US House backs Eastern cutter contract


WASHINGTON D.C.: Funding for Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s coast guard contract has made it through the US House of Representatives.

On Thursday (Friday in Manila), the House passed appropriations legislation that included $500 million to fully fund the offshore patrol cutters program for which Eastern won a multibillion-dollar contract last year. Early in the budget process, President Trump proposed cutting the US Coast Guard’s overall budget by $1.3 billion — which could have threatened the contract — but the final proposal kept the agency’s budget at $9.1 billion.

Rep. Neal Dunn was a consistent advocate for funding the cutters, testifying in front of the House Appropriations Committee and writing letters to the committee and Department of Homeland Security in favor of the project.

“The offshore patrol cutter program is crucial to our national security, and fully funding the production of these ships will ensure that our military men and women have the tools they need to keep us safe,” he said in a statement. “Eastern Shipbuilding has proven to be one of the most productive and cost-effective shipyards in the country, and they are dedicated to providing our coast guard with top-of-the-line ships.”

While the funding has made its way through the House, it still has to be cleared by the Senate and the president.

Coast guard officials have said the new cutters are critical to upgrading the nation’s aging fleet, as many of the boats were built in the 1970s and 1980s, and some contain no digital components. The coast guard is present off all seven continents and is critical in intercepting drugs and illegal aliens.

“Coast guard leaders have made it clear that the offshore patrol cutter program is one of their top priorities in fleet recapitalization,” Dunn said in his statement. “The new fleet of offshore patrol cutters will feature increased range and endurance, more powerful weapons, a larger flight deck, and an improved communications and electronics suite — improvements that the coast guard needs to accomplish its mission.”



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