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American Shipper

House subcommittee increases fiscal year 2005 funds for Deepwater

House subcommittee increases fiscal year 2005 funds for Deepwater

   The House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee for the Coast Guard and maritime transportation has approved an increase to the proposed fiscal year 2005 funding for the Coast Guard’s fleet renewal effort.

   The Bush administration’s proposed budget request included $1.28 billion for Coast Guard acquisitions, construction and improvements, of which $858 million was earmarked for the Integrated Deepwater System.

   The Deepwater initiative was developed several years ago to replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of cutters and helicopters. However, House subcommittee members last week criticized the president’s budget request as inadequate to keep Deepwater on schedule.

   “The acceleration of the Deepwater project is vitally needed because the Coast Guard’s fleet is rapidly deteriorating,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., subcommittee chairman, in a statement. The Coast Guard has increasingly experienced operational failures in their assets resulting in what the service has called a ‘declining readiness spiral.’ These failures have led to increased unscheduled maintenance and total ownership costs.

   “They have resulted in hundreds of patrol days lost and several life-threatening incidents over the past year, which have placed dangerous limitations on the service’s ability to carry out its critical missions,” LoBiondo added.

   A recent General Accounting Office report faulted the Coast Guard’s management teams for the Deepwater project. “They have been hampered by changing membership, understaffing, insufficient training and inadequate communication among members,” the GAO said.

   The subcommittee’s proposed 2005 Coast Guard Authorization Act includes about $1.53 billion for Coast Guard acquisitions, construction and improvements, of which $1.1 billion is authorized for Deepwater.

   The Coast Guard estimates the Deepwater program will cost $17 billion over 30 years.

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