This week Congress broke its impasse on the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill when House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) brought to the floor and passed the Senate-passed bill.
The Senate bill excludes the provisions that would have defunded the president’s executive action on immigration, which have been the sticking point on the bill since December when Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) (until February 27, 2015) that included the immigration provisions.
Last week Boehner tried to get the House to approve a three-week extension to the CR to provide additional time to reach an agreement. But, the bill failed when 52 Republicans voted against the extension and only 12 Democrats voted for it. To keep the Department of Homeland Security from shutting down Boehner proposed and the Senate agreed to a one-week extension to try to resolve the stalemate.
When it became obvious that the House and Senate Democrats and President Obama would not agree to a bill that included the immigration provisions and shutdown was fast becoming a reality, Boehner brought the Senate-passed (H.R. 240) bill to the House floor. The “clean” bill passed when 75 Republicans joined all voting Democrats (182) to pass the bill, 257-167. The President has signed the bill into law.
A key part of the Homeland Security bill provides funding for the Coast Guard. Discretionary FY2015 funding in the bill for the Coast Guard totals $8.591 billion, $439 million higher than the request.
Operating expenses account for $7.0 billion of the FY 2015 discretionary budget, up almost $300 million from the request. These amounts fund Coast Guard operational activities worldwide, including personnel costs. The increase is mostly accounted for by $213 million for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), in Coast Guard rather than Department of Defense accounts, and $53 million more for Intermediate and depot level maintenance. Additional funding ($7.5 million) is provided to maintain one of the two High Endurance Cutters that were recommended for decommissioning.
The bill increases the request for acquisition, construction, and improvements by $141 million to $1.3 billion. Funding is increased to buy an additional HC-130J aircraft ($95 million), replace one H-60 helicopter airframe ($12 million), preserve the Polar Sea icebreaker in case of future reactivation ($8 million), and to buy spare parts for the HC-27J Spartan aircraft ($5 million). The bill provides additional funds for In-Service Vessel Sustainment ($24.5 million) and $6 million for military housing
The also bill cuts $5.1 million from the NSC-8 program and $6 million due to excess carryover funding in the polar icebreaker program.
In the report accompanying the bill, the Coast Guard is directed to submit to the House and Senate appropriations committees a new Mission Needs Statement (MNS) no later than July 1, 2015. Also, by September 30, 2016, the Coast Guard is to submit to the committees a revised Concept of Operations (CONOPS), which will “determine the most cost-effective method of executing mission needs by addressing gaps identified in the MNS.”