Thanks to Justin1142, I was prompted to look through the Administration’s proposed Coast Guard FY2021 budget, all 343 pages.
This did clarify some things for me. This is by no means a comprehensive analysis, but just a few things I pickup on a Sunday afternoon.
The total budget request is up very slightly from the FY2020 enacted and less than the FY2019 enacted. The Operations and Support request is up almost 4.84% from 2020 which was up 4.59% from 2019. This is almost the 5% per year growth the CG has been saying they need. On the other hand the FY2021 Procurement, Conversion, & Improvements (PC&I) request was down 7.64% from the 2020 enacted and that was down 21.16% from the 2019 enacted.
During FY2021, they expect to commission one NSC (#9 to Charleston) and five Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” (FRC), #41-45 (PC&I-33, page 180 of the pdf). Numbers 41, 42, and 45 will go to PATFORSWA. Later they will be joined by numbers 46, 47, and 48 (OCO-7, pdf 328). #43 will join #39 and #40 in Guam. #44 will join six other FRCs in Key West.
Personnel will start reporting to the Pre-Commissioning detail for OPC#1 which will be homeported in San Pedro.
They expect to decommission the last two 378s, two 110s currently with PATFORSWA, and eight 87′ WPBs.
“In accordance with the Coast Guard’s patrol boat transition plan and the Congressionally-directed transition of Coast Guard patrol forces in the Arabian Gulf, two WPBs supporting Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) will be decommissioned. Following these decommissionings, there will be eleven 110-foot patrol boats in the domestic operational fleet and four supporting PATFORSWA… The two WPBs being decommissioned will be replaced by more capable Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), which will be in-theater and operational before the legacy WPBs are decommissioned.” (O&S-28/29)
There is this interesting snippet from O&S-25 (62 page of pdf), “The San Diego region saw a 100 percent increase of illegal immigration cases in the maritime domain in FY 2018. This trend will likely continue as the land border is reinforced.”
We are going to again see NSCs and FRCs doing fisheries and capacity building in the Western Pacific (Program Change 25, O&S-36)
What’s in the Budget?:
Improved SAT com for cutters is on the way.
Program Change 29 – Overseas Contingency Operations to Base Transition (O&S-38): At the end of the document, there is an explanation of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). This has been a separate funding item, but it is being folded into the normal Operations and Support (O&S) budget. In FY2019 it was $165M and $190M in FY2020. This has been zeroed out for FY2021 as funding ($215M) was included in O&S, so the O&S budget increase is not as large as it looks. (OCO-4, pdf 325)
Included are funds for the second Polar Security Cutter, the third OPC, and Long Lead Time Materials (LLTM) for OPC #4, as well as $25M for the Waterways Commerce Cutter program and $20M for FRC program follow up, but no additional FRCs.
“WMEC SLEP includes electrical system upgrades, remanufactured main diesel engines, structural renewal for stern tube and piping, and installation of a new gun weapon system supplied by the U.S. Navy. “
Regarding the new weapon system for the 270s, I suspect that we are talking about replacing the 76mm Mk75 gun and Mk92 fire control systems with 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 systems. I heard that at one point, that that they were considering adding the 57mm but had decided against it. Replacing the 76mm and fire control with a Mk38 should significantly reduce maintenance and perhaps crew requirements, but it would mean loss of any air search capabilities. A new multimode radar might be a good idea for control of helicopter and Unmanned Air System such as Scan Eagle (assuming one is added).
As you know, if you have been reading here for any length of time, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the 25mm to forcibly stop anything more than a very small vessel (see here also). I would feel a lot more comfortable with a larger caliber weapon and, larger or not, with at least two systems to provide a degree of redundancy.
Don’t expect NSC#10 keel laying until FY2021, so its going to be a while before #10 and #11 are operational (2024 and 2025).
Completion of Polar Security Cutters (PSC) #1 and #2 is expected Q3 FY2024 and Q4 FY2025 (PC&I-41)
There is only $153.6M for aircraft in the FY2021 PC&I budget. Mostly C-27 and H-65 conversion and sustainment. No C-130J in the budget. (PC&I-48, pdf 195)
What will Congress do?:
In the last few years the Congress has consistently give the Coast Guard more than requested in the administration’s budget. Two of their favorite programs have been the Webber class WPCs (FRCs) and C-130Js. I suspect the Congress will add the last two Webber class planned but not yet funded. They will also probably fund an additional C-130J. That will add approximately $250M to the PC&I budget, pushing it slightly higher than enacted in FY2020 but still well below the FY2019 budget.
Will they fund NSC #12? Fully funding OPC #4 might make more sense. Delivery schedule probably would not be much different, but there is still an appealing symmetry to replacing 12 ships with 12 ships. There is not as much price difference between the ship classes as there once was. Eastern has yet to prove they can produce a cutter at the agreed upon price, and the NSC is a proven product. HII also probably has more influence in Congress. However, adding about $600M, along with the more probable additions above, would push the PC&I budget close to $2.5B. That is about 10% higher than I think we have seen before, certainly a huge increase over FY2020. After all the deficit spending in response to COVID-19, it seems unlikely.