Navy League Urges Boost to Coast Guard Hurricane Supplemental Request
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy League of the United States is urging Congress to increase the emergency hurricane supplemental request for the U.S. Coast Guard. In a Nov. 27 letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee leaders, the Navy League expressed its disappointment in the $424.6 million supplemental request submitted by President Donald J. Trump’s administration, which is about $574.4 million short of what the service says it needs.
“This supplemental exacerbates the problem of an underfunded Coast Guard, leaving them in a funding hole that will have a devastating impact on the service, undercutting essential safety requirements and service levels and potentially costing American lives in future storms, accidents and natural disasters,” the Navy League said in a Nov. 27 statement.
“Based on Harvey, Irma and Maria alone, we need nearly a billion dollars to rebuild damaged infrastructure and restore eroded readiness,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation oceans, atmosphere, fisheries, and coast guard subcommittee Nov. 16.
“In particular, the Coast Guard incurred over $90 million in damages from Hurricane Matthew, yet supplemental relief was diminished to $15 million, and we still have units operating out of makeshift piers that have not been hardened to withstand any kind of significant weather.”
Despite the damage to facilities, and persistent concerns about the service’s information technology infrastructure and deferred maintenance, Zukunft said, the Coast Guard answered the call during an unprecedent stretch over the summer when four Category 4 hurricanes devastated parts of the U.S. coast along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
“In a span of five weeks, Coast Guard men and women rescued more than 11,300 people and 1,500 pets; they resolved 1,269 discrepant aids to navigation, oversaw 290 pollution cases, assessed more than 3,600 grounded vessels and restored America’s ports and waterways for maritime commerce and transportation,” Zukunft testified.
“Given the many competing demands in our country today and the propensity to fix only what is broken, I am concerned the Coast Guard will continue to be known solely for our success — and not what we need to be made whole.”
The Coast Guard needs $1 billion in supplemental funding for operational expenses, direct damage costs, and resiliency costs. Funding resiliency is crucial to ensure the service is ready for the next storm, and protects its own safety, according to the Navy League statement. It noted the supplemental request “slaps a band-aid” on problems like aging housing instead of investing to ensure Coast Guard housing in vulnerable areas can withstand future storms.
“The remarkable men and women of our Coast Guard did an outstanding job during these recent hurricane responses. Time and again they’ve responded to the calls for help. Not funding the costs they bore leaves them unprepared for the next storm,” Navy League National President Alan Kaplan said in the statement. “The men and women of our Coast Guard put their lives at risk; and many ignored the damage inflicted to their own homes to help save others.
“This request, less than half of what the Coast Guard requested, shows a shameful lack of gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice borne by these servicemen and women and their families — 700 of whom are still displaced. I can only imagine the effect on morale, to know their political leaders do not care about Coast Guard families.
“The Navy League has mobilizing its 50,000 members to take action and urge Congress to fund the Coast Guard’s supplemental at the full $1 billion they need to fully recover from these four storms — and be ready to save American lives in the next one,” Kaplan said. “I’ve also sent letters to the leadership of the appropriations committees. I hope they do the right thing.”