Coast Guard sees 5% funding boost in 2023, focuses on readiness

The $13.8 billion budget suggests getting a commercial icebreaker.

The Coast Guard is getting a slight budget increase as its needs for maintenance and readiness continue and as the United States projects power into polar regions.

The 2023 budget request asks Congress for $13.8 billion, about 5.3% larger than last year’s request of $13.1 billion.

The service posture statement says this year’s budget will help it adapt to the “blistering” rate of change in the maritime environment.

“Funding provided in the 2023 President’s Budget will enable the service to support the maritime industry, effectively manage America’s shared-use waterways, strengthen the international rules-based order, protect our national resources, and save those in peril,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz wrote. “Additionally, the service will be well positioned to meet the unprecedented growth in demand for Coast Guard services with a specific focus on our efforts in the Indo-Pacific, the polar regions, and in support of our international partners in the Atlantic.”

One of the most notable requests in the budget is $125 million for a commercially available icebreaker. The Coast Guard would use that ship to supplement the work of the nation’s ailing and only current icebreaker, the Polar Star.

“Changes in the operational environment due to receding ice and increased human activity have created additional demands for Coast Guard resources in the high latitudes,” the justification for the icebreaker states. “The purchase and modification of a commercially available polar icebreaker represents an effective strategy to increase near-term presence in the Arctic.”

The Coast Guard is currently procuring three medium and three heavy icebreakers, the first of which will not be ready for a few more years.

The service hopes the commercial icebreaker will fill the gaps and take some burden off the Polar Star, which was built in the 1970s.

The Coast Guard is asking for $15 million to extend the Polar Star’s life. The budget contains $167 million to continue building the new icebreakers.

The service is using the bulk of its vessel procurement funds to work on its fifth offshore patrol cutter and start on its sixth.

The $650 million will help create ships that work a variety of missions.

The offshore patrol cutters are the Coast Guard’s highest procurement priority, and it plans on building 25 of them by the end of the program.

“The cutters will provide the majority of offshore presence for the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet, bridging the capabilities of the 418-foot national security cutters, which patrol the open ocean, and the 154-foot fast response cutters, which serve closer to shore,” according to the Coast Guard’s acquisition profile of the program. “The cutters will conduct missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, search and rescue, and other homeland security and defense operations.”

The service is also spending $24.5 million to recapitalize its cyber and enterprise systems.

The Coast Guard is on a multi-year schedule to modernize and restore readiness. The service is requesting $100 million for maintenance of vessels and $12 million to modernize and oversee a credentialing program for maritime safety.

Last year, the Coast Guard added more than 600 employees to support readiness.

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