February 24, 2015

DeFazio, Garamendi to GOP Leadership: Don’t Hold Coast Guard Funding Hostage to Push Political Agenda

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, blasted House Republican leadership for holding critical Coast Guard funding hostage to score political points. Funding for the Coast Guard will run out on Saturday, putting 41,000 active-duty military personnel in harm’s way without pay unless Speaker Boehner allows a clean vote on funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“It is unbelievable that on the same day we held a hearing about next year’s Coast Guard budget request, the Coast Guard is preparing for a shutdown due to the Republican leadership’s failure to pass this year’s budget. If Congress fails to pass a clean DHS funding bill by Saturday, our brave active-duty Coast Guard members will be forced to put themselves in harm’s way without pay. It’s time to put the politics aside, and pass a clean DHS funding bill now,” said DeFazio.

“The Coast Guard is currently underfunded to meet its mission goals, and now House Republican leadership wants to shut it down. This would force our service members to serve their nation without pay. It would increase dangers on our seas. Instead of shutting down our security, we should immediately fund Homeland Security operations,” said Garamendi.

While operations that most immediately threaten human life will continue, all other operational activities will be suspended or terminated. This includes vessel safety inspections, maintenance of aids to navigation, icebreaking operations, maritime license and credentialing activities, and environmental and fisheries enforcement.

If Congress does not enact legislation to fund DHS, uniformed, civilian, and retired Coast Guard personnel will be immediately and directly impacted:

  • None of the Coast Guard’s 41,141 Coast Guard active-duty military personnel will receive pay after they receive their February 28 paycheck (regardless of the fact that they are required to report to duty);

  • Approximately 6,300 civilian employees – more than 75 percent of the Coast Guard’s civilian workforce – will be furloughed on February 28; and

  • None of the Coast Guard’s 49,022 retirees and survivors will receive their retired pay after they receive a February 27 pension check.

Almost 27,000 (or 86 percent) of the Coast Guard’s enlisted workforce live in the general community, not in government or military housing.  The enlisted personnel will face immediate financial hardships of having to pay rent, buy groceries, or pay back a loan with no income.  These military personnel may be required to report to duty but they will not receive any back pay until Congress acts.

In addition, a DHS shutdown will significantly disrupt the Coast Guard’s recapitalization and acquisition activities.  The civilian acquisition workforce will be furloughed and, thus, unavailable to continue mission support.  The furloughed employees will include almost all contracting officers and business financial specialists across the Coast Guard. 

As a result, the Coast Guard will no longer have the ability to make or process invoices and payments, award contracts and execute contract modifications, administer and oversee contractor performance, and provide sufficient project oversight.  Major, multi-billion dollar system acquisition programs for the National Security Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter, and Fast Response Cutter, will grind to a crawl.

Without sufficient civilian personnel in Coast Guard contracting, finance, and acquisition positions, disbursements to vendors will cease and responses to requests for information from audit and oversight entities may be delayed or curtailed. 

Moreover, depending on the length of the shutdown, the Coast Guard may incur interest payments associated with late invoice payments, and would be unable to take advantage of discounts for early payment of invoices.