The Coast Guard--Limited Resources Curtail Ability To Meet Responsibilities

CED-80-76: Published: Apr 3, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 1980.

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In recent years, Congress has given the Coast Guard new duties, such as oilspill prevention and cleanup and enforcement of fisheries and drug laws. However, the Coast Guard's budget has not grown to meet its needs for additional staff and vessels. Moreover, some Coast Guard shore facilities are inadequate. Consequently, the Coast Guard will have problems effectively carrying out its responsibilities in the 1980's.

Budget reductions have limited the Coast Guard's ability to adequately maintain its cutters and shore facilities, and it has been unable to expand the cutter fleet to meet increased duties. GAO evaluated 51 cutters and found that 35 were having problems relating to: changes in Coast Guard missions construction, obsolete equipment, maintenance, and habitability. Despite increased duties, Coast Guard personnel resources have remained fairly constant, and high attrition rates have also affected mission performance. The Coast Guard estimated that an additional 8,200 people are needed in 1981, about half of which are needed to carry out activities mandated under recent legislation. As a result of the low retention rate, about 48 percent of enlisted Coast Guard personnel will have less than 2 years of experience in 1980. Studies and analysis indicate that many shore facilities have reached or surpassed their design life. Moreover, capital expenditures for rehabilitation and replacement have not increased as facilities have been added. A GAO review of 210 shore facilities found that 94 had various types and degrees of problems including physical deterioration, overcrowding, and other inadequacies due to the Coast Guard's changing missions.

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