Zukunft: Coast Guard's inland fleet 'long overlooked,' needs recapitalization

The following is the text of a news release from Coast Guard Compass:

(WASHINGTON) — Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Thursday to discuss recent recapitalization efforts and underscore the service’s most pressing needs.

Among the past year’s recapitalization highlights was awarding the contract to complete the program of record for 58 total fast response cutters — all, as the commandant emphasized, at “an affordable price.” The contract to acquire the first nine offshore patrol cutters was awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, effectively serving as the “downpayment for our program of record of 25 of these very capable platforms.”

Addressing the Arctic and its increasingly navigable waterways, the commandant 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. The commandant said these were “all meaningful steps to keep our nation on an accelerated path to deliver the first heavy icebreaker in 2023.”

The Coast Guard’s 35 inland construction tenders, which are vital to the safety, security and efficiency of the nation’s waterways, also need to be recapitalized. The commandant said, this 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. As the commandant stressed, this is a matter of economic and national security, as U.S. waterways generate $4.5 trillion of commerce annually.

The commandant also focused on the men and women who operate these assets, saying 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.

The commandant thanked the subcommittee for its advocacy and promised to remain Semper Paratus – always ready – to meet the national security needs of the nation.

By Professional Mariner Staff