Hunter Statement on Hearing: Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities, Part II
Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
July 25, 2017
The Subcommittee is meeting today to pick up from where we left off from our June 7th hearing on Coast Guard infrastructure. An important aspect of the previous hearing was the Coast Guard stating it would submit its Unfunded Priority List (UPL), the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and the long-term Major Acquisition Plan to the Committee. Unfortunately, as of today’s hearing, we have only received the Unfunded Priority List.
The Members of this Subcommittee are some of the strongest supporters of the Coast Guard, with a number of us also serving on the Armed Services Committee, which allows us to push for Coast Guard priorities and parity with the other armed forces. It can be frustrating and difficult to advocate for Service priorities and funding needs when we lack specific Coast Guard documents that can best inform Congressional decisions on Coast Guard acquisition programs.
With its ageing fleets of cutters and aircraft, the Coast Guard has implemented extensive maintenance and life extension projects for its assets, in order to do more with less capable assets. In addition, new assets such as the National Security Cutters and the Fast Response Cutters, have experienced ongoing issues which reduce their capabilities and further exacerbate the Service’s ability to conduct its missions. It is very likely that Coast Guard assets will reach the end-of-their-service-life before replacements are in place. The threat of mission gaps is a very real possibility. The Service will continue to tell us otherwise, and present charts that show less substantial gaps, but I still believe the Service charts are based on wishful thinking, not fiscal reality.
While it hasn’t been the fault of the Coast Guard that severe budgets have curtailed or delayed acquisition programs, the Service can be faulted for a lack of detail on the impacts of a stagnant budget on acquisition programs have on its ability to carry out its missions. The fact that the mission needs statements, a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, and the Fleet Mix Analysis do not fully tell the story of the Coast Guard's short-term and long-term gaps or its plans to address them, has been an ongoing concern.
GAO has pointed out in a number of reports that the Coast Guard should develop a long-term plan, to influence its short-term planning documents. In 2016, Congress required the development of the 20-year Major Acquisition Plan, since it was clear the Service was not going to do one on its own. However, it has been a year and a half since the requirement was enacted into law and we still have not received a long-term plan from the Coast Guard.
How important is long-term planning to the Coast Guard? I really can’t say. We on the Committee believe long-term planning documents can assist the Coast Guard in getting its acquisition programs funded. It is disappointing that we only have the Unfunded Priorities List to discuss today, without the 5-year and 20-year planning documents that should fill in the blanks and provide a roadmap for the future. Regardless, we will continue to have these important discussions with the Service.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how we can best address the Coast Guard’s infrastructure needs.
Additional information on today's hearing can be found here.