Maria CantwellSenatorI’d like to thank everyone for joining us today for this important hearing on the Coast Guard and its Fiscal Year 2008 budget request.Thank you, Admiral Allen for being here this afternoon and for your dedicated service to our nation for so many years.The Coast Guard Budget and MissionAs you know Admiral Allen, America expects a lot from the Coast Guard.You are constantly being asked to balance the increased demands of an evolving homeland security mission while ensuring your traditional missions are not cast aside.When confronting the challenges facing the Coast Guard and as we look at your budget, we must keep the Coast Guard’s mission balance in mind.We depend heavily on the Coast Guard for security.This is certainly true in my state. We have one of the busiest and most complex waterways in the world. Combined, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are the nation’s third busiest. Last year, more than 4 million cargo containers moved through these ports.And Puget Sound is also home to America’s largest ferry system, which transports more than 26 million passengers and 11 million vehicles annually throughout the area and to and from British Columbia.As we talk about securing our borders and securing our communities, securing our ports must NOT be an afterthought. We need to be sure that the Coast Guard has adequate resources to protect our ports and commerce from the threat of attack.While we depend on the Coast Guard for security, we also depend heavily on the Coast Guard to meet its traditional safety and stewardship missions.In Washington State, our crowded waterways make the threat of an oil spill particularly high. The Coast Guard plays a critical role in preventing and responding to oil spills, and I’m concerned that more needs to be done to increase our safety net in this important area.Admiral, I want to get your thoughts later about delays in implementing provisions within the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that would have required increased salvage and oil spill response equipment along our Nation’s coast.I am also concerned that the request for the Coast Guard’s living marine resources mission has been cut for the third fiscal year in a row.Admiral, no organization does more with fewer resources than the United States Coast Guard and I commend you all for your efforts.I am concerned, though, whether the funding request in the Coast Guard’s FY08 budget is sufficient to meet all of your needs.A request of $8.7 billion, a flat line increase of only $100 million over FY07 enacted levels, hardly seems sufficient to supply the Coast Guard with the resources you need to carry out your vital missions.In particular, there are a number of areas in this year’s budget request that worry me and I hope you can shed some light on some of these today.Deepwater and Rescue 21Of course, the single largest acquisition in the Coast Guard’s $8.7 billion FY 2008 budget request is the $836 million requested for the Deepwater program.This subcommittee has already held one hearing where my colleagues and I voiced grave concerns about Deepwater, its oversight, and the use of taxpayer dollars.Admiral Allen, as you know, I have worked closely with Senator Snowe to craft a comprehensive bill, S. 924, to reform the Deepwater program.It’s absolutely essential that we ensure greater competition and transparency in Deepwater and that the Coast Guard has the personnel and tools to manage a contract of this size.The Coast Guard needs to complete its missions safely and effectively, and taxpayers need to get what they're paying for.I know you know my thoughts on Deepwater, and I look forward to continuing to work together as we pass our bill.We need to apply a similar dose of transparency and oversight to Rescue 21. This critical upgrade of the Coast Guard’s communication system is vital to locating and rescuing stranded mariners.Unfortunately, the program has suffered from cost overruns and program delays. It is now scheduled for completion in 2011, instead of 2006. The total cost estimate is now $730.2 million - $480 million above the original plan. In addition, I hear that outstanding contract negotiations may cause the cost of Rescue 21 to climb even higher.Admiral, I’d like to ask you a few questions about these changes later in this hearing.Polar IcebreakersI am disappointed to see that once again there is not a request for funding the polar icebreaker fleet.I see the Coast Guard plans to rely on the National Science Foundation for the reimbursement of the operational and maintenance costs of these vessels, even though the Memorandum of Agreement that ensures this reimbursement may not even be signed this year.This is a huge problem, and I want to know why the Coast Guard ignored the language I included in the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, requiring you to provide Congress with a long-term recapitalization plan for the polar icebreakers.Interagency Operations Command CentersThe SAFE Ports Act required the Coast Guard to establish Interagency Operations Command Centers in our highest risk ports within three years. Yet I see no progress in this year’s budget to even attempt to meet that goal.This concerns me greatly.Reorganization into Deployable Operations GroupFinally, the Coast Guard’s FY 2008 budget recommends realigning its five Deployable Special Forces (DSF) units into a Deployable Operations Group requiring a base reallocation of $132.7 under the Coast Guard’s operating budget.While I can see that this reorganization may help streamline operations, I also want to make sure there are no unintended and negative consequences to this.Therefore, I would like to hear the Coast Guard’s reasoning for the reorganization, how you intend to monitor its effectiveness, and the potential hurdles you may face in the future.ConclusionBefore I turn things over to Senator Snowe, let me close by thanking my colleagues attending today, and extend my appreciation to Admiral Allen for coming before the committee.The Coast Guard is a critical resource.It allows our nation to protect its natural resources and expand our economy. It is also an essential part of our homeland defense, in my state and for our entire nation.We must provide both the oversight to prevent costly, dangerous delays in the procurement of assets, while ensuring the Coast Guard has the resources it needs to establish long-term success.I look forward to working with you all to make that great promise a reality.###
Ted StevensSenatorAs many of you have heard me say before Alaska has over half the coastline of the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska has the daunting task of patrolling an area of over three and a half million square miles.Whether it is rescuing fisherman in the icy waters of the Bering Sea or flying medivac missions in the southeast the Coast Guards has played a critical role in the lives of many Alaskans. They were called Alaskan mid-wives for a while because of all the babies that they delivered. In fact the largest Coast Guard station in the United States is Station Kodiak.It is worth noting that on February 8th, just over two months before this hearing, the Coast Guard decommissioned its oldest ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Storis, which was home ported in Kodiak, Alaska. The Storis was in service over 64 years.Taking its place as the Coast Guard’s “Queen of the Fleet” will be the Cutter Acushnet. The Acushnet, home ported in Ketchikan Alaska, celebrated its 63rd birthday on February 5th. We look forward to the day that the Acushnet will be replaced by one of the state of the art national security cutters developed under the Deepwater program.
Witness Panel 1
Admiral Thad W. AllenCommandantUnited States Coast Guard