“CG’s Deepwater Program Continues to Flounder”–AP/Navy Times

I wanted to draw your attention to an article that appeared on the Navy Times website, “CG’s Deepwater Program Continues to Flounder,” by Alicia A. Caldwell – The Associated Press, Posted : Sunday Aug 21, 2011 13:45:51 EDT.

This story was not a Navy Times exclusive. Through the AP, it has been widely published. You may have seen a version of it on your local media. Unfortunately this article while perhaps “true” is written in such a way as to be misleading, irresponsible, and damaging because of what it left out. I have already posted my comments on the Navy Times Website.

“…the Coast Guard has two new ships to show after spending $7 billion-plus” gives the impression the Coast Guard spent $7B for two ships which is far from the truth.

The money in question has purchased six C-130Js, twelve HC-144 maritime patrol aircraft and 12 associated mission pallets, upgraded older C-130Hs and 102 H-65 helicopters. It has refurbished 16 medium endurance cutters and 13 patrol boats. It has upgraded C4ISR equipment. In addition two more large ships and at least four smaller 154 foot cutters are paid for and will be delivered soon.

For many the takeaway from the article is that the Coast Guard is incompetent and cannot be trusted. In fact the cost of the two ships mentioned is about the same as the lead ships of the Navy’s LCS classes in spite of the fact that the cutters are almost 50% larger.

The Coast Guard had to rebuild its procurement staff because previous economy measures had stripped it of it’s in house expertise when a previous administration decided that the Government should outsource its decision making.

I know this was an AP article, but I would expect more balance from Navy Times.

I hate to see these allegations go unanswered.

25 thoughts on ““CG’s Deepwater Program Continues to Flounder”–AP/Navy Times

  1. I’m pretty sure Colton (http://www.coltoncompany.com/) saw this article before penning this:


    “Two Coast Guard cutters, the 45-year-old Confidence (WMEC 619) and the 43-year-old Venturous (WMEC 625), just sailed past the Colton Group building here in Delray Beach. These are fine ships, but they should have been retired by now. Some of us remember when the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program got started, back in 1996. Some of us thought then that the planned approach was stupid. Some of us even said so at the original industry conference (guess who). And here we are today, 15 years later, and what do we have to show for it? Two ships – the first two National Security Cutters, so expensive that there is talk of cutting the class from eight to six or even fewer. Two ships in 15 years. In the meantime, the 12 Hamilton-class cutters that are supposed to be replaced by the NSCs are, on average, 40 years old; the 16 Reliance-class cutters are, on average 45 years old; and even the 13 Bear-class cutters are, on average, 25 years old. To observe that the Coast Guard has failed miserably is nothing new. My suggestion is that the Coast Guard and the Congress should get together and agree to terminate the NSC program at four ships and jump-start the OPC program. At the rate the Coast Guard Acquisition folks are going now, the first boat won’t be delivered until 2016. They need to simplify the requirements to allow off-the-shelf designs; get the RFP out this year, not next; accelerate the required delivery schedule; make two contract awards, not one; use a form of contract that provides incentives for early deliveries; and then build a whole lot of boats, more than we need, so we can transfer or sell some of them overseas. August 24, 2011.”

    Actually the first OPC is scheduled for 2019 and I suspect that is optimistic.

  2. Bring back Joe Kennedy. When the Navy needed destroyers in WWI, among others, they turned to Joe Kennedy and his Quincy Shipyard. Old Joe was pretty shifty and created the “cost plus contract” and made a fortune from it. He also continued to built the destroyers well after the war when they were not needed because he had an incentive contract. They went from new construction to being laid up.

    The lesson here is to be wary of contractor “incentives”. It worked out for the Coast Guard because it was able to get some fairly new destroyers for Prohibition work but that was more of a fluke than a plan.

    I am not surprised that all the news of so few shipyards has not spurred the Congress to look at the need for federally owned and operated shipyards. They may not have been as efficient but at least they existed to do the work. The Second Congress realized the importance of shipyards for the national well being and created some for that purpose.

    • Aren’t Hunters Point, Brooklyn and Boston Navy Shipyards in some sort of mothballed/inactive kind of status? Wonder how hard it would be to turn them back on under NAVSEA, albeit on a smaller scale for CG work or to finish the LCS project for the Navy? Would obviously need to demonstrate the cost savings in comparision to the current system to get Congress to buy off on it though, not to mention the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus will fight the idea tooth and nail.

