Coast Guard:

Budget and Management Challenges for 2003 and Beyond

GAO-02-538T: Published: Mar 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 2002.

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Like many federal agencies, the Coast Guard's priorities were dramatically altered by the events of September 11. The Coast Guard has requested $7.3 billion for fiscal year 2003--a 36 percent increase from the previous year. The events of September 11 caused a substantial shift of effort toward homeland security and away from other missions. As resources were shifted to meet these needs, the law enforcement mission area, which consists mainly of drug and migrant interdiction and fisheries enforcement, saw a dramatic drop in mission capability. The Coast Guard's fiscal year 2003 budget request reflects an attempt to maintain and enhance heightened levels of funding for homeland security while also increasing funding for all other Coast Guard missions beyond fiscal year 2002 levels. The Coast Guard faces substantial management challenges in translating its requested funding increases into increased service levels in its key mission areas. For example, workforce issues present a daunting challenge. If the budget request for fiscal year 2003 is approved, the Coast Guard will add 2,200 full-time positions, retain and build on the expertise and skills of its current workforce, and deal with already high attrition rates and looming civilian retirements. The Coast Guard has yet to determine the long-term level of security needed to protect the nation's major ports. These challenges mean that, in the short term, additional funding may not increase the Coast Guard's ability to carry out its missions.

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