Even though the 2022 budget only gives the Coast Guard a small budgetary bump, the service’s lead official says he feels the extra money is a good step in building back on pressing readiness issues.
Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard commandant, said he is encouraged by the president’s 2022 budget and is keeping is fingers crossed the few plus ups from Congress during the appropriations process will stick.
“Where we’ve been lagging is we’ve got about a billion dollars of shore infrastructure backlog,” Schultz said during a Tuesday Heritage Foundation event. “For a healthy organization to recapitalize you need 2% to 4% of critical infrastructure on an annual basis. We’ve been about 0.4%. It’s about 250 years to recapitalize our shore plant, that’s not sustainable. We’ve got a lot of old stuff.”
Appropriators want to give the Coast Guard $13.2 billion in 2022, about $300 million more than last year, and a tiny increase from the president’s request.
“The 2022 budget does have some good injects there. Historically, the only infrastructure upgrades have been in when something got damaged by a hurricane,” Schultz said. “Then there is backlog maintenance. The 2022 budget gets after aviation parts, particularly rotary recapitalizations. I think we’re on a good glide slope.”
The Coast Guard is asking for $9 billion in operations and support to maintain current programs and restore some of its readiness.
Readiness investments will add more than 600 new full-time employees. Nearly $100 million will go toward aviation readiness.
About $92 million will go to additional crew and support for intelligence systems across the nation.
Schultz said he is putting a big emphasis on future technologies.
“For our backbone — our enterprise mission platform, our computers, our sci-fi type stuff — there’s some real investment I rolled out back in 2019 in a conversation about tech revolution,” Schultz said. “The Hill really picked up on that, and they’re using that language back, saying ‘Hey, what do you need for the tech revolution?’”
The Coast Guard wants $12 million to establish a third cyber protection team to work with cyber specialists at critical ports of entry.
More than $80 million will go to IT modernization to replace obsolete equipment and harden systems against cyber attacks.
Despite feeling like things are looking up, Schultz said he still needs more funds to keep the Coast Guard floating.
“We need 3% to 5% growth. That’s the year need for the Coast Guard. If we can get a 2022 budget and build on that, I think we could be the Coast Guard the nation needs,” he said.
That 3% to 5% growth reflects what the National Defense Strategy Commission said the Defense Department needs as well. However, many lawmakers and experts think the strategy takes on too much for the Pentagon to chew.