Posted: May 29, 2014 2:03 PM
Coast Guard Aviation, Cutter Bump Highlights DHS Mark
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Coast Guard was given a funding boost in the May 28 markup of the fiscal 2015 Homeland Security bill.
The House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee gave the service $8.5 billion in gross discretionary spending, an increase of $315.6 million from President Barack Obama’s request. The Coast Guard markup level still would be a decrease of $46.6 million from the fiscal 2014 enacted funding levels.
Overall, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was given $39.2 billion in the markup, an increase of $887 million from Obama’s request. DHS oversees the Coast Guard.
Within the Coast Guard’s total, $1.3 billion was earmarked for acquisition, construction and improvements, an increase from the president’s proposal of $1.1 billion. Specifically, $630.3 million of that will be spent to complete the construction of the eighth National Security Cutter (NSC) as well as purchase four Fast Response Cutters (FRC), one MH-60 helicopter and HC-130J aircraft and additional equipment for the C-27J aircraft.
The NSC program is the highlight of the services multidecade fleet modernization program, and getting funding for the entire program of record — eight — marks a major accomplishment. Since some initial struggles, the Huntington Ingalls Industries built 420-foot cutters have been the gold standard for the fleet, taking part in numerous missions in the Arctic to drug interdiction in the Caribbean.
The original budget submission in March provided funding for only two FRCs, but appropriators felt that cutter needed to continue its production line in order to save costs, so they increased the total to four. The program of record is for 58.
Funding to purchase two aviation platforms, the HC-130J Long Range Surveillance Aircraft and MH-60 Medium Range Recovery Helicopter, would mark the first time a new aircraft or helicopter was requested since the fiscal 2012 budget.
In December, Obama signed off on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014, which called for the service to get 14 of the Air Force’s C-27J Spartan medium-sized military transport aircraft.
The Coast Guard will then send them into the Asset Project Office, where they will be evaluated to determine what capabilities need to be added and what missions they can perform.
Officials have said the service may have some of the aircraft begin basic logistics missions around 2016.
Lawmakers throughout the mark touted the importance of the Coast Guard getting increased funds to continue combating drug flow and migrant interdictions.
“I’m pleased that we’ve restored some of these cuts to Coast Guard’s operations, including a five percent increase in aviation and cutter hours to continue our battle against illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean,” Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said.
The bill now needs to be passed by the full committee before it can be heard on the House floor.