      • All that’s left of Boston Naval Shipyard is what’s there to keep up Old Ironsides and Cassin Young. The rest is parks or has been developed. It would be quite the production to get it back building ships, plus you’d have to stash those two somewhere.

        It would be easier to get Fore River back building ships, if you wanted a shipyard in Mass again. Much of the land is barely used, or just plain bare, and the locals would love the jobs.

  3. Do you really think that by cutting the NSC to just four cutters is going to jump started the OPC program, You are really living in a pipe dream! If the Coast Guard forced to terminated the NSC program, the Coast Guard will almost likely lose OPC program as well. Right now the congress and OMB are looking for large items to cut out of the budget. And when it come to Dept. of Homeland Security the biggest ticket item in the future will be the OPC Program. That is just too big of a target for them not to pass up.

    I who haved served on both a 378 and a 327 in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, do not begrudged our young Coast Guardsmen wanting newer, larger, faster, better equip, and much better designed cutters. New cutters that helped them carrie out their mission more affectively and must importantly safely. I guess all your sea time must had been in the Caribbean chasing drug smugglers . If we do what you want the Coast Guard to do. The Coast Guard will get only a slightly improved version of a 270, if we are lucky. I don’t know about you but in my eye the 270’s are the the too cutters. They were too long in the planing stage. Their were too many bureaucrats involved in the design. They were too small, too slow, too roughed riding, cost too much, took too long to be builded, and some many more things to be list but “Too Many Compromise”! Do we want the OPC to be like that? I don’t think so! Remember when the 270’s where planned, their was supposed to be 27 of them. Look what happen. In fact President Carter head of OMB had his way, their would had been none! Sounds familiar?

    I know that the Coast Guard cutter replacement program is in trouble. And yes we need to clean up the program and get it back on its feet. But throwing the NSC under the bus is not the answer. What we need is the Coast Guard leadership to make a case to the congress and the administration for sound and proper cutter replacement program. A program for both the 8 NSC as well at less 30 properly designed OPC. As well in my opinion about 80 FRC. I know you are going to say. That this is too much money right now. I offer a simple solution. Cancel the Navy Littoral Combat Ship programed, and transfer the money to the Coast Guard. Now that programed is a total wasted of the taxes payer money! If you look a the Navy blogs about the LCS program, must of the Navy sailors say its a joke!

    One last thing. If I had my way the Coast Guard would get at total of 24 NSC, 48 OPC and 120 FRC.
    And believed me , I can justified every singly one of them. In the future, I will address other issue like the Icebreakers and also Coast Guard Aviation.

    • I see it a bit differently. I would like us to get the OPCs we have been talking about, 2,500 to 3,00 tons, considerably more capable than the 270s approaching that of the 378s and in some ways better, I think we can get the program started if the first few are seen as 378 replacements. If they are seen as 210 replacements, it is a very hard sell.

      “I guess all your sea time must had been in the Caribbean chasing drug smugglers”–Actually I was on Confidence when it was stationed in Kodiak and served on Midgett so I have quite a few ALPATs.

      NSC is definitely the ship we need for ALPAT, but five or six is enough for that purpose, particularly if we also build some Arctic Patrol Cutters, which I would see as similar to the Danish Thetis Class. If necessary OPCs should also be able to handle summer ALPATs.

      2,500 ton or greater OPCs with the sea keeping currently planned can handle fishery patrols in the Western Pacific and drug patrols in the Eastern Pacific. We don’t necessarily need NSCs for those missions.

      If we don’t get the OPCs started before the 378s are fully replaced, I think we may be told to start over on the OPC program and we will end up with an only slightly improved 270.

      Right now we are not building one NSC a year, we are building one every two years. We should be able to build two OPCs for the price of one NSC. That is a selling point right now. If the NSC program is complete, it will not be.

      I would love to see our shipbuilding programs seen as an alternative to the Navy’s. Bureaucratically, that is a hard sell, but I think it is worth working toward. I’m not thrilled with the LCS either.

      I’m always a little perplexed when people talk about the OPC program as if it is either 25 ships or nothing, since it is really funded one year at a time. We definitely need to get the program started, how many we end up with is a topic for future discussion, hopefully when the country is feeling more prosperous and confident.

