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House Appropriations proposes $1.22 billion Coast Guard acquisition budget

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The House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee fiscal 2014 spending bill, to be marked up by the subcommittee May 16, proposes $1.22 billion for the Coast Guard acquisition budget, an increase from the $951 million in the White House proposal--but also still far less than the approximately $1.46 billion annually the service has been appropriated in recent years.

The proposal (.pdf) would overall fund the Coast Guard at $9.9 billion--a decrease of $297 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, notes a House Appropriations statement.

Coast Guard acquisition, even in relatively flush years, has been less than the service says it needs to fully modernize its infrastructure; Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp has repeatedly called the fiscal 2014 budget proposal the result of "tough decisions."

"It gets my highest priorities, but we have to either terminate or reduce to the minimum order quantities for all the other projects we have going," Papp told the Senate Appropriations homeland security subcommittee during a May 14 hearing.

House Appropriations says its proposal would ensure acquisition of four new Fast Response Cutters (an amount for six was appropriated in the current fiscal year), two additional MH-60 helicopters, and a C-130J aircraft, as well as long-lead materials for an eighth National Security Cutter.

Under the House proposal, the Coast Guard would have $149.7 million for aircraft acquisition and repair--significantly more than the $28 million in the White House proposal, an amount that would constitute an inflation-adjusted decrease of about 92 percent from the fiscal 2013 continuing resolution amount of $353.4 million.

During the May 14 Senate hearing, Papp said the White House acquisition proposal "almost creates a death spiral for the Coast Guard" since it would require the service to replace its aging fleet at a slower pace, requiring a greater percentage of dollars to be used for costly sustainment.

The White House proposal includes money for the acquisition of just two Fast Response Cutters, which Papp said would place the service in the position of going forth with the planned manufacture of six FRCs in one year and only 2 in the next, or renegotiating the contract with Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards to a pace of four per year.

Papp said a pace of six per year results in cost-avoidances of at least $30 million annually, since a slower pace would add $10 to $20 million to the cost of the ship.

The House committee's proposal also includes $18 million for Coast Guard family housing.

Papp also told the committee that the Coast Guard still plans to buy a heavy icebreaker with an estimated cost of between $800 million and $1 billion. The $2 million in the White House proposal for survey and design activities is actually all the service needs in fiscal 2014 to continue with requirements planning after receiving $8 million in the current fiscal year. Papp said a preliminary requirements document is currently under interagency review.

For more:
- download the House Appropriations subcommittee proposal set to be marked up May 16 (.pdf)
- go to a House Appropriations committee statement on the proposal

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