“Most of [the issues] would be felt in our acquisition portfolio, any new starts. It’s very difficult in a continuing resolution to get anomalies. If you get an anomaly as one service then you kind of open it up that everyone needs an anomaly. What we really need is a final appropriation,” Zukunft said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio on Jan. 10.
The Coast Guard is trying to stay current with its maintenance of equipment and is working on building a new heavy icebreaker. Those items need 2018 funding to continue.
Zukunft said the Coast Guard is anticipating another mini-CR before Congress passes a final appropriations bill. The current CR is set to expire on Jan. 19.
“We are prepared if that is the contingency,” Zukunft said. “We are not prepared for a government shutdown, but we are prepared for a CR. Eventually, we do need to come to closure on Fiscal 2018 and then we can start moving on Fiscal 2019, which is still pre-decisional.”
The Coast Guard is looking at large and small drones and its research and development as part of the planned 2018 budget.
The 2018 budget also has money for cyber and the service’s inland fleet.
“This is a fleet of very old inland construction tenders that maintain our inland waterways. If you can think of our interstate system, the signage, the asphalt, all of the work, that’s basically what we do on the waterways. [The waterways] move $4.6 trillion worth of commodities, jobs and opportunities as well,” Zukunft said.
He added the waterways are critical to the nation’s security and the U.S. cannot afford to let the infrastructure deteriorate.
The Trump administration tried to cut the Coast Guard budget by $1.3 billion or 14 percent in its 2018 budget.
Congress did not share the administration’s sentiment toward the service. Defense spending bills and authorization laws for 2018 fund the Coast Guard to its requested level.
All of this is tied in with the extremely active hurricane season that battered the United States’ coasts this past year.
The Coast Guard Cutter USCGC James is still stationed in Puerto Rico running command and control for the area after Hurricane Maria left the territory in the dark.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were opportunities for the Coast Guard to shine.
“Harvey exploded in the central Gulf of Mexico. It was a weak category one and then within 24 hours it exploded to be strong category four and then it just hovered off the coast of Mexico between Corpus Christi and Houston and bringing an unprecedented 52 inches of rain,” Zukunft said. “As soon as it imploded we were already starting to move forces. Getting them as close to the scene as possible.”
Zukunft said the Coast Guard saved a total of 12,000 lives during hurricane season. The service was able to harness social media and work with the National Security Agency to find people stranded on rooftops or in need of medical attention.