Coast Guard Budget Topline Reality Restricts Fast-Response Cutter Purchases for 2020
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Senior Editor
WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes only two Sentinel-class fast-response cutters (FRCs), a limitation imposed by the service’s budget topline. Congress funded six FRCs when it passed the 2019 budget.
In March 27 testimony on the 2020 budget before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Capitol Hill, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl L. Schultz said the service is requesting only two FRCs for 2020 because the service was not able to fit more within the budget topline.
The Coast Guard’s program of record is 58 FRCs, which are built by Bollinger Shipyards Inc. The service has taken delivery of 33 to date, however.
“We would love to continue momentum toward our domestic program of record of 58,” Schultz said. “We have four of six that are overseas deployed in support of [the] Fifth fleet commander. Ideally, 58 FRCs domestically, six FRCs to support our contributions to the CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] theater, that would be the desired end state.”
The two FRCs in the 2020 budget “are a reflection of reality,” the commandant said. “We are one of 22 agencies that reside within the Department of Homeland Security. I am tasked to manage to a topline. It comes down to making trade space in the budget to support the OPC [Offshore Patrol Cutter] and other ongoing acquisition programs.”
According to the committee, the FRC contract stipulates that FRCs are to be ordered in quantities of four, six or eight hulls.
“We will work to see what’s in the realm of contractual flexibility and hold out a little bit of hope that this might be a program that Congress remains keenly interested in supporting,” Schultz said.