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Mr. PALAZZO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
My amendment would strike section 303 of the bill, which places harmful restrictions on the future contracting and construction of the United States Coast Guard national security cutter.
The national security cutter is a much needed and extremely cost-effective ship for the Coast Guard, and it has actively proven its value through highly successful counterdrug and other missions while replacing an aging Coast Guard fleet. This is a ship the Coast Guard desperately needs and replaces the 378-foot endurance cutters, most of which are 40 to 50 years old.
Just recently, the commandant of the Coast Guard told the press, we can't the get rest of those out soon enough. On average, the Coast Guard's legacy high-endurance cutters are able to achieve approximately 140 of their programmed 185 days under way a year.
Maintenance costs continue to escalate, and further delay of the transition to national security cutters will only exacerbate challenges we are already facing meeting fleet readiness and mission requirements. This ship represents the centerpiece of the Coast Guard fleet.
The first two national security cutters are enabling the Coast Guard to meet a wide range of missions now. During initial deployment, the national security cutters have netted hundreds of millions of dollars in drug busts. In fact, the street value of cocaine seized in the NSC's first two deployments alone exceeds the total cost of building a national security cutter. It is easy to see that this ship is an exceptional investment in our national security.
As it currently stands, H.R. 2838 would prohibit the Coast Guard from moving forward on NSC 6 and NSC 7. The $77 million pending in FY12 will enable the Coast Guard to contract for long lead time materials and transition to a planned construction contract in fiscal year '13. This is the most cost-effective method of procuring and building any ship, whether it's for the Coast Guard, Navy or the Marine Corps.
As you delay shipbuilding contracts, labor costs and material costs go up as a result of standard inflation. As these costs go up, the costs to the taxpayers go up, called escalation.
Simply put, by continuing steady production of this ship, we are saving the taxpayer money and creating a better product for the Coast Guard. This ship is extremely important to our Nation's industrial base which already faces a serious challenge in a time of tight budgets.
National security cutters are responsible for 1,300 jobs in over 40 States throughout the industrial base. In a time of deep cuts, this means real American jobs. We can't afford for America to lose more in terms of economic and national security. The continued, uninterrupted production could potentially save the taxpayers millions of dollars per ship and approximately 1,300 jobs across America.
One of my greatest concerns remains the purchase of long lead time materials to ensure that we do not delay production in the future. I have spoken with Mr. LoBiondo today, and I believe that we can find a solution to this issue before or during the conference process. With the cooperation of the Coast Guard and my friends on the committee, I feel confident we can continue to deliver the best product to the Coast Guard at the best possible price to the taxpayer.
I am willing to withdraw my amendment.
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