National Defense Magazine reports that the Commandant, while addressing the National Press Club on August 5, made some remarkably positive statements about his expectations for the coming budget year.
“One day after the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday, its commandant predicted that the service would be receiving a big present this year: the largest acquisition budget in its history.”
There were few details, but the Commandant did refer to the prospects for Coast Guard Icebreakers.
“’This is generating a lot of interest and I’m very optimistic that on my watch we will see — no fooling — forward progress as we look at building a national fleet of icebreakers,’ he said.”
We will have to wait to find out what this really means. Will the OPCs be funded; will the program be accelerated? Will we ever see Multi-Year funding of the Webber Class WPCs? Will we see the four aircraft shortfall in the planned fixed wing fleet addressed (and the additional recently identified shortfall in fixed wing flight hours)? Will we see new Inland tenders and new domestic icebreakers? Will we see the obsolete shore facilities upgraded?
Certainly we will not see all the problems fixed in 2016.
Funding for an icebreaker alone could result in the largest budget ever, but I’ve seen no indication we are far enough along in the procurement process to warrant full funding in FY2016. We have authorization for the Navy to build Icebreakers for the Coast Guard. But that would not increase AC&I budget.
The FY2016 AC&I budget request was only $1,017.3M. In 2012 the AC&I budget was $1,463,968,000. I am not sure that FY2012 was the largest ever AC&I budget, but it does mean if the 2016 budget is going to be “the biggest” Congress will need to add at least $446.7M. I suppose several projects could be aggregated to come up to this amount, but there I another possibility.
Could this mean the Coast Guard will get a ninth Bertholf class? It makes a certain amount of sense. The FY2016 budget request funds not a single major cutter. The Fleet mix study has documented the need for a ninth Bertholf. We have a hot, increasingly efficient shipbuilding process, and the shipbuilder, HII, is certainly not without influence in Congress. A third NSC in Hawaii could significantly boost our presence in the Western Pacific and would make the long promised Crew Rotation Concept more nearly possible (not to say I think it could work).
Just adding a Bertholf class to the FY2016 AC&I request would bump it to close to $1.7B, still short of the $2+B/year the CG needs. Will we see genuine long term movement to adequate funding for the Coast Guard?