The US Naval Institute news service reports the House has passed the Department of Homeland Security budget including,
“The FY 2020 total is $49.8 million less than what the service received a year ago but is $846.7 million more than what was initially proposed in President Donald Trump’s FY 2020 budget request, according to a statement from the House Appropriations Committee.”
The 2020 budget request was discussed here. The FY2019 budget as enacted is discussed here.
It is worth noting that this bill has already been coordinated with the Senate, so it should advance without significant changes.
“The funding was part of a $1.4 trillion spending bill Senate and House negotiators created that avoids a possible federal government shutdown at the end of this week. The spending bill still needs Senate approval and Trump’s signature before becoming law.”
The Good News:
As expected the Congress bumped up the purchase of Webber class patrol craft from two units to four. ($140M requested, $260M in the bill, the FY 2019 budget provided six units for $360M). Congress has been pretty consistent in increasing the number purchased annually. This will fund FRCs #57-60. That leaves only four more units to complete the expected 64 total units anticipated for the class (58 in the program of record and six for PATFORSWA).
An additional $100M for long lead time items for the second Polar Security Cutter was added.
Congress also added another $105M for the HC-130J program. Congress also has a history of doing this as well. A similar amount was in the FY2019 budget.
The Bad News:
The total amount in the budget is less than FY2019, and that was less than FY2018. That trend is not good.
Since the requested amount for Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (PC&I) was $1.2B, it seems likely that even with these additions, the total Budget may be well under both the $2M the Coast Guard has been saying they need annually and last year’s $2,248.26M total, but we will not know for sure until we get more detail.
There is no provision for a much talked about National Security Cutter #12, even though money was included in the FY2019 budget for long lead time items for #12.
The Not Unexpected:
The requested amount for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, $457 million for the construction of OPC #3 as well as long lead time materials for OPCs #4 and #5, was cut by $14M. That may represent nothing more than deletion of long lead time materials for OPC #5. Construction of #5 is now in the distant future, since the decision to grant Eastern Contract Relief and re-compete the contract for OPCs #5-15. This does seem to indicate Congress will allow DHS and the Coast Guard to continue with contract relief and that Eastern will construct the first four OPCs as previously announced.
The USCG budget doesn’t include any funding for innovation and adaption of up-arming or increasing the Distributed Lethality of Maritime Operations such as the U.S. Navy. It just funds the basic shipbuilding rate (or a few additional crafts) and does nothing to counter the threats of the Drug War or peer nations.
I would have liked to see funding for MD 969 or MD 600 Explorer helicopters to pursue Drug “Go Fast” Boats and Submersibles in addition to arming it with a plank for counter-terrorism or maritime defense operations.
I do wonder if history will look back and say that after all this time, Homeland Security could have made better and more additional purchases to increase USCG firepower. I’m reminded of James Bond’s “No Time to Die” trailer where MI5 says to Bond, “The world is arming faster than we can respond.” I think Homeland Security and Congress should have responded better than just two additional FRCs. A drug Submersible sailed all the way to Europe and we have a Russian Spy Ship snooping off the East Coast, trailed by a Burke destroyer.
Why do you wish to see the acquisition of aircraft the USCG has already deemed inadequate for the HITRON mission set you describe?
Not for the MD 969, I believe, which has better stats than the canceled HITRON MD 902 Explorers. (969’s 422 NM compared to the HITRON 902’s 328 NM. 969’s 180 KTS Max compared to 902’s 131 KTS Max and MD 969 has three hours of endurance and seats six too in addition to weapons plank and seven ATGM internal tubes).
Also, I think the HITRON helicopters, the expanded MD 969 ones, could serve as a quick way to boost the firepower on the cutters without installing deck missile launchers or new fire controls.