We got word today of an interesting development in the Senate from frequent contributor Tups.
“Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) introduced the Icebreaker Recapitalization Act. The bill would authorize the U.S. Navy to construct up to 6 heavy icebreakers. The new icebreakers would be designed and operated by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is the sole service responsible for icebreaking missions.”
Here is the announcement of the bill.
The actual bill is here (pdf).
I note few things about how this bill and how it was written.
- First it is a long way from funding a new icebreaker fleet.
- Second funding through the Navy, while perhaps easier, will not help pump up the Coast Guard’s ship building budget so that adequate funding is seen as normal and expected.
- Clearly they expect the ships to be built in Washington State.
- The bill authorizes multiyear funding, but the program does not seem to meet the requirements of multi-year funding.
- It only talks about up to six heavy icebreakers while the High Latitude Study also talks about medium icebreakers. In fact the most frequently sighted requirement is for three heavy and three medium icebreakers. This may be a ploy to insure that all the work goes to Washington, rather than being split between Washington and the Gulf Coast.
- Even so, there is a requirement in the High Latitude study for six heavy and four medium icebreakers, under some circumstances. Series production of six heavy icebreakers might bring down the unit cost.
The Navy would probably argue their own shipbuilding budget woes don’t exactly make this their preferred option, heh.
I will be interested in seeing the MoA which the Navy and CG produce if this gets enacted. Even if the funding situation takes awhile yet to sort out, the Agreement will be informative.
I think the reference to a MOU was in regard to the MOU of several decades ago when the Navy turned all their icebreakers over to the Coast Guard.
They reference that one but item (d) is for a new MoA specific to this potential construction of new icebreakers.
Thanks, I must have blanked on that. Can we really come to an agreement in 180 days? We can’t determine what we want in 180 days much less come to an agreement with the Navy.
Are Cantwell and Murkowski trying to push this through DOD and the Navy because:
– There are fewer committees to deal with?
– DHS was unwilling to use multi-year procurement authorizations previously provided by Congress?
– DOD has its contingency budget that is not subject to sequestration spending limits (even if it would never include the icebreakers, there currently lots of plus-ups for the Navy in those bills)?
Possibly all of the above. But I think it’s a more simple reason: Every attempt to significantly increase the Guard’s shipbuilding budget has, since Deepwater, gone pretty much nowhere in the Congress. Meanwhile the Navy shipbuilding budget is much more robust, has much more political support, and is fairly safe from being raided for other priorities.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.
I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve got a long list of stuff the Navy should be buying for the CG. How about just giving the money to the CG to do it on their own? The Navy hasn’t shown any great expertise in shipbuilding recently, e.g., LCS, LPD, DDG1000, CGX, and the new carriers.
I would agree, that it seems unlikely with the Navy saying the Ohio class SSBN replacement program is busting their budget. There are precedence for the Navy paying for USCG vessels, including the icebreaker Healey, 110s and 82 footers. But this would be by far the largest such program ever.
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