Coast Guard pleads for Deepwater funds.
"The Coast Guard must obtain and field the latest technologies and develop new techniques to counter this ever changing threat," said Rear Adm. Dennis Sirois, the Coast Guard's assistant commandant for operations. "For example, we are developing an initiative to deny the critical use of offshore refueling vessels to the go-fasts."
"Go-fasts" refer to small speedboats that rely on a network of slow, petrol-laden boats to power the craft they use to smuggle drugs into the United States. If the fueling vessels can be successfully targeted, the smugglers' speed and range could shrink significantly.
While testifying before a House government reform subcommittee, Sirois described congressional calls to reduce Deepwater funding as "troubling."
The Coast Guard's 2006 budget requests $966 million for the program. The House version of the 2006 DHS appropriations bill reduces Deepwater funding to $500 million; the Senate version reduces it to $905.6 million.
"If held to a $500 million funding level, the Coast Guard cannot complete necessary legacy asset sustainment," he said. "Any reduction in Deepwater funding jeopardizes the Coast Guard's integrated recapitalization strategy."
Deepwater's plan is to build or upgrade Coast Guard ships and planes so their information can be integrated into one common operating picture. Those assets will take advantage of advanced unmanned vehicle and sensor technology.
The advanced detection platforms and equipment of Deepwater will be necessary for interdicting smugglers in enough numbers to make a difference, Sirois said. Currently, most operations are dependant on limited patrol aircraft and collected intelligence to find smugglers.
The abbreviated funding levels being discussed in Congress will result in an operational capacity that "will go away faster than it can be replaced and this resource problem will persist," Sirois said. "We are working our assets and our crews harder than ever, and the wear is beginning to show."