Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is meeting today to review how the Coast Guard is integrating their acquisition, manpower, and maintenance plans to align to their mission needs and assure the Service has the assets, personnel, and expertise needed to carry out its missions.
On June 1, 2018, Admiral Karl Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard. His guiding principles for the Service are: Ready, Relevant, and Responsive. He said, “These guiding principles frame my direction and will support the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders, and other national and global maritime interests.” Admiral Schultz and his senior leadership team are in the midst of reviewing the status of the Coast Guard and making changes to align the Service with those guiding principles. Today, we will hear from two members of that team, and look forward to better understanding their perspectives on the status of the Coast Guard.
The ongoing recapitalization of the Service’s cutters was planned two decades ago to address mission demands at that time. The world and the demands on the Coast Guard have since changed and it is critical that the Service be ready to respond to the demands of today, as well as those that will exist in decades to come. It is also important that the Coast Guard is prepared to manage capability gaps that are occurring and likely to continue to occur as recapitalization continues.
The decisions being made today will shape the Coast Guard of the future. The cutters being built today have a planned 30-year service life and will probably serve longer, and the final OPC is projected to be patrolling the seas until 2064. Like Admiral Schultz, Congress wants to ensure the Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive for years to come. In order to do so, we need accurate information from the Service to determine whether current plans will provide the capabilities to meet future demands.
Even more important than Coast Guard ships and aircraft are the people who operate them. The Coast Guard’s active duty workforce is only slightly larger than that of the New York City police department and less than ¼ the size of the next smallest U.S. Armed Force. Congress has encouraged the Coast Guard to better understand and articulate its workforce needs to meet current and emerging needs. Looking forward, it is likely that the Service will need to make tough, strategic decisions regarding how Coast Guard personnel are allocated. Even before the advent of a new cybersecurity operating domain, the Coast Guard was struggling to meet mission demands; creating a cybersecurity workforce while also conducting legacy operations poses an additional challenge that must be addressed immediately.
In addition to our focus on Coast Guard assets and personnel, this Subcommittee has continually pushed the Service to improve its shore infrastructure made up of approximately 43,400 assets nationwide. Unfortunately, even after several years of us stressing the need for action, much of that property is in dire need of rebuilding or repair. While Coast Guard leaders consistently stress the importance of investing in shore infrastructure, the budgetary trade-offs being made within the Coast Guard and the Administration do not reflect a genuine commitment to address this need. For example, despite a shore infrastructure backlog of more than $1.5 billion, the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request only includes $30 million to address those projects.
Shore infrastructure is critical to every Coast Guard mission – cutters need piers, aircraft need runways, inspectors need buildings, etc. – and if the Service truly desires to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive, it needs to find ways to address these critical needs.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a number of reports since 2012 reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and providing recommendations to improve those programs. Over the years, the Coast Guard has agreed with many of those recommendations and agreed to take action on them. However, the new GAO report released today notes that the Coast Guard has not fully implemented those prior recommendations. Hopefully, today’s hearing will help us understand why that is.
A new senior leadership team brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new priorities. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how they see the Coast Guard and how we can best position the Service for success going forward.