The Coast Guard’s recently approved budget for next year totals nearly $10 billion — a modern record. The spike in funding is necessary to pay for more than a thousand new personnel for the lifesaving service. But cost increases in the Coast Guard’s Deepwater shipbuilding scheme also are a factor:
* The first two National Security Cutters, the troubled flagships of the Deepwater fleet, will cost between $500 million and $600 million apiece, hundreds of millions more than originally projected.
* The service is still trying to sue a refund from Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin for eight faulty patrol boats that cost the tazpayer $100 million.
* The latest Deepwater contract, for new small cutters, was just protested by a losing bidder, potentially delaying that program and adding cost.
Even with budget boosts, the Coast Guard has had to scale back Deepwater to compensate for cost increases. The tiltrotor robot spy planes got axed, and it’s possible two of the eight National Security Cutters might go, too. Meanwhile, Congress is so disillusioned that it has recommended removing the Coast Guard’s purchasing authority and giving it to Homeland Security.
To get some perspective on the Coast Guard’s financial challenges, I spoke to the service’s Chief Financial Officer, Rear Admiral Keith Taylor. In Taylor’s own words (pdf!):
Some of the [budget] highlights include approximately $354 million for the National Security Cutter program; $108 million for the Response Boat Medium program; $115 million for the Fast Response Cutter program; $87 million for the Maritime Patrol Aircraft program; $73 million for the Rescue 21 program — and that will allow us to continue the deployment of Rescue 21 in the Great Lakes region, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico; $64 million for avionics and cockpit upgrades on our HH-65 helicopters (pictured); $52 million for avionics and radar upgrades to our HH-60 helicopters. One area of significant importance, $68 million for our shore infrastructure area …
In the FY ’09 appropriation, we appropriated additional monies to provide for sustainment of the current fleet. And in fact, Congress added $5 million above the request level, for a total of $34 million. Certainly, as our cutters age, the cost profile for those cutters continues to increase. That’s why it’s so important we continue to press forward with the acquisition projects to replace those cutters. In addition, within our acquisition and construction account, we were appropriated $35 million this year to support enhancements to our medium-endurance cutters.
[If I had extra money,] I’d look at where my shortfall or requirements are, and I would find those areas where we have proven assets and a proven production line that we’ve stabilized requirements and we can continue to buy more of those assets and move ourselves forward.
Congress wants to take away CG’s buying power
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