Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine
), chairwoman of a Senate Coast Guard subcommittee
, is among several officials that are pushing to speed up a 20- to 25-year, multibillion-dollar program to replace the Coast Guard's "deepwater" fleet, the 88 large ships and 186 aircraft capable of operating many miles offshore. This is particularly important now that homeland security has been added to the Coast Guard's responsibilities. But some of the Coast Guard's ships are more than 50 years old, well beyond the recommended age for replacement. The Bush administration wants to increase the amount of time it will take to replace the fleet to 25 years, presumably as a cost-cutting measure. But Senator Snow wants to replace the deepwater fleet over 10 to 15 years. Admiral Thomas Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard, says he supports the White House plan, but this month he told Congress his equipment is failing at unacceptable rates. See "Coast Guard plagued by breakdowns," Mimi Hall, USA TODAY, 7/5/05.