Huntington Ingalls' shipbuilding division has been awarded contracts to build two more national security cutters for the Coast Guard. The program could create funding challenges for the service's icebreaker initiative, a seapower expert said.
The fixed-price contract awards were announced in December, totaling more than $930 million for the 10th and 11th NSCs. The money was appropriated by Congress in the fiscal year 2018 budget, even though the Coast Guard did not request the vessels. Some lawmakers are pushing for a 12th national security cutter.
"We did not on budget ask for those additional hulls as we have a finite amount of trade space," Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in an interview with National Defense at the Halifax International Security Forum. However, the national security cutters are "fantastic ships," he added.
The service is trying to move ahead with procuring a new icebreaker, also known as the polar security cutter. It requested $750 million in fiscal year 2019 to buy the first of six planned heavy- and medium-duty icebreakers.
Seth Cropsey, director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute, said resource constraints and the procurement of additional NSCs "absolutely" could impact funding for the polar security cutter program.
Lawmakers should robustly fund both programs because they offer critical capabilities, he noted.
National security cutters are "extremely important for medium-threat environments," he said.
The service also needs more icebreakers to compete with potential adversaries like Russia and China, which are enhancing...