Studying in the Coast Guard, Bad news for FRC

Navy Times is reporting that the House of Representatives is miffed at the Coast Guard for failing to provide three studies they have requested. Reading between the lines, it appears that the studies have been done, but the Department of Homeland Security or the administration did not like the results and is quibbling.

There is also bad news on the Fast Response Cutter (FRC) program here with an FY 2012 cut from six to four vessels.

“The report also notes that the first fast response cutter, under construction at Bollinger Marine in Lockport, La., is suffering from structural deficiencies that will delay its delivery, originally scheduled for this spring. The committee cut two cutters from the budget request for six and directed the service to hold off on expanding the annual FRC request from four to six until the first ship is delivered and has undergone operational test and evaluation.”

Who is really to blame for delaying the studies is not something we can determine, but the effect of all this is more dithering, ships getting too decrepit to do their jobs, and an inability to conduct SAR and enforce US law in the Arctic and far Pacific EEZ.

Not having a completed study is just an excuse for inaction on the part of the Administration and Congress. I hate to allow them that excuse, but while we may not know what the final fleet size should be, it is pretty obvious, we need to build more ships and faster. We need to start building OPCs yesterday and down the road will be soon enough to decide when we have enough.

Related: Fleet Mix Where Are the Trade-offs and DIY Fleet Mix Study



19 thoughts on “Studying in the Coast Guard, Bad news for FRC

  1. “Structural deficiencies” – That is not a good sign at all. So many proven ship designs out there with allied navies and coast guards that could save time and money, but there the fleet sits aging away.

    But I suppose with the money not being spent on new ships they can get great deals on oakum, bubble gum and bailing wire to keep the current fleet floating longer.

    • Supposedly the OPC was based on a proven design, as were the 110s. It may not be serious, but it is an unfortunate delay.

    • So why can’t the US Coast Guard go shopping for proven ships that our NATO and non NATO Allies are using right now. If we had the funding that DHS puts into other wasteful and ineffective programs, we would be able to afford the latest and greatest proven products such as, Formidable class frigate, Sigma class corvette,Braunschweig class corvette,Milgem class corvette or even the Kedah class offshore patrol vessel. Even for Aircraft, if we had the funding diverted from DHS, we could get either a C-27 or a C-295 to replace our aging assets.

      I think if congress stops wasting Taxpayers money on ineffective and wasteful DHS and fund the US Coast Guard as it should and required. The US Coast Guard at least would be able to replace all their aging assets with the latest and greatest and be able to obtain the manpower needed. As of right now the US Coast Guard is being gouged by DHS to the Bone and possibly beyond for other ineffective and wasteful programs. Were being picked clean by the vultures of the DHS and the US Coast Guard needs to Fight Back or Congress needs to create a separate dept for the US Coast Guard.

      • Nicky, you keep beating this drum to no avail. No US Congress is going allow a large scale shipbuilding program be shipped offshore, no matter how good the platform might be. And it is highly unlikely a foreign shipbuilder is going to give a US shipyard a license to build copies of its product here in the US. We might get away with that strategy when we build WPB’s, but for anything larger, if it isn’t invented here, no dice.

      • You have to wonder where has all the US Shipbuilding talent that we are suppose to have to build those cutters that we always wanted. I think the best way for the US Coast Guard is to go shopping for a Foreign based proven ship that our NATO allies are using. Buy the rights to that ship and have it built in the by US Shipbuilders and US Shipyards. It would be the same as buying the FRC where we brought the blueprints and the rights from a foreign shipbuilder, but were building it in the USA with a US shipbuilder.

        The only problem is that Congress, let DHS run wild without anyone in control and at the helm. Congress in it’s dumbness, gave DHS the taxpayers checkbook/credit card and ran wild with taxpayers money. Wasting it on needless and ineffective programs that don’t work or failed to deliver as promised. That’s why Congress needs to rein in on runaway DHS funding and either stop DHS from spending like Paris Hilton or they need to rip it right out of DHS’s hands and turn it over to the US Coast Guard.

      • Please stop being such an utter embarrassment to the rest of us in the Aux rest of us who volunteer our time and effort to the gold side.

      • Why don’t you stop being an embarrassment to AUX. Stop bashing people especially the younger generation who will one day replace you when you get old and retire.

  2. the deficiencies are where the after of the superstructure meets the hull/deck. The structural studies done on the WPB’s and the 123 modification show this to be a critical area at the end of service life. The Coast Guard made the decision to beef these areas up since the steel in those areas were barely meeting the structural requirements. Its a first in class lesson learned. The CG figured this out too late for the first two NSC’s, fixed it before the first FRC went in the water, and hopeful will have fully embraced this lesson for the OPC.

    the decision to go from 6 to 4 in the authorization makes perfect sense. Mathematically they were not on schedule to finish that many by the end of FY12. I think it is prudent to wait to build more than four a year until after OT&E… wait, that is exactly what the contract says. Slow scale production was the plan until the first three are delivered and the OT&E for hull one is complete. Only then was the Coast Guard going to authorize full scale production. All the House did was tell the CG to operate in the box it had already put itself into.

