Members of the Coast Guard may be able to breathe a little easier if the government shuts down again.
The House 2019 Coast Guard Authorization bill jumped a major hurdle this week in passing through committee. The bill guarantees Coast Guard members will be paid on time and in full even if the government is shut down again.
The bill also authorizes funding for the military service through 2021 and makes some banner personnel changes to give officers more flexibility in their careers.
“The Coast Guard works tirelessly to keep our coastal communities safe, maintain the security of our ports and waterways, carry out critically important drug interdictions and respond efficiently to emergencies and disasters,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-NY) said in a June 26 statement. “This bipartisan bill ensures the Coast Guard has the resources necessary to accomplish its missions. I am pleased to see the Committee again demonstrate true bipartisan cooperation to get results and I encourage my House and Senate colleagues to pass this critical legislation and get it signed into law.”
The bill authorizes about $12.9 billion for the Coast Guard in 2020, $1.6 billion above the president’s request, and $13.3 billion in 2021.
About $8.1 billion is authorized for operations in 2020 and about $8.5 billion in 2021. The committee authorized around $2.7 billion in environmental compliance and restoration, construction and procurement for 2020 and about $2.8 billion for 2021.
That’s good news for the service. The Coast Guard commandant said in May that the service is reaching a readiness tipping point and needed funds to address the issue.
If passed the Coast Guard would keep its current authorized end strength at 44,500 active-duty members.
The bill also takes a page from last year’s defense authorization law by adding new career options for officers.
The bill allows officers to opt out of promotion boards in limited circumstances. In the case that a Coast Guard member is completing a broadening assignment, advancing education or doing another assignment of significant value to the service, he or she may choose not to go before a promotion board.
That’s because many officers who go on those assignments tend to miss out on traditional requirements for promotion. Even though they are doing something valuable to the Coast Guard, they do not check the required boxes for promotion, and therefore are at risk of being separated. The opt out option gives them more time to complete those requirements.
If the bill becomes law, it will also give the Coast Guard the ability to promote certain officers temporarily to fill critical assignments.
The Defense Department asked for this authority for positions like space and cyber operators and received it from Congress.
The bill would also set up a career intermission program like DoD’s. The program allows service members to take a break from service and go on a period of inactivation to attend school or care for a sick loved one.
The program was piloted for a handful of years in the military services with questionable success.
One final provision of note in the bill requires the Coast Guard to submit a strategy for implementing cloud computing for the entire service.
The strategy will include goals and acquisition strategies, a strategy to sustain competition and innovation throughout the period of the contract, an assessment of potential threats and an estimate of the cost and timeline.