October 08, 2012
Credit: Credit: DHS
The U.S. Coast Guard is on the front lines of national security, but it struggles to complete its missions with one of the world’s oldest maritime fleets and a multibillion dollar replacement program years behind schedule.
The cash-strapped service operates with frequent breakdowns and obsolete gear in what one U.S. congressman has called a “death spiral,” of too few ships and too many missions.
If forced to give up some of its many jobs patrolling U.S. waters, that could mean more cocaine and illegal immigrants entering the United States, and fewer ships protecting boaters and fisheries and cleaning up oil spills, experts said.
More money from Congress to bring its $29 billion replacement program up to date is unlikely, given the belt-tightening U.S. budgetary environment.
“If you have limited resources for operations or for capital assets, something has to give,” U.S. Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Reuters.
Signs of out-of-date gear were clear aboard the 270-foot (82-meter) cutter Tahoma, now hauled out of the water to undergo an 11-month makeover at Baltimore’s Coast Guard yard.
A yard inspector, Lieutenant Commander Gary Hillman, scrambled to reach a control room through an engine space cluttered by snaking hoses and cables and ringing to the sound of welding.
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