Review of the Recapitalization of the United States Coast Guard

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Wednesday, June 12, 2024 @ 10:15 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Witness List:
  • Vice Admiral Paul F. Thomas, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Witness Testimony
  • Ms. Shelby S. Oakley; Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, United States Government Accountability Office | Witness Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL) from hearing, entitled “Review of the Recapitalization of the United States Coast Guard”:

Today our subcommittee will receive testimony on the Coast Guard’s efforts to recapitalize its surface, air, I.T. and shoreside assets. I’d like to welcome our witnesses – Vice Admiral Paul Thomas, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, and Shelby Oakley, Director of Contracting and National Security at the United States Government Accountability Office. 

Vice Admiral Thomas, I understand you will be retiring at the end of this month after a nearly 40-year career in the Coast Guard.  On behalf of the Subcommittee, I would like to thank you for your service to our nation.  In the spirit of today’s hearing, we all wish you fair winds and following seas as you embark on your next chapter. 

But before we let you sail off into the sunset, we are here today to discuss the Coast Guard’s slow multi-decade recapitalization campaign. The Service can count significant successes, including the near completion of its National Security Cutter and Fast Response Cutter programs – though we still hope to squeeze in a few more Fast Response Cutters. The Coast Guard has also made substantial investments in the shoreside facilities necessary to homeport these new assets. 

Unfortunately, challenges remain.  Despite clearly articulated needs, the Administration’s yearly budget requests consistently fall short of the resources needed to carry out the Service’s own recapitalization plans.  Now, the Coast Guard is left with the lowest appropriation for its procurement account in a decade and is facing a Grand Canyon-sized hole in its future-year budgets.

This subcommittee has repeatedly warned the Coast Guard that it is approaching a fiscal cliff.  Now we have arrived.  The Offshore Patrol Cutter moves from one to two hulls per year starting in fiscal year 2026.  And the substantial need will grow even more, as soon as fiscal year 2026, to keep the Polar Security Cutter program moving forward. The current budget request cannot sustain the Service’s program of record without a significant increase. In contrast to meager appropriations and budget requests, this committee has consistently authorized levels to provide at least the bare minimum needed to keep the Service from losing even more ground. 

The Commandant appeared before our subcommittee three weeks ago, and while she was unable to commit to a timeline or cost for the Polar Security Cutter, the Subcommittee commends her for recognizing the Service requires at least $3 billion in procurement funding to move its programs forward.  While I don’t expect you to commit to a Polar Security Cutter timeline, I do look forward to learning what progress is being made on Coast Guard major acquisition programs, including the Polar Security Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter, and Waterways Commerce Cutter.   

Aside from surface assets, the Coast Guard’s aging aviation fleet requires modernization. As the Service phases out the C-27 platform and replaces its no-longer-manufactured MH-65s with more capable MH-60s, funding needs only grow. I remain concerned with the plan to reduce the total number of helicopter assets, as well as the suitability for the larger MH-60 platform for specialized Coast Guard missions and cutter operations. I assure you that the Committee will continue to track this transition very closely. 

Finally, the Coast Guard’s I.T. and shoreside infrastructure are in dire need of repair and modernization.  The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2024 provides $1.1 billion over fiscal years 2025 and 2026 to modernize the Coast Guard’s shoreside infrastructure, including substantial investments at the Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard’s sole enlisted accession point at Cape May, both of which are literally crumbling.

To our witnesses—thank you for participating today.  Vice Admiral Thomas—as this is your last hearing before you retire, I encourage you to provide us with your full unvarnished view on how we can right the ship. 

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