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Ingalls could lose two cutters to federal budget cuts

PASCAGOULA — The U.S. Coast Guard will not get the last two of eight planned national security cutters, under President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request. The two cutters were not included in the Coast Guard’s five-year capital investment plan, The Mississippi Press reported.

The capital investment plan outlines acquisition priorities under the limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, Department of Homeland Security officials said.

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula builds the Legend-class craft used for enforcing drug, immigration, fishing and terrorism laws. They are replacing the 1960s-era Hamilton-class cutters.

The budget proposal sent to Congress includes $683 million for the sixth cutter but nothing for the seventh or eighth ships.

Changes to the Coast Guard’s major cutter fleet plans must be coordinated with the Navy, which is also evaluating its long-range fleet plans, DHS said.

“DHS will work very closely with the Department of Defense and other partners to determine impacts to operational planning on the National Fleet Plan as threats evolve and evaluate acquisition priorities,” officials said.

The first three cutters in the series have been delivered and are homeported in Alameda, Calif.

The fourth is under construction, and the fifth cutter is under contract with construction expected to begin in May.

A final construction contract for the sixth cutter is expected to be awarded next year, according to the Coast Guard’s 2013 congressional justification.

Ingalls is not commenting on the fate of the last two cutters.

“As this is only the first step in a long process, it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of the budget,” company spokesman Bill Glenn said.

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