bills work their way through Congress, efforts to boast the Coast
Guard's modernization budget, the money needed to buy new ships,
planes, and sensors, are sailing on troubled waters. That's a
tragedy. The Coast Guard's contributions to homeland security are
vital, and addressing the service's pressing requirement for new
equipment has to be a Congressional priority.
Since 9/11 the
demands on the U.S. Coast Guard homeland security responsibilities
have expanded greatly. The service continues to undertake its
traditional missions: executing search and rescue, ensuring the
safety and security of commercial shipping, safeguarding U.S.
fisheries, and interdicting drugs, arms, and human smuggling.
Today, the Coast Guard plays a prominent role in every aspect
of maritime security from inspecting ports overseas to checking
ships and cargo, stopping illegal immigration, and overseeing the
security at U.S. ports.
Now that the Coast
Guard has more responsibilities, its equipment is wearing out
faster than ever. "Deepwater", the pre-9/11 modernization program
funded by the Congress, envisioned retiring the service's aging
inventory of ships and planes over 30 years. The retired
inventory would be replaced with an integrated set of assets
including new vessels as well as sophisticated communications,
computers, and sensors. The 30-year timeline is completely
inadequate for a post-9/11 Coast Guard.
Deepwater would make America safer by introducing more capable
assets sooner. A faster modernization would also save as much as $3
billion. Buying units at a faster rate would reduce per unit costs,
and retiring older equipment that is more expensive to operate and
maintain sooner would save money as well.
Out of Synch
In the response to
Hurricane Katrina, the Coast Guard saved over 30,000 lives and
stressed its available assets to the breaking point. The Senate
added $600 million in supplemental spending to repair and replace
equipment, but the House did not. Congressional authorizers
approved $1.6 billion in spending for Deepwater next year, but it
is not clear that the appropriations bill will include funding at
that level. That's wrong. Congress should
- Approve $600
million in supplemental funding, and
- Approve an
annual appropriation for Deepwater funding for $1.6 billion.
Speeding up Coast
Guard modernization is one of the most valuable contributions
Congress can make to enhance homeland security. It's time for the
House and Senate to come together and give Coast Guard funding the
priority it deserves.
Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for
National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.