Coast Guard supporter Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last Wednesday introduced a bill that directs the Coast Guard to update both the analysis of the fleet it needs to carry out its range of missions and its shore infrastructure investment plan.
The Unwavering Support for Our Coast Guard Act also requires that Coast Guard personnel be paid in the event of a government shutdown, authorizes $2.6 billion annually between fiscal years 2022 through 2030 to eliminate a shoreside facility maintenance and recapitalization backlog, and authorize $350 million to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s public shipyard in Baltimore.
“Over the past decade, the Coast Guard has taken on a greater number of missions to detect, deter, and disrupt threats to our seas and homeland, yet it remains underfunded and lacks necessary resources,” Wicker said in a statement. “My bill would provide the Coast Guard with the certainty, funding, and authorities it needs to fulfill its ever-growing responsibility for our national security.”
Wicker is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, which has oversight of Coast Guard policies. Wicker’s home state of Mississippi is where Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] builds the Coast Guard’s high-endurance National Security Cutters.
For the updated fleet mix analysis, the bill directs the Coast Guard to factor in current and emerging missions, national security threats, and global deployments of service assets in response to great power competitions. The bill also directs a report be submitted on the analysis within a year of enactment.
The pay provision seeks to avoid a repeat of the last government shutdown, which lasted more than a month from December 2018 and into January 2019, when Coast Guard personnel were not paid yet remained on the job.
Another provision of the bill establishes a program to increase diversity in the Coast Guard’s enlisted ranks.
Wicker’s bill comes after the Democratic and Republican leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which also oversees Coast Guard policy, asked the service in February to consider the range of new demands being place on the Coast Guard as it updates its fleet mix analysis (Defense Daily, March 2).