U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Thursday to underscore the service’s most pressing needs.
The Coast Guard’s 35 inland construction tenders need to be recapitalized, he said, as the inland fleet is “long overlooked.” The average age of a tender in this fleet is now at 52 years – well past the intended service life. “This is a matter of economic and national security, as U.S. waterways generate $4.5 trillion of commerce annually.”
Addressing the Arctic and its increasingly navigable waterways, Zukunft discussed the establishment of an integrated program office for icebreakers. The office, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, awarded industry studies to build a fleet of three heavy and three medium icebreakers. He said these were, “all meaningful steps to keep our nation on an accelerated path to deliver the first heavy icebreaker in 2023.”
Zukunft said he sought to grow the Coast Guard over the next five years by restoring 1,100 reserve billets, bringing 5,000 additional active duty members into service and sustaining more than 8,500 civil servant positions.
Among the past year’s recapitalization highlights was the awarding of the contract for 58 total Fast Response Cutters – all, Zukunft says, at “an affordable price.” The contract to acquire the first nine Offshore Patrol Cutters was awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, effectively serving as the “down payment for our program of record of 25 of these very capable platforms.”