Coast Guard Budget Request Funds Two of Three Major Cutter Programs

February 11, 2020 3:56 PM
The Coast Guard Cutter Nathan Bruckenthal berthed before its commissioning ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia, July 25, 2018. The Bruckenthal was the 28th Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned.
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request calls for fully funding the next phases of the service’s two most significant cutter programs but leaves a third class on hold for the time being.

As part of the $12.3 billion FY 2021 proposal, the Coast Guard is requesting:

  • $546 million to construct the third Offshore Patrol Cutter and to buy long-lead-time material for a fourth. The Coast Guard is in the process of recompeting the contract for this program, which is nearly a year behind schedule because of hurricane damage to the Florida yard contracted to build the first OPCs.
  • $20 million to pay for post-delivery, technical support and government-furnished equipment on Fast Response Cutters.

The PSC and OPC programs are potentially worth billions. The Coast Guard wants to buy six polar ice breakers and has plans to buy up to 25 OPCs to replace its current fleet of 29 medium-endurance cutters, some of which were built during the Vietnam War.

However, by asking for money to only fund some post-delivery work on Fast Response Cutters, the Coast Guard’s budget request suggests the service isn’t planning to purchase any FRCs during FY 2021.

The Coast Guard plans to buy 58 Fast Response Cutters. Last March, Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said the Fast Response Cutters were critical to the service’s operations while appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on homeland security.

“The cutters are absolutely needed. We would love to continue the momentum toward the program of record of 58 fast response cutters, with the support of Congress,” Schultz said during his March testimony.

The Coast Guard is asking for $215 million to fund overseas operations. The Coast Guard regularly supports overseas Department of Defense operations by deploying law enforcement teams and conducting maritime counter-terrorism security operations on patrol vessels, such as the Fast Response Cutters.

Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles-Long Beach crewmembers conduct a tactical demonstration in the Port of Los Angeles, March 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

As of this month, the service has received 37 FRCs, with six more being built.

Overall, the Coast Guard’s proposed $12.3 billion budget represents 16 percent of the entire $49.7 billion FY 2021 Department of Homeland Security budget request released Monday by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security. During 2020, the department received $50.5 billion.

The Coast Guard’s funding request is about $77.3 million more than what the Coast Guard received for FY 2020.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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