    I don’t want to be optimistic but I feel rather confident that once the first cutter is complete, they will move at a pretty quick pace. This isn’t ICGS, this is the exact same facility and the same CG resident office that has been building the CPB for over a decade. I think the fact they stopped production to make these changes is a good sign compared to the NSC’s that needed a $30 million study after acceptance just to figure out how badly designed the structural hull was.

    I guess time will tell!

  3. It looks like Coast Guard has to build an Edsel first, then it moves on. So, how do structural deficiencies get built into a new vessel?

    • “So, how do structural deficiencies get built into a new vessel?” I don’t know, but awarding the contract to Bollinger might be a good place to start.

      Yes, I know, a cheap shot. But given the fact that all the Coast Guard and the taxpayers have to show for their 94 million dollars down the drain are 8 WPB’s rusting away in Curtis Bay, MD, is the charge all that undeserved?

      But here is the real part of the Navy Times article that should give pause.

      “One Capitol Hill analyst decried what he said was a Coast Guard tendency to put off hard decisions in preference to further study. “They’re always doing that,” said the analyst, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. “The No. 1 deflection strategy of the Coast Guard is to say they’re in the midst of a study about whatever you just asked about.

      “Is the purpose of the study,” the analyst asked, “to provide a dodge until you can start another study?””

      Sadly, given the last 10 years of acquisition mismanagement by the Coast Guard, using studies to dodge the issue is apparently the service’s best defense.

      But wait, there’s more.

      “What the service really needs now, the Capitol Hill analyst said, is to ask for more assets to carry out the vastly expanded set of missions it’s been saddled with over the past decade. “They don’t want to be insubordinate; they’ve been told to support the president’s budget,” the analyst observed. “But they know they need more, and the way they avoid confrontation is to say, ‘We’re studying the issue.’

      “What you have is the long-term consequence of a service that we didn’t have to invest in for a very long time, because their assets were aging in place. And we’re now in a place where we need to increase the Coast Guard allocations, but at a time when the government at large is trying to shrink the budget. It becomes hard for any agency to make the case for a budget increase.””

      I would like everyone storing up their bile to hold off before unleashing it, and consider the following. What did we hear about during the period leading up to the creation of DHS? How many times did we hear that moving the Coast Guard into DHS would finally put the Coast Guard’s budget in a Department that would fight for it?

      Well, guess what – it didn’t. Even before the gravy train ended, the Coast Guard was playing it’s usual Mr. Nice Guy, and while everyone else was getting massive post-9/11 budget increases, the DHS green eyeshade bunch hosed the Coast Guard. Just like the DOT green eyeshade crowd before them. Instead of engaging in a badly needed recapitalization of the Coast Guard’s surface and aviation fleets, the service was nickeled and dimed while other DHS elements wasted money on an ineffectual border fence, a high tech border surveillance system that was a complete failure, and airport puffers that now sit in warehouses gathering dust, because they don’t work either.

      Think I’m exaggerating? Just last December, USA Today reported that “the Government Accountability Office reveals that the TSA has spent $14 billion trying to get the [puffer] technology right. Many, like the puffers, were deployed in airports before the TSA had fully tested them.”

      14 Billion. Just think how many ships that could have bought. In 2002 dollars, that would have funded 3/4 of the estimated 17 for the entire Deepwater program.

      And then there are those wildly effective radiation portal monitors for CBP. Remember those? As of December 2005, the Office of Customs and Border Protection had bought 670 of the machines at a cost of about $286 million. Great machines, except for the fact that they were so highly sensitive to radiation that they cannot distinguish between weapons-grade nuclear material and items that naturally emit radioactivity, including cat litter, granite, porcelain toilets, and bananas. As a result, the machines set off so many false alarms that their sensitivity levels had to be decreased, which effectively limited their practical usefulness.

      With 286 million, the Coast Guard could have bought six HC-144’s.

      I could go on, but I think most of you get my point.

      For the balance of its existence, the Coast Guard has been the epitome of responsibility when it comes to being a steward of the public trust. What has it gotten in return for this “good guy” approach? A decaying surface and aviation fleet, all while the other DHS agencies have been gorging themselves with waste, fraud and abuse at the public’s expense.

      Maybe it’s time the Coast Guard stopped playing by the rules. No one else seems to be……

      • DHS spends 14 billion on puffers because of political correctness. We have to have a system that is politically correct. If we’d apply $.02 of intelligence towards the situation and actually profile passengers and proceed accordingly, we’d have similar security at a lot less cost… I can’t believe how the PC BS has allowed the scanners that show intimate body parts go forward, but prevents profiling…

        Anyway, to get off the soapbox and get back on-track — Yes, the CG’s nice-guy attitude has always made it vulnerable. You’d think with the perfect storm of:

        A) 9/11 and it’s consequences to the expansion of missions
        B) Aging fleet anyway (regardless if 9/11 happened or not)
        C) New department creation with somewhat free/loose budget
        D) New/advanced migrant and drug interdiction challenges

        the CG would be able to get a pretty generous budget for re-capitalization…?

