July 27, 2023

Ranking Member Carbajal Statement from Hearing on Recapitalizing U.S. Coast Guard Assets

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Salud Carbajal (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Review of the Recapitalization of the United States Coast Guard Surface, Air, IT, and Shoreside Assets”
Video of Carbajal’s opening statements can be found here.
More information on the hearing can be found here.
Ranking Member Carbajal:
Today, we’re gathered here to discuss and review the Coast Guard’s acquisition programs for new cutters, boats, airplanes, helicopters, shoreside infrastructure and information technology.
Prior to getting started, I would like to echo the concerns expressed by Chairman Webster regarding the Coast Guard’s handling of sexual assault and harassment cases during the 1980’s through early 2000’s. The investigation itself, dubbed “Operation Fouled Anchor,” took place from 2014 through 2020.
After the conclusion of the investigation, the Coast Guard then made the irresponsible decision to hide the investigation and its findings from Congress and the American public.
Victim privacy is a paramount concern but choosing to not disclose to Congress the existence of the investigation and purposely hiding it from any reporting mechanism is shameful.
Earlier this week, Ranking Member Larsen, Vice Ranking Member Scholten and I sent a letter to GAO requesting they review the Coast Guard’s handling of this investigation and management of their sexual assault prevention, response and recovery program. I look forward to getting answers and improving Coast Guard procedures.
To all the victims that never saw justice and went unheard for years, I hear you and feel your pain. You were brave for coming forward and deserve closure. We will do our best to remedy this and prevent this from happening to other servicemembers. I am sorry you have to relive this pain again.
Now, turning to the topic of this hearing. The Coast Guard is in the middle of modernizing their fleet and yet they continue to operate ships that are well past their intended service life. This is in part due to lack of funding from Congress but also due to delays in production of newer cutters.
As we’ve learned from multiple GAO reports, the Coast Guard’s acquisitions typically come in delayed and over budget. This is a concerning trend that I hope we can get to the bottom of today but is not something that can be fixed overnight.
Improving the acquisition program requires investing more into the Coast Guard so that they can bolster their oversight. It also requires investing more in U.S. shipbuilding to ensure we have shipyards capable of building the assets we need. U.S. shipyards depend on contracts from the Navy and Coast Guard to support their business, but the Coast Guard is often outbid by the size and value of Navy contracts.
We must bring on newer cutters, shoreside infrastructure and IT systems quickly. Not only do modern assets mean improved mission readiness, they also mean better quality of life for our Coasties. Newer cutters mean better connectivity and ability for Coasties to contact their family while at sea, leading to improved mental health and higher retention rates.
Servicemembers want their families to live in the best quality housing and that starts with investing more in shoreside infrastructure and eliminating the estimated $3 billion backlog.
Ultimately, our servicemembers deserve to live and work in assets that aren’t on the brink of failure. Congress and Coast Guard leadership owe it to the personnel to deliver this. That is why we cannot revert to fiscal year 2022 funding and must fund the Coast Guard at higher levels than requested.
GAO has recognized that the funding typically requested by the Coast Guard underestimates their needs for recapitalization.
Before I conclude, I want to wish Ms. Mak congratulations on a successful career and wish you a happy retirement. You and your team have done important oversight and I thank you for all of your hard work.
With that, I yield back.