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Coast Guard Pushes Back Against Congressional Calls for Reductions

Coast Guard Cutter Waesche is moored to the Coast Guard Base Kodiak fuel pier on a foggy morning in Kodiak, Alaska, on Aug. 19, 2013. US Coast Guard Photo

Coast Guard Cutter Waesche is moored to the Coast Guard Base Kodiak fuel pier on a foggy morning in Kodiak, Alaska, on Aug. 19, 2013. US Coast Guard Photo

The chairman and ranking member of the key panel overseeing the Coast Guard repeatedly pressed the service’s vice commandant on Wednesday to come up with suggestions for Congress to scale back the service’s missions by changing present law in light of its declining budget.

Vice Adm. John Currier told the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Coast Guard and maritime transportation, “I am not prepared to offer you, today, candidates for reduction” in the 11 statutory missions areas assigned to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp has said the service needs $2 billion a year to meet its buying needs in aircraft and cutters to keep its program of record on track. This year’s request from the administration calls for slightly more than $900 million in those accounts. In recent years, those accounts have ranged from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion. The budget sequester took about $200 million out of the Coast Guard’s budget last year.

After citing the $700 million cost in producing the first national security cutter, which took funds from other shipbuilding programs, subcommittee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-CA) said, “We would love to hear from you… rather than have us do it blind” in deciding what areas—from combating terrorism to ship certification to drug and migrant interdiction, and others—to scale back or eliminate by changing governing laws.

Currier said, “We would not come solely to you” with those ideas because “we’re part of DHS [Department of Homeland Security].” He said that while the Coast Guard would not come back to Congress with specific missions to eliminate or scale back, its officials would meet privately with members to discuss questions on missions.
He told the panel that in the 23 areas where the service monitors its performance, it did not reach its goals in about half of them, down from meeting 14 the year before.

But Currier added that the service’s program of record, originally developed in 2004 to buy and maintain vessels and aircraft to meet missions, had been validated four times by the Department of Homeland Security and outside agencies since then. For example, the service would like eight national security cutters to replace its Hamilton-class cutters; three have already been delivered and one is due to be delivered in September 2014, with two more coming in by 2016. The other two are under contract.

“You can’t make everything a core competency,” Hunter said. “The missions need to change” because the fiscal environment has changed under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and “the Coast Guard has to be able to say ‘no'” when it meets with other national security officials and inside its department.
Said Currier: “No one [on the national security staff] wants to take the responsibility to reduce the missions” lest the Coast Guard loses “the ability to surge to a Katrina.” But he quickly followed that by adding, “I think we’re going to have to prioritize.”

Ranking minority member Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) asked several times, “What is it the Coast Guard must do, what is it the Coast Guard needs to do, what is it the Coast Guard should do?”
Adding, “You get what you pay for.”

Currier said,his greatest fear now was how, “Semper Paratus (Always Ready)—our motto [and] our ethic—may not ring true.”

  • It’s time to Remind Congress on how valuable the US Coast Guard is to their district and to the country. Even in Peace times, the US coast Guard does more than the US Navy.

    • FScottFitzgerald

      Nicky, I agree you on the Coast Guard but take exception to your comment about the Navy. The functions of the two are very different and despite having similar missions and there is need for both. But please, don’t play one against the other, It is unbecoming and divisive. Being very familiar with both services, I greatly admire and respect what they do and thank God everyday for their service.

      • Randy Gulley

        No single service is more important than any other. But the USCG has such a diversity of missions apart from wartime efforts and being the worlds sheriff, with a fraction of the manpower, and even less of the budget.

  • FScottFitzgerald

    I sometimes wonder where Congress’s head is and even more so lately. Reducing the capability of the United States Coast Guard is short-sighted and irresponsible.The infrastructure of the Coast Guard is in dire need of proper maintenance and upgrading. They badly need Ice Crushers to keep shipping lanes open yet they consistently have their request put on the back burner. Its time Congress wake up to the realities of the United States being safe and secure an supporting our military instead of using them as scapegoats. Sequestration was idiotic and should never be allowed to happen again.

  • Dave

    Yes, the Coast Guard has their issues and needs to represent themselves much better in politcs, but im getting sick and tired of this administration. Maybe we should get rid of search and rescue…or maybe port security…or maybe aids to navigation….give me a flippin break (excuse my french). I hope Admiral Papp gives them a good peice of his mind.

    • He Who Can Read

      Maybe you should re-read the article, it is the Republican from the House who is saying “We would love to hear from you… rather than have us do it blind” in deciding what areas—from combating terrorism to ship certification to drug and migrant interdiction, and others—to scale back or eliminate by changing governing laws.” He is not a member of “this administration”, but a person who wants to cut the monies to the USCG!

      • vincedc

        The Congressman is from California. I bet he would pitch a fit, it the Coast Guard scaled back operations on the west coast.

  • V1CKtor

    The point is. …. we just need to take care of our own country FIRST.

