In thinking about how to fund a new icebreaker, it is apparent, (1) Congress, the administration, and the department have the (unrealistic) idea that ship building budgets need to be consistent from year to year (they never have been). (2) Cost of a single icebreaker is so high, funding it from the Coast Guard’s customary shipbuilding budget would disrupt ongoing programs and result in higher costs in out years to restart these disrupted programs.
The Navy is facing a similar, though as a percentage, less severe problem with the Ohio SSBN replacement program. The proposed solution is to fund the new submarines outside the Navy’s shipbuilding budget. This way the additional money does not establish a precedence for a higher Navy shipbuilding budget, and Congress has the illusion of holding the line on spending.
The advantage the Navy has here, is being part of the Defense Department. Nuclear Deterrence is obviously a DOD mission. On the other hand it is hard to make the case that icebreaking is a Homeland Security mission, so we are unlikely to be able to kick the funding requirement upstairs to the DHS.
Still it might be possible for some interested Congressional delegation to sponsor a separate special appropriation, outside the Coast Guard’s normal (inadequate) shipbuilding budget to cover the cost of a new icebreaker. After all, $1B is only .033% of an annual three trillion dollar budget. Maybe no one will notice.