SPECIAL REPORT / THE 2017 BUDGET PROPOSAL
The proposed fiscal 2017 budget for the U.S. Coast Guard is $800 million
lower than the enacted level for
2016, with much of the reduction
coming from the acquisition, con-
struction & improvements (AC&I)
account. As the service moves for-
ward with its effort to recapitalize
aging assets at the same time its mis-
sion profile continues to grow, ana-
lysts were critical of the lower fund-
ing levels, saying they fail to meet
the Coast Guard’s acquisition needs.
President Barack Obama’s $10.3
billion fiscal 2017 budget request for
the service, which is part of the Department of Homeland
Security’s (DHS’) $40.6 billion budget proposal made
public Feb. 9, includes $1.1 billion for AC&I. Both funding levels are down from Congress’ enacted fiscal 2016
budget, which provided the service with an overall budget of $11.1 billion and $1.9 billion in AC&I. The fiscal
2017 request would keep the number of active-duty personnel at around 42,000.
“The fundamental point is that the Coast Guard
remains under-resourced for the challenges it is being
asked to address,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a national security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Since 9/11, the service has seen its mission portfolio
expand anywhere from 10 to 30 percent, but its size
and structure has not grown accordingly, he said.
“There remain substantial unmet needs in areas like
icebreakers and environmental stewardship, beyond
the counter-terrorism and homeland security and
counter-narcotics and maritime safety issues that often
come first to mind,” O’Hanlon said.
The fiscal 2017 budget request does try to address
some of those pressing needs.
The proposal would invest $150 million to complete
the design work on a new icebreaker and $240 million to
fund procurement of four Fast Response Cutters (FRCs),
spend $100 million to support the technical review and
analysis of preliminary and contract design phase deliver-
ables for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) project, and
spend $130 million to support the C-27J Medium Range
Surveillance Aircraft Asset Project Office, which is organ-
izing logistics, training and maintenance support. Under
the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014, the
service received 14 C-27Js from the Air Force.
Brian Slattery, a defense and security studies expert
at the Heritage Foundation, said that despite the White
House and DHS making a concentrated effort to highlight the major increase in funding for a heavy polar
icebreaker, the total AC&I budget request continues to
fall below the minimum the Coast Guard has said is
necessary to modernize its force in a healthy manner.
Coast Guard officials have maintained that $1.5 billion is the minimum necessary to keep it on the path
toward replacing legacy cutters and aircraft in a
responsible time frame, with $2.5 billion suggested as
a more appropriate level.
Slattery also took issue with funding for the FRCs,
which was cut from six cutters the previous year to
four this year.
Coast Guard budget falls short of acquisition requirements
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Special Correspondent
The Coast Guard’s fiscal 2017 budget request is a mixed bag of
good and bad news for the service, which finally received a substantial commitment for recapitalizing its icebreaker fleet.
; If approved, the Coast Guard would receive $1.1 billion in
acquisition, construction & improvements funds.
; Analysts say the funding falls short when considering long-term goals.
; Funds for a new polar icebreaker were added to the proposed
budget and two Fast Response Cutters were dropped.