I’ve read reports of Congressional hearings lately that, combined with the continual erosion of Coast Guard AC&I funding have crystalized my view that the Coast Guard’s funding methods need some tweeking.
First there is this story of SOUTHCOM (Marine Gen. John Kelly)’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he pleads for additional Coast Guard cutters to allow him to act on intelligence his organization already has.
“We got 158 metric tons of cocaine last year, without violence, before it ever even made it to Central America,” he said. “I do that with very, very few ships. I know that if sequestration’s happened, I would be down to maybe one, maybe two, Coast Guard cutters. That means, of the 158 tons that I would expect to get this year, I’d probably, if I’m lucky, get 20 tons. All the rest would just come into the United States along this incredible efficient network.”
He later explained, “Once it gets ashore in Central America and moves up through Mexico, we’re taking almost nothing off the market.”
General Kelly has taken to using unusually strong language including the words “defeat” and “existential theat.”
He also suggests that returning ISIS fighters might use the drug and people smuggling routes to enter the US from Latin America
Then there is this post from DefenseNews, reporting fireworks, as the Senate Armed Services Committee grilled Adm. William Gortney (NORTHCOM), Thomas Dee (Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Programs and Logistics) and Vice Adm. Charles Michel (Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations) about the Armed Services’ ability to operate in the Arctic and particularly about procurement of another icebreaker.
NORTHCOM has new concerns about the Arctic. Not only have the Russians been building up military forces in the Arctic, they also have new weapons that might make a conventional cruise missile strike against the US feasible.
If we need to rebuild the DEW line to meet a new threat, we are going to need more icebreakers.
The irony, of course, is that the Senate Armed Services Committee, as powerful as it may be, has essentially no direct influence on the Coast Guard’s budget, but perhaps it should.
The Coast Guard is after all an Armed Service of the United States at all times.
The Coast Guard has gotten some funding occasionally through the Navy, but not surprisingly this is an anomaly. Organizational dynamics being what they are, the Navy will always think money spent on the Coast Guard as a diversion and will want to either end it as quickly as possible, do the task with Navy assets, or have it funded from the Coast Guard budget. So getting anything like regular funding through the Navy is unlikely.
The DOD budget is not constructed the way you might think. All the money does not go to the services. A substantial part of the budget goes to the Department itself and a number of agencies of the Department outside control of the individual services. In the 2015 DOD budget request this amounted to 18.1 percent ($89.8 billion) – to fund the Defense-Wide account, which includes the Defense Health Program, intelligence agencies, Missile Defense Agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the many smaller DoD agencies. This is actually the fastest growing part of the DoD budget.
Perhaps there is a way DOD can transfer money to supplement the Coast Guard budget to answer the needs of Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) just as it funds independent agenies.