Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities”
June 7, 2017
(Remarks as Prepared)
The Subcommittee is meeting today to review the status of Coast Guard infrastructure and how ongoing infrastructure improvements will move the Coast Guard into the 21st century. The Service has been undergoing a recapitalization of its assets for over two decades to replace assets that are over 30 years old. It’s been a long road, with some hard lessons learned along the way, but progress is being made to ensure the Coast Guard has the assets it needs to conduct its missions. Now we need to assure the Service has the resources to operate their recapitalized assets.
The Subcommittee has held oversight hearings over many Congresses to review the Coast Guard’s progress from fledgling acquisition capabilities to its now fully developed acquisition programs. In addition, our oversight has included hearings on Government Accountability Office reports reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and how the new assets will support Service missions, along with where gaps may exist.
An important part of this Subcommittee’s oversight is to understand mission capabilities within the asset recapitalization: how to identify mission gaps with new and ageing assets; how maintenance of ageing vessels can impact budget decisions; where new technologies could be used to provide improved mission domain awareness and assist the Coast Guard with better utilizing its assets and personnel; and how other Coast Guard infrastructure may have been affected by the cutter recapitalization.
The cost to recapitalize Coast Guard assets is in the billions of dollars, and the Coast Guard has worked to do so within smaller budgets and appropriations since 2010. The Service has done its best to keep asset acquisitions moving forward, but has been forced to make choices on what programs its limited funding will support. To focus on the much-needed new assets, the Coast Guard has continued funding for these acquisitions programs, while shore-side infrastructure, shore maintenance, and the environmental cleanup and restoration programs have incurred backlogs. The Commandant of the Coast Guard in his State of the Coast Guard address acknowledged the shore infrastructure backlog, stating the current backlog exceeds $1.6 billion. In addition, the shore maintenance backlog is roughly $708 million.
The bottom line is Congress needs to understand the needs of the Coast Guard, clearly and succinctly. I have requested the Coast Guard send a wish list of projects to Congress. The list will not be available until the end of June. However, I look forward to discussing with our witnesses today the status of existing and new assets, any known gaps and measures being taken to address them, areas that can be streamlined, and impacts of operation and maintenance costs.