CG budget adds ships, personnel, upgrades

By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 4, 2008 15:10:49 EST

New vessels, helicopter fleet upgrades and emergency maintenance for its lesser-known inland fleet are some of the priorities in the Coast Guard’s $9.3 billion fiscal 2009 budget request, service officials said, as well as adding hundreds of new positions for operatives and watch-standers from the field level on up to the service’s acquisitions management department.
The Coast Guard’s request appeared Monday along with the budget request for its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, unveiled by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Reporters were given a preview Friday.
Some of the biggest-ticket items on the Coast Guard’s list include $354 million for its fourth national security cutter; $115 million for three fast response cutters; just over $100 million for upgrades to 30 HH-65 and MH-60 helicopters; and $87 million for two HC-144 Ocean Sentry patrol planes.
The Coast Guard also is asking for $64 million to buy 14 new 44-foot response boats, to phase in as replacements for its 41-foot utility boats that mostly patrol harbors and coastal areas. And the lifesaving service wants $9 million for what it calls “emergency sustainment” for its inland patrol fleet, the 31 boats — some as much as 40 years old — that operate in inland lakes and waterways.
The inland fleet is often the only federal maritime presence for inland law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. In the coming years the Coast Guard will decide whether to upgrade or replace its inland boats, officials said, a process that could include buying more new boats of an existing variety or ordering an entirely new class of vessels.
The Coast Guard is also asking for $20 million to fund 276 new field positions for watch-standers and inspectors in its sector commands, to keep pace with a projected spike in both commercial shipping and cruise ship traffic — the number of cruise passengers is expected to double by 2025, officials said. And the service wants to add 65 people to its acquisitions directorate, which in 2007 took over management of the Coast Guard’s $24 billion Deepwater portfolio from private contractors.
Also noteworthy is what isn’t in the budget request — beyond a $3 million line for research and development on a new unmanned aerial vehicle, the Coast Guard isn’t asking for money to buy the replacement for its aborted Eagle Eye UAV. The service also isn’t asking for any money to build the first offshore patrol cutter, planned as a 350-foot ship that will fill the gap between the 418-foot NSCs and the 140-foot FRCs.
Other items in the Coast Guard’s budget request include:
* $87.6 million for 97 new positions for the Rescue 21 response management system and new coverage for the Great Lakes, Hawaii and Guam.
* $50 million for improvements to shore infrastructure, including: runway improvements for Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass.; a consolidated command center for Sector Delaware Bay; new housing for Coast Guardsmen in Cordova, Alaska; and improvements to the cadet barracks at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
* $44 million for intelligence and information systems, including a program to integrate the Coast Guard with the Maritime Awareness Global Network, which consolidates intelligence from 20 national sources, and will enable commanders to better distribute that information among Coast Guardsmen at sea.
It’s a record budget request — the first time the Coast Guard has asked for more than $9 billion — and part of President Bush’s record $3.1 trillion request, the first time a president has asked for more than $3 trillion. The Coast Guard asked for $8.7 billion for fiscal 2008
On the Web

* See the Coast Guard’s full budget and posture statement online at