ARLINGTON, VA.—The U.S. Coast Guard is shaping its Congressional pitch for increased shore installation funding around the idea that modernizing bases is about more than improving readiness; it’s about helping families, communities and voters.
When talking to the lawmakers who authorize and appropriate Coast Guard funding, the service’s leadership has taken to explaining every cutter, small boat, aircraft leaves and returns to a place. The Coast Guard has requirements to keep this equipment running. The Coast Guard has families and communities who rely on these requirements being met, said Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard during the 2020 Surface Navy Association Symposium.
“And we’ve had some luck with our elected officials kind telling them that story, and saying – we don’t ever put conditions on funding – but as we say, if you want us to be in this particular port, we’ve got an assessment and this is what we need to operate there,” Ray said. “And I think we’re breaking squelch on that.”
In Fiscal Year 2020, the Coast Guard received $12 billion. The FY 2020 budget is $49.8 million less than what the Coast Guard received in FY 2019 but was $846.7 million more than what was initially proposed for the service in President Donald Trump’s FY 2020 budget request, according to a statement from the House Appropriations Committee.
Historically, Ray said the Coast Guard has focused on funding operations first and then dedicating money to pay for staffing – recruiting, training and retaining the active duty and civilian workforce. Improving bases has been the lowest priority.
“We’ve got about a $2 billion shore infrastructure backlog. We’ve had that since I’ve been alive,” Ray said. “That’s not to say it’s OK, it’s just a fact.”
The Coast Guard also wants more funding to improve the communications capabilities of its ships. As an example, Ray mentioned when the Coast Guard operates cutters, such as its medium ice breaker USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) in the Arctic Circle, communications become a challenge.
“When Healy sailed above the Arctic Circle this summer, she was literally off the grid for almost a month. Other than HFS radio comms, I mean that’s how it is there, there’s not a lot of there, there, when it comes to comms, navigation, things like that,” Ray said. “It’s not just basic communication navigation; there’s some domain awareness. We’ve got to be aware of who else is up there.”