Despite the renewed vigor for military activities due to the prolonged commitment to fighting terrorism at home and abroad, it seems that lawmakers are still reticent — via the proposal of a Navy Budget
for Fiscal Years '02 and '03 — to spend adequate levels of money to maintain a strong fleet. According to the American Shipbuilding Association (ASA), The Defense Authorization Bill
for FY02, that passed both the House and Senate (S.1438) on December 13, authorizes a paltry 5 and 1/7 new naval ships, despite the ASA's contention that 12 ships per year are needed to sustain the 305-ship navy mandated in the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review. Meanwhile, a draft of the Navy's FY03 budget proposes to buy only five new ships.
While these preliminary numbers are, indeed, not positive news, the prospects of building military and patrol vessels of all shapes and sizes, for all military branches, should brighten considerably in the years to come.
As we go to press with the first issue of 2002, the book on coastal and waterway security in and around the United States is literally being re-written. Cold War notwithstanding, never in our history has the prospect of real damage on U.S. soil been such a reality. New legislation and procedures that will affect all branches of waterway patrols, from local municipalities up through the U.S. Navy, and, undoubtedly, new equipment, from vessels to shoreside technologies, will be procured. As reported in the December 14, 2001 edition of sister-publication MarineNews, the Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, for the first time, teamed together for the patrol of the U.S. coast. Specifically, four Cyclone-Class Navy Patrol Coastal (PC) ships — built by Bollinger Shipyards — were incorporated into the nation's homeland security Operation Noble Eagle, and an additional two PCs were assigned to the Pacific Coast. On one hand this could be a unique reaction for extraordinary times. But if the operation is deemed a success, it could very well provide a blueprint for enhanced waterborne assets deployed for the protection of U.S. ports and shores.