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February 4, 2010

Coast Guard budget could get rough ride in House

House Republicans look set to give the Department of Homeland Security'sCoast Guard budget request a rough ride.

"The Administration is gutting some of our front line defenses against terrorism, cutting the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection by over 1,000 positions, while at the same time expanding the bloated bureaucracy of more than 60,000 in the Transportation Security Administration by another 4,500 employees," said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican Leader.

"If not for the critical importance of securing our ports and protecting our nation's borders, these proposed cuts would be laughable," said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Ranking Member. "To severely undercut the Coast Guard's capabilities to patrol and protect the nation's ports and maritime transportation system would give terrorists an opportunity to exploit this weakness. This proposal would permanently place port security at the bottom of the river."

Republicans say the budget proposes to reduce the number of large oceangoing Coast Guard Cutters by one-third, mothball five recently upgraded helicopters, shutter five of the 12 Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs) and reduce funds for port, waterway and coastal security by more than $100 million. It would also cut funding for border fencing, technology and infrastructure more than $225 million.

How accurate is this assessment? You can access the DHS summary of its budget request HERE.

According to that document, the Coast Guard budget proposal provides $856 million for surface asset recapitalization or enhancement initiatives: production of National Security Cutter (NSC) No.5; continued analysis and design of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC); production of Fast Response Cutters (FRC) Nos. 9 through 12; production of Cutter Small Boats - one Long Range Interceptor and one Short Range Prosecutor; and operational enhancement of three Medium Endurance Cutters at the Coast Guard Yard through the Mission Effectiveness Project.

What the Republicans look to have seized on is that the Coast Guard budget, in the words of the DHS "continues the disposition of legacy assets where new surface and air assets are coming online. Additionally, savings from targeted reallocations of operational capacity, efficiencies, and consolidation initiatives are redirected to support continued recapitalization of aging assets and infrastructure. While these capacity shifts may create short-term impacts on Coast Guard service delivery if recapitalization schedules are not met, operational commanders will allocate resources to meet the Nation's highest order maritime safety, security, and stewardship needs. Monitoring performance and adapting through risk management will be a key strategic challenge for the Coast Guard in FY 2011. In general, long-term performance ultimately depends on the pace and stability of future recapitalization."


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