Federal budget deal calls for $5 million for National Coast Guard Museum

The Day

New London — The budget deal reached Sunday night by congressional negotiators includes $5 million for the National Coast Guard Museum planned for downtown New London.

Congress still needs to pass the $1 trillion budget bill, which will fund the government through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The measure also requires President Donald Trump's signature. The bill is expected to pass, as leaders from both parties have indicated they received what they wanted out of the deal, and that it is preferable to another continuing resolution.

The government has been operating on a temporary funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, which usually limits spending levels to the previous fiscal year.

The $5 million, which U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., helped secure in an earlier appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, would represent the first federal appropriation allotted for the museum. The money would be used for initial appraising, cataloguing, and organizing artifacts, and could not be used for the design and construction of the museum.

Murphy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, worked to change statutory language that prohibited any federal funding from being used on the museum project.

"This first wave of federal support will enable the Coast Guard to put its more than 225 years of history on display in New London soon," Murphy said in a prepared statement. Blumenthal called it a "critical down payment" that "hopefully" will lead to more private contributions.

The Coast Guard Museum Association, which is in charge of raising money for the museum, has secured about $9 million in private donations, and also has a commitment from the state for $20 million to be used to build a pedestrian bridge that would provide safe access to the museum. The association is seeking a total of $30 million from the federal government for the estimated $100 million project and has set a goal of raising $13 million in private donations this year alone.

Dick Grahn, CEO and president of the museum association, said the $5 million in federal funding would be "very persuasive" in obtaining private donations from both corporations and individuals. The funding also represents "the first step along the way towards this private-public partnership that is the National Coast Guard Museum," Grahn said.

The museum initially was expected to open in 2018, but the opening has since been pushed back to 2021.

The budget deal, if passed, will mean $12.5 billion more in defense spending. Submarines would continue to fare well. About $5 billion would be spent on the Virginia-class attack submarine program. Another $2 billion would go toward building the new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines, known as the Columbia-class program.

The Virginia-class submarines are built jointly by Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with each company alternating delivery to the Navy. EB is the prime contractor on the Columbia-class program, and will thus perform a larger share of the work.

Meanwhile, Trump unveiled his first budget request in March. This month, he will submit a more detailed budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year.