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U.S. Coast Guard fleet modernization timeline slips

U.S. Coast Guard fleet modernization timeline slips

   Members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee for Coast Guard and maritime transportation say the Bush administration’s proposed fiscal year 2005 shortchanges desperately needed fleet modernization efforts for the Coast Guard.

   Funding for the Coast Guard’s so-called Deepwater program in fiscal year 2005 so far is $678 million. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., chairman of the subcommittee, called this “a paltry $10 million increase over fiscal year 2004, and well below the amount necessary to meet the program’s original 20-year schedule.”

   Many members of Congress support the Coast Guard’s efforts to replace its aging fleet of cutters (some dating back to World War II), planes and support systems. The concern is that this equipment is adequate to meet the agency’s expanding role in the war against terrorism.

   While Coast Guard commandant Adm. Thomas H. Collins defended the Bush administration proposed 2005 budget request as sufficient, he admitted that the agency’s systems were “wearing out faster than we anticipated.”

   Collins said there have recently been 20 hull breaches in the agency’s cutter fleet and substantial power failures with some of its helicopters. “We have to steal from (fleet) replacement money to sustain the legacy system,” he said.

   LoBiondo vowed that his subcommittee will continue to support efforts to accelerate the Coast Guard’s Deepwater initiative. “Completing Deepwater in less than 20 years is critically important if the Coast Guard is expected to successfully carry out its mission,” he said.

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