutters, which operate for up to about five days at a time in the littorals, because of the increasing demands being placed on Coast Guard assets.
“Over the past decade, the U.S. Coast Guard has taken on a greater number of missions to detect, deter, and disrupt terrorist threats and other criminal activity,” Wicker wrote. “As a result, Coast Guard capabilities and resources are in greater demand now than at any time in our nation’s history. The Coast Guard’s increased activity has provided additional maritime law enforcement, disaster response efforts, and security operations in the U.S. domain. This is true both at home, and in the projection of power and the rule of law abroad in places like the Indo-Pacific.”
Wicker’s letter coincided with the release Monday of a report by Heritage Foundation Navy expert Brent Sadler, a retired Navy officer, saying the Coast Guard and Navy must drill together more often for potential wartime operations, in particular with an eye toward China. The report also says that the Coast Guard needs to be better equipped for conducting merchant ship escort missions, including having the capacity to conduct anti-submarine missions.
“The U.S. Coast Guard will be a vital element in such a fight, especially with regard to securing military logistics and ensuring continued safe passage for foreign shipping, which would be essential for a wartime economy,” Sadler says.
He suggests that mission modules developed for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships that include towed sensors for detecting submarines be modified for use on the Coast Guard’s sea-going cutters and providing the capability for helicopters that deploy with these ships to carry torpedoes. However, the Coast Guard’s high-endurance National Security Cutters (NSCs) currently can store or handle the Navy’s lightweight Mark 54 torpedo and it’s unknown whether the medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) under construction can, Sadler writes.
To counter air threats, Sadler says the NSCs have limited air search radar but do have deck space for containerized weapons systems. The size of the OPCs suggests these vessels could also be equipped with a similar anti-air capability, he says.
Sadler’s recommendations include a Navy and Coast Guard board to produce design solutions for existing cutters, design requirements for cutters, wartime plans for Coast Guard aircraft and cutters, Coast Guard testing of a Navy escort mission module aboard an NSC for anti-submarine missions, joint wartime drills in the Atlantic and Pacific, increased Coast Guard budgets for wartime training and overseas deployments, and installation of non-lethal weapons by the Coast Guard on its major cutters to ward off harassing vessels in gray zone operations.