Budget numbers are the current budget authority, not adjusted for mandatory current accounts or discretionary receipt offsets.
During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to review the FY2017 budget request and funding justification for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Jeh Johnson testified that the budget request calls for $40.6 billion in appropriated funds (compared to $41 billion in FY2016), but with an increase in total spending authority to $66.8 billion (compared to $64.8 billion in FY2016).
The proposed budget is in line with a continued effort to continue to modernize the U.S. Coast Guard fleet, including all major air and surface asset lines. Proposing to continue these investments in the FY2017 budget request, DHS seeks $1.1 billion to support the Coast Guard’s air and surface fleet recapitalization, including:
- $240 million for four Fast Response Cutters (FRC).
- $130 million to convert Air National Guard C27J aircraft for Coast Guard use.
- $150.0 million for acquisition activities for a new polar icebreaker.
- $100.0 million to complete evaluation of detailed design and material acquisition for the lead Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC).
Prompted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sec. Johnson said the $150 million for polar icebreaker acquisition will be used to design a new heavy icebreaker, and ensure that a timetable is kept for 2020 construction.
Sec. Johnson said DHS also received funding for a ninth National Security Cutter (NSC).
Sen. Murkowski said the NSC’s are key to operations in Arctic waters in the summer months, and suggested the homeport of the new ninth NSC, or even an existing NSC, be in Alaska. She also is interested in a homeport that is closer to the Arctic.
Sec. Johnson responded that the completion of the ninth cutter is some distance in the future and commenting on its homeport would be premature.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, Adm. Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the Coast Guard, said during the hearing that the Coast Guard, since its FY2016 budget request, has developed a five-year Strategic Intent and continued to focus on Western Hemisphere, Arctic, and Cyber strategies. By using these strategies as guideposts, leveraging the intelligence community, and employing a risk-based approach to focus limited resources where they are needed most, the Coast Guard is able to address maritime threats with greater precision and effect.
Looking to the U.S.’s high latitudes, the USCGC HEALY led a scientific mission to the North Pole last summer, becoming the first U.S. surface ship to independently accomplish this feat. In another example of NSC capability and versatility, the USCGC WAESCHE deployed to the Arctic during the ice-free season, monitoring offshore drilling activity in the Chukchi Sea and providing critical maritime domain awareness of an Arctic exercise among the combined navies of Russia and China.
Adm. Zukunft said the Coast Guard is committed to the safety, security and environmental stewardship of the Arctic, and will remain closely engaged with the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, which includes every Arctic Nation, including Russia. By focusing on collaboration over conflict, the U.S. is ensuring that shared responsibilities for mass search and rescue, pollution response and safe navigation remain paramount among Arctic nations.
The Coast Guard’s FY 2017 budget priorities are:
- Invest in the 21st Century Coast Guard
- Sustain mission excellence
- Maximize value to the nation
The $701 million requested in surface assets includes:
- National Security Cutter – Funding for Post Delivery Activities for the fourth through eighth NSCs, test and evaluation activities, and unmanned systems. NSC acquisition is vital to DHS missions in the far offshore regions, including the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, and Arctic. The NSC also provides a robust command and control platform for homeland security contingency operations.
- Polar Ice Breaker – Accelerates the acquisition of a new polar icebreaker with construction in 2020. The new icebreaker will provide the U.S. with Polar icebreaking capability for years to come.
The following is the FY2016-2020 five year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for a Polar Icebreaker:
- FY2016 request: $4 million
- FY2017: $10 million
- FY2018: $2 million
- FY2019: $100 million
- FY2020: $50 million
- Total acquisition cost, estimated completion date, and total quantity are all to be determined.
The total Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements (ACI) account is $924 million and funds the recapitalization of the Coast Guard’s air and marine assets. The FY2017 request is below the FY2016 level, and its adequacy needs to be assessed.
One Appropriations Committee member asked about the lower ACI request. Adm. Zukunft replied that other components of the budget need to be taken into consideration, including whether the request supports missions, along with personnel and operations funding, such as the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy and Polar icebreaker plans.
Adm. Zukunft noted that his number one priority is a tenth NSC.
Rep. John Carter (R-TX), chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, asked if the NSC acquisition process for the NSC would endanger the other cutter and Polar icebreaker acquisition programs.
Adm. Zukunft replied that, absent any topline relief to the USCG acquisition budget, a tenth NSC would jeopardize other acquisition programs. The Coast Guard needs a reliable ACI budget, with a $1.5 billion floor, to keep all of the acquisition projects moving forward.
Rep. Carter asked how $150 million in the FY17 budget would be used to expedite the acquisition for a Polar Icebreaker.
Adm. Zukunft said the Coast Guard is starting to hire the professional staff that would oversee the design (posted on fedbizops.gov). It has also worked with six other icebreaker stakeholders to identify their requirements. It has reached out to industry and looked at parent craft designs in other countries, but design and construction will occur in the U.S. in order to accelerate the timeline. The $150 million provides industry with incentives to participate and offers assurances that the acquisition will not stall out.