        Of course, the whole ICGS fiasco/scandle didn’t help, but if handled properly, could be moved past.

  4. Bill, the negativity does nothing for your credibilty. A healthy debate is one thing but you seem to have a chip on your shoulder in nearly every post. That’s just my opinion, so fire off the retort.

    • Matt, Let the chips fall where they may.

      As far as shipbuilding, transfer the USCG back to the Treasury Department. If history follows and the Secretary job is refilled every two years or so, then the old scheme of naming cutters for them would nearly guarantee a new cutter in about the same periods of time. It would be a faster model than is being used today.

      In 1992, K. A. Redig, T. J. Haas, and R. A. Redig wrote a study (CGA Report 06-92) that promoted the relevance and value of the study of chemistry at the CGA. I used this study in the past to kick off other areas where relevance and value needed improvement. The chemistry study held that to get students interested, rather than dreading, in the study of chemistry, they must be shown how and why such study is important and how it is “intertwined” in every facet of their lives. As an old television commercial once noted, “Better Life thru Chemistry.”

      In my several decades of historical study on the Coast Guard, I have seen where relevance is life for the Coast Guard. It has been a constant theme from 1790 forward. What does the Coast Guard do to make itself relevant? It is easy in the good times, if the Coast Guard has ever had them, but very difficult in the bad as will be seen again shortly.

  5. I hated chemistry when I was a cadet so I guess no one paid attention to that study either. No one will care about the Coast Guard until there is a CG-friend as the Secretary. A former SW border Governor is not that person. Take a look at every picture where she is visiting a CG unit, she just looks bored and doesn’t seem like she cares at all. We more than doubled CBP in the last decade, not so much with the CG. The CG nearly broke its back responding to the HA earthquake (11 ships had to fall out for casualties) and that was in a normal OPAREA. The CG nearly broke its back responding to Deepwater Horizon and that was in a protected gulf where PB’s could do most of the job. As much as I will regret saying this (because it will be borne by myself and my shipmates) I’m hoping for a Haiti mass migration. With the state of the offshore fleet we will collapse if it happens. Ask the crew of cutter NORTHLAND. They just came out of MEP, ( a year in the CG yard) and they broke so many times on their way to patrol that LANT just gave up on them and told them to just patrol in their home district. They spent nearly two of their first three weeks I/P fixing major casulaties. On top of that, with the Navy commitments they probably will be very slow to meet their obligations to respond to the presidential declaration.

    The problem is that the CG is just wired to make it work, its the culture! Senior leadership will lay the burden on the backs of the field units and the field units will give their blood, sweat, and tears to try and make it work. When you have an MPA (MK warrant officer) on the verge of tears because he is so frustrated that his plant won’t work is that the fault of him and his engineers? The answer is most definitely NO! They feel like they failed but it is senior leadership (CG/DHS/Congress/the President) that failed to provide them with the proper equipment, the equipment our shipmates deserve.

    When I joined the Coast Guard 11 years ago deepwater was already a reality. There was no reason why Congress could not have forced the CG to build the ships or at least asked them point blank how many they needed. In a previous post I said we need 63 major cutters and I still believe it is true. This isn’t just a random number but a realistic allocation to support the current OPAREA’s that each district looks at as vital. $50 Billion should cover the bill and that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall budget.

    Lets put a retired Admiral into the Secretary role and see if it helps. Really, the best thing you can do is write your congressman a letter and tell them the future of the CG is important to you and why. Maybe it won’t work but its worth a shot.

  6. I don’t think anyone pays much attention to any of the reports stemming from the Center for Advanced Studies that hasn’t posted any studies on line since 2006 and removed all those from 1990 to 2004.

    I don’t believe having a former CG admiral in the secretary’s job would make any difference. Once they leave, they leave the uniform behind especially if it is a political job.

    Whatever direction or tone the fight takes will have to come from whatever person is in charge of the Coast Guard at the time. Because of the uncertain future, the commandant should stay in the job for ten years. That would accomplish many things including waiting out people in and out of the Coast Guard who would cause trouble for it.

  7. Ten years would at least provide some organizational stability. For all of the ‘steady the service’ talk, there’s still a lot of flux going on.

  8. The steady the service argument over ten years would only apply if the COMDT actually was devoted to doing that and not being change centric. Fortunately, we currently have the steady the service part in place. As a product of CGA I agree with Deskrider, Chem was a hurdle to get thru on my way to a commission, perhaps if I’d seen that study I would have been more motivated to excell in Chem. As to service study, Bill is right I haven’t had the time, to busy sweating out here keeping the current fleet producing (at least the part I can influence). Bill, your response was measured and looks like a heathly conversation was in the offering.

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