Multiple crewing of National Security Cutters

Considering the multi-crew concept for the National Security Cutters, I have my doubts. Here is a brief explanation from the official USCG acquisitions web site:

“Initially, the Coast Guard will employ four crews for three NSCs at a single homeport, rotating the cutters among the crews to limit crew PERSTEMPO to 185 days while maintaining each cutter’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) at 230 days. The three-cutter, four-crew prototype will be evaluated in 2009 through an operational testing-and-evaluation process. Policy and procedures for CRC are based on the lessons learned by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, as well as consideration of the recommendations made by auditors from the Government Accountability Office.”

First assuming the projections are correct, we are replacing 12 ships which would provide 2,220 operating days with eight ships that will provide at best 1,840 so we are already two ships short.

Then you will also note that the presumption is that the ships will be operated in groups of three from the same home port, but there are only eight ships planned, meaning there will be a rump group of two somewhere. Will they be operated by three crews or by a single crew per ship?

What we hope to save here is acquisition cost, because the operating costs per op day cannot be lowered by this strategy and will actually be higher. I don’t know the projected life cycle costs for the National Security cutters, but in general, I’ve heard that the acquisition costs for similar systems is about 15% of the life cycle cost. Fuel and personnel costs are the real driver. Fuel costs should be the same per op day. Personnel costs will actually be higher, since each crew under the multi-crewing concept will only provide 172.5 op days instead of 185, so personnel costs will be 7.25% higher.

In addition, because the ship will only be in port 135 days a year instead of 180, there will be fewer opportunities for the crew to make repairs. These repairs, normally done by the crew, will have to be done by contractors at additional costs.

I would also note that the acquisition costs we hope to save actually decline as we add more ships. Four additional units are likely to cost far less on the average than the first 8. There is also the long term value of having four additional ships in hand if the country should need them in the future.

Frankly I don’t think we will see any significant savings from this manning approach and it may actually cost us in the long run.

If a truly convincing argument can be made for the concept, I would like to see it. And if the argument involves lower overhead because we get more “mission” op days compared to RefTra day, remember the reason we go, is to train the crews, not the ships, so every crew will needs to go.

23 thoughts on “Multiple crewing of National Security Cutters

    • Some of us were hoping it would never come back. The only contributer here who actually has a clue about the Coast Guard is Chuck.

  1. Most government DoD programs run over budget because of the perpetual dance the companies and lawmakers do. No one wants to know the real cost up front so everyone underbids. Then when problems hit we get hearings, finger wagging and maybe, if Nunn-McCurdy is breached, someone is fired. Program are very rarely cut (However the FCS and F-22 contracts etc might show that is changing?). Then if the product works all is forgotten and forgiven and we do the dance again. My concern is not when the costs raise some (excessive rises do warrant concern) but what is the government getting for the money. Deepwater is up $10B or 63%. With no new added assets what did we get for that money? How much of it was to kowtow to the contractors?W here's the 123 refund and penalties? if those were paid all of the current staffing and mission cuts would be offset and there would be enough left over for an icebreaker.

  2. If we are not going to multi-crew the ships, where will we get the additional op-days? We are replacing 12 HECs with 8 and 27 MECs with 25. However good they are, that just doesn’t work.

  3. FRCs are great, certainly the CG will be mistaken if they treat them like a one for one replacement for the 110′ WPB. However, no flight deck and still designed for 5 day endurance is no MEC replacement. Sea state 5, I think not. We need to maintain our Blue water fleet for many reasons.
    As to CRC, stand by I don’t believe it is dead and we will hear more discussion on using it for at least the WMSL. If you hear the arguement that we must try CRC or lose crediblity with Congress for selling Deepwater with that in place…. remember we (G-D that is) used the same arguement when many said stop the 123′ conversion after one and test it. We proceeded with hulls 2-8 to “ruthlessly execute” the ICGS plan in order to prove we could do it and achieve a quick win. In retrospect need I say more.

  4. I am an ET3 coming from an esd to crew bravo in transfer season 2011 due to early afloat. I haven’t really received an answer to the question i have from anyone at my unit or anyone else i have talked to about the situation. When i look up the position number on peoplesoft it still does not specify a boat, just a crew. If i am on the bravo crew will i be rotating to different boats or how is it working now since a lot of people are saying the CRC has been scratched???

  5. “you would not be assigned to a particular ship.”

    That would suck. Might as well be merchant marine. Every ship is different and all have some odd quirk or the other that would make getting adjusted to one and then move to another. It would also make reunions all that more difficult.

    The multiple crewing concept did work that well for the SWIFT Boat Navy in Vietnam.

    The Coast Guard did an extremely poor job of keeping records on its people who served in Vietnam. Imagine how multiple crewing will play out for a host of issues such as future health problems or even awards. I know some will say record keeping is better today but is it really?

    Keep the same crew year around–210 days underway. Gaining twenty-five days is not worth the administrative or logistical hassle.

    Also, Dan, repeat after me – It’s a Ship, It’s a Ship.

  6. My question on this is, if it is such a good idea, why don’t we try it first on smaller vessels such as WPBs?

    It’s got to be easier than on a 4500 ton ship.

  7. Chuck,

    Good question. Did they not try or do this with the 110s at Key West? (BTW, The original name of Key West was Thompson’s Island).

    As a traditionalist in these matters, I see the concept as being contrary to tradition and will put the people involved in a constant TDY status. Constant turnover does not build loyalty or a better sailor. This serves to work against the Coast Guard’s culture.

    I have to wonder how much sea time those making these decisions have? Is it all management? Are they going against a Hamiltonian principle of keeping the cutters active? Cutters are machines and Hamilton understood them to be more about people than machines.

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