  • TerryW1

    Long before the Tea Party even existed, President Obabma shamefully cut the highly successful USCG HITRON anti-drug units to one unit Shame on President Obama and his adminastration. He seems like a nice man but this was shameful. Drug gangs just get more and more powerful. Drug dealers had to use submarines to get their nasty stuff to the American shores They do not need submarires today. Allow the United States Coast Guard to do its job. 5 billion dollars in nasty drugs was stopped in one year by the Coasties. Arrest the drug runners, sink their vessels, and maybe start putting Coasties on U.S. Navy ships if need be. Stop hamstringing our noble U.S. Coast Guard! Admiral Allen had huge drug busts, why have we we abandoned what was working? .The Coasties were not harassing 13 year olds on street corners they were denying a maritime route to brutal drug gangs. Someone has to defend the U.S. Coast Guard. The war on Terror is not fought in the middle east alone.fighting a war on Drugs is just an aspect of fighting a war on Terror. Allowing corcaine transport in American waters is shameful. Go get em our heroic Coasties! . If every U.S. Navy ship needs a group of U.S. Coast Guard’smaen to take over operations in the event of locating a SAR mission or a drug runner so be it! .Put the USCG in the Department of anything but not Homeland Security, they do not understand the U.S. military especially how the U.S. Coast Guard has to function.. Maybe the Coasties would get better funding in the department of the Navy but they would have to be free withen that department, like the U.S. Marine Corps is in the Department of the Navy. Shame, shame, shame on President Obama! Shame. Stop, or at least slow down the drugs. Revive HITRON and the DOG units, and get back in the fight for goodness sake have we lost our minds? Semper Paratus. Thank you for publishing my views and Merry Christmas everybody!

    • Andrew Klein

      Admiral Papp has redirected the USCG into missions that it properly needs to be prioritizing while shutting down and curtailing activities it rightfully does not need to be involved in. Example, shutting down sending Coasties to the Navy SEALs. We don’t need Coasties doing that, nor do we need to be paying for it. Furthermore, budget constraints were felt under GW Bush, so you can rant and rave about Obama all you want, it isn’t his Congress who makes purse decisions. Furthermore, your example of the DOG units is a poor one since *none* of those units had participated in activities that would have not been accomplished by traditional fleet or station units.

      • TerryW1

        I sure hope you are right but I have got a bad feeling. The U.S. Coast Guard seems to functrion best with a strong military zeitgeist. Please fight the War on Drugs whoever is President. I hope you are right, and I admire Admiral Papp but I feel President Obama has shamefully undemined U.S. Coast Giuard efforts in this war. I think we do need some “Yosttie Coasties” as U.S. Navy Seals etc. I appreciate your point though thank you and Happy New Year. .

        • Andrew Klein

          Terry, you can blame this on President Obama all you want, but these trends have been happening since the Bush administration. There’s no evidence that spending (read: wasting) money on Coastie SEALs is productive, and frankly, that which is presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

          • TerryW1

            I sure hope you are right…I still got a bad feeling. Washington and Colorado are reeling with the legalization of this nasty stuff. I sure hope you are right. I just got a bad feeling. The Drug gangs are getting more and more powerful, and I think Admiral Allen had far greater success in dealing with these very brutal folks. Coastie Seals were merely a possible US military augment that helped both branches. Deploy them in the War on Terror–War on Drugs. Use thier non-Posse-Commidus restrictions to their advantage. Put the Coastie Seals on U.S. Navy ships in case a drug ship is in the area. The U.S. Coast Guard must be, along with all their other tasks, the nation’s specialized water warriers, augmenting the noble U.S. Navy. Remember why the U.S. Marine Corps demanded Coastie coxsains in operations in the Pacific during WW2? They were the experts at this type of landing operation, and small craft seamanship. I do respect and admire Admyral Papp, but wish he was on the Joint Chief of Staff. I get your point and sure hope you are right, but again the Drug gangs are growing in influence and effect…I do and appreciate your point of view. You make a strong argument. .

  • Jared Anderson

    A simple fact the uscg stops and seizes more drugs then any federal law enforcement agency combined. That’s with a short handed budget. Imagine what they could do with a proper budget.

  • Bert

    I think the CG should revert back to the core functions. Safety of life at sea, maintenance of buoyage systems and lights , and federal law enforcement within our territorial sea and economic zone. They do not need a patrol boat in the Arabian Gulf. That’s not our coastline. Put them back in the Dept of Transportation where they belong. The CG is involved in too many things, and it creates overlap with other agencies, which is wasteful.

    • Dan

      Good point, Bert. It’s also sad to see the USCG year after year pleading with the govt and the public “We are Military!”

  • joshj

    Dont blame Obama or just Republicans. The Navy just had a stealth battleship with future rail gun technology delivered. The Army is researching Iron man suits. All the Coast Guard wants is more money than what the NY and L.A. police depatment gets budgeted. That would be a embarrassing start. ( yes its true) So look at individuals who vote in your state and write and vote based on that. Not which side they are on. Half of the countries issue right now is people dont vote for who is better but who is on what side. Idiots.