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DHS appropriations deadlock threatens USCG programs

Written by Nick Blenkey
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FEBRUARY 19, 2015 — With Congress in a stalemate over the FY 2015 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is warning of the impact on maritime security of the continuing deadlock , including likely delay to shipbuilding contract negotiations on the Coast Guard’s eighth National Security Cutter.

 “I continue to stress the need for a clean, full-year DHS appropriations bill for FY 2015, unburdened by politically charged amendments that attempt to defund our executive actions on immigration reform,” Secretary Johnson said in a statement issued today.

“The President has made plain that he will veto a bill that includes such language. “DHS is operating on a continuing resolution that expires on February 27. As I have said many times now, as long as DHS is funded by a CR, there are a whole series of activities vital to homeland security and public safety that cannot be undertaken. In prior public statements, I have highlighted some of the specific drawbacks to homeland security as long as DHS is funded by a CR. Here I highlight the impact to this Nation’s maritime security as long as DHS is on a CR: 

“Contract negotiations to construct USCG’s 8th National Security Cutter will be delayed, causing a significant increase in costs. Delays to construction will postpone delivery of this highly capable ship to the operational fleet – the new ship is urgently needed to replace aging, unreliable High Endurance Cutters. National Security Cutters perform drug interdiction and other law enforcement operations in the maritime approaches to the U.S. border, protect our marine resources, and perform other critical maritime defense and security operations.

“The USCG’s midlife maintenance of its 225-foot buoy tender ships, intended to improve operational reliability and stabilize maintenance costs, will be delayed. These ships maintain aids to navigation to ensure safe transit of commercial vessels along thousands of miles of U.S. coast line, keep our sea lanes free of winter ice to facilitate delivery of cargo like home heating oil to households in New England and the Great Lakes, and recover spilled oil that results from major disasters like the BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

“Less funding is available for critical USCG depot-level maintenance. Depot-level maintenance funding is needed to maintain the safe operation and reliability of aircraft, cutters and boats deployed in the harshest marine environments – protecting our coasts, rescuing mariners in distress, responding to disasters, and facilitating the safe and efficient flow of commerce. Reduced maintenance funding results in broken equipment, unsatisfactory crew living conditions, and diminished ability to protect our Nation.

“Every day, the Coast Guard performs missions vital to our homeland security, maritime security and public safety. Just this past weekend, the U.S. Coast Guard’s one-of-a-kind icebreaker, the Polar Star, freed an Australian fishing vessel trapped in the ice 900 miles from Antarctica. The Polar Star cut through ice upwards of twenty feet thick to reach the stranded crew. Closer to home, on Sunday, a Coast Guard helicopter rescued a father and son from their disabled sailboat, adrift in 25-foot seas off the coast of Nantucket island. 

“Again, I urge Congress to pass a clean, full-year appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, and to do so on or before February 27.”

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