After speaking with Admiral Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, today announced that Rhode Island will serve as the homeport for two new 360-foot Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), which will be based out of Naval Station Newport.
Senator Reed, who has advocated that Newport be the home of the forthcoming East Coast-based OPCs, said the announcement is a win-win for the Ocean State and the Coast Guard. It will bring more jobs and Coast Guard personnel to Rhode Island while maximizing efficiencies and taking advantage of recent federal investments and Rhode Island’s strategic location.
“The Coast Guard plays an essential role in safeguarding our nation and these cutters are tremendous assets in terms of maritime security and ensuring our economic interests on the high seas. I’m thrilled to be adding these workhorse vessels to the stable of Coast Guard assets here in Rhode Island. Once they are delivered, they will greatly enhance the Coast Guard’s regional capabilities. It’s a strategic win-win for the state and the service and I very much appreciate the Commandant’s leadership in making it happen,” said Senator Reed in a press release provided by his office, who toured Coast Guard facilities in Rhode Island with Admiral Schultz last fall.
“I have long believed that Naval Station Newport offers an ideal location for the Coast Guard to homeport these 360-foot vessels and their crews. It offers the benefits and amenities of a secure naval facility and an outstanding quality of life for crew members and their families. And I will continue working with the Coast Guard to make the necessary facility investments needed for these vessels, as well as the capabilities and force structure the Coast Guard needs to effectively perform its vital missions.”
The new 360-foot vessels are part of the new Heritage-class of vessels that began construction in 2019. The Coast Guard intends to build 25 of these vessels. The first vessel in this class is currently under construction in Florida, and the Coast Guard expects to take delivery in 2022.
The OPCs, which can have a crew size of over 100 service members, conduct missions including law enforcement, living marine resources enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, search and rescue, and other homeland security and defense operations. Each OPC will be capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and serving as a mobile command and control platform for surge operations such as hurricane response, mass migration incidents and other events. The cutters will also support Arctic missions.
Senator Reed helped include $12 billion for the Coast Guard to improve readiness, modernize vessels and aircraft, and enhance the quality of life for our service members in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations law, including $312 million for the continued procurement of OPCs.
Previously, Senator Reed secured $30 million in federal funding to create a new facility at Naval Station Newport for the Coast Guard’s three Rhode Island-based buoy tenders. Upgrades to the pier and waterside facilities were completed in 2015.
With 41,000 active-duty personnel and 8,000 civilian employees, the Coast Guard has many responsibilities for protecting our nation, enforcing our laws, supporting commerce, and saving lives at sea.
The Coast Guard has a considerable presence in Rhode Island, with 300 active-duty personnel, 50 Reservists, and another 45 civilian employees. The Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling over 384 miles of Ocean State shoreline and has an annual operating budget in the state of about $58 million.
“From saving lives, to stopping drug smugglers, to keeping commerce flowing across the waves, the Coast Guard performs several key missions, and we are grateful for the unwavering dedication and professionalism of our Coast Guard members,” said Senator Reed. “The Coast Guard has a strong, active presence here in Rhode Island, and we’re pleased to see it grow even stronger. We’ve made key investments and we have a great location that make Rhode Island an ideal place for Coast Guard resources.”
Currently, Newport is home to four Coast Guard Cutters, CGC OAK, CGC SYCAMORE, CGC IDA LEWIS, and CGC STEELHEAD, as well as Station Castle Hill. These multi-mission assets service aids-to-navigation, conduct search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, ports and waterways security, living marine resources, and defense and homeland security missions.
Honoring its heritage in the construction of this new class of vessel, the Coast Guard notes: “On Aug. 4, 1790, President George Washington signed legislation establishing a maritime force simply called “the cutters” or “the system of cutters.” Thus was born the United States Revenue Cutter Service, it is known today as the U.S. Coast Guard…And, as the new republic engaged in military conflicts, the revenue cutters adopted defense missions and served under the new U.S. Navy in time of war.”
Today, the Coast Guard’s responsibilities include Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE), Aids to Navigation (ATON), Ice Breaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness. Although it is one of our nation’s six armed services, the Coast Guard does not fall under the Department of Defense. Instead, the Coast Guard falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.