Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, announced his strong concern regarding the critical need to provide reliable and sufficient funding to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s aging fleets of surface ships and aircraft.
At this morning’s subcommittee hearing, Coast Guard Readiness: Examining Cutter, Aircraft and Communications Needs, Ranking Member Garamendi and Chairman Duncan Hunter listened to testimony by expert witnesses on how projected reductions of $600 million in the Coast Guard’s Acquisition, Construction and Improvements Account will affect the Coast Guard’s ability to achieve its $29 billion recapitalization program. Witnesses were in agreement that unless significant additional funding is provided, the nation’s oldest continuous maritime service will experience reduced operational capabilities and mission performance.
“We need to think about this in a holistic way,” said Congressman Garamendi. “A proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sought $2.6 billion of unspecified funds to the Afghan National Security Forces, while the Coast Guard – one of our nation’s most vital organizations in securing our borders – has continuously had their budget reduced, jeopardizing their readiness and operational ability now and in the future.”
Congressman Garamendi acknowledged that although the Coast Guard has continued to efficiently utilize the reduced resources appropriated by Congress in continuing their vital missions to the best of their ability, a continued disregard for its aging assets would “accomplish little but to hollow out the capabilities of our Guardians of the Sea.”
At the hearing, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral John P. Currier confirmed that if the U.S. were to strengthen security on the southwest border, as is proposed in the Senate’s immigration bill, the Coast Guard would see an increase in illegal maritime activities in the waters off the California and Texas coasts.
“The Senate is moving toward comprehensive immigration reform, which includes a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented workers and stronger border security. As the House of Representatives considers immigration legislation, I urge my colleagues to ensure that we secure not just our land, but also our maritime borders,” said Garamendi.