      Thanks for your comments, I look forward to hearing more from you.

      • Chuck,
        I think that the US Navy should kill the LCS program and transfer all funding and remaining ships to the US Coast Guard. Force the US Navy to restart their Frigate program and force them to join in on the NSC program. The US Navy would get a modified NSC and instal frigate weapons and frigate systems tailored to the US Navy’s needs.

        As for the US Coast Guard, I would start retiring 378’s for every two we build. The same day we commission two NSC’s into the fleet, we immediately retire two 378s right on the spot. Selling them to countries like Nigeria and the Philippines.

        As for the OPC, i would start looking for proven, off the shelf designs that are currently being used by other countries. My suggestion is to look at designs such as this;


      • “2,500 ton or greater OPCs with the sea keeping currently planned can handle fishery patrols in the Western Pacific and drug patrols in the Eastern Pacific. We don’t necessarily need NSCs for those missions.”

        Can the OPC’s “handle” the missions described above? Sure. As well as the NSC’s? You cannot be serious.

        Chuck, you are advocating the same “let’s go cheap” line that gave us a class of MEC that lacks sufficient space/weight allowances for future growth. We don’t need fewer NSC, we really more, but I’ll settle for the 8 originally planned.

      • @Anonymouse,
        I would say let’s go with Off the shelf, ready to use technology and build an OPC that can expand and accommodate with new and emerging technologies. As for the NSC, i would build the last four up to frigate standards and keep the first 4 as is.

      • Going cheap would be building ships similar to the MECs the OPCs will be replacing. I’m afraid we are going to get pushed in that direction. I want us to get on with building the ship we have planned. As currently envisioned the OPCs are more capable in every way than the ships they replace. I’m not pushing a cheap substitute, I’m pushing for a general up grade of the ships that do the bulk of the work.

        It is true that if things went according to plan we would get both eight NSCs and 25 OPCs, but things are not going according to plan. We are not building one NSC every year, we are building one every two years, The only money in the FY2012 budget was the last 11% to fund #5 which, if I understand correctly, had been partially funded in FY 2010 and 2011.

        Looks like 2013 could be a bell weather year. If the leadership can convince the administration that ship building is a great domestic economic stimulant (and it is) and NSC#6 is fully funded then perhaps the current plan can come to fruition. At worst it will be unlikely that the OPC program will be delayed by more than a year.

        If that does not happen then it is likely that the OPC program will be delayed at least three years if we continue building NSCs at the current pace. The first ship would be delivered in 2022 and the last not before 2034. That could be disastrous.

    • Chuck has been whining about the OPC and pushing this silly idea about canceling the NSC for months now. Maybe he will realize nobody in the CG really cares what he thinks regarding our acquisition programs when they announce the contract for NSC #5 in a few weeks.

  4. I have a couple of things I would like to clarified about my comments earlier. One my remark were made in reposed to Tim Colton opinions. And two I have nothing but deep respect for all Coast Guardsmen where ever they severed!

      • Chuck:

        Thanks for your response to the Navy Times article. Here is an accurate accounting of where the $7B has been spent:

        The Coast Guard received approximately $7 billion over the past 10 years to support recapitalization of the Service’s fleet of vessels, aircraft and support systems (including those included as part of the legacy Deepwater construct) as outlined below.

        • ($3.0B) National Security Cutter (NSC)
        o NSCs 1-2 were delivered, and are fully operational.
        o NSC-3 will be delivered in Sep 2011.
        o NSC-4 is under construction.
        o Funds were appropriated for NSC-5 in FY11. An award was made for NSC-5 Long Lead Time Material in 2nd Quarter FY11. A contract award for production of NSC-5 is imminent.

        • ($0.8B) Fast Response Cutter (FRC)
        o 8 FRCs under production, of which, 2 are nearing completion.
        o Funds were appropriated in FY11 for FRCs 9-12. The contract award for construction of these cutters will be executed soon

        • ($0.3B) Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP)
        o MEP is intended to sustain 17 110-foot Patrol Boats (WPBs), and 27 Medium Endurance Cutters (WMECs). Some of these cutters are more than 40 years old, and have exceeded their expected service life. This project replaces obsolete and increasingly unsupportable systems intended to improve reliability and reduce future maintenance costs until new assets are brought into service (FRCs for the WPBs, OPCs for the WMECs).
        o All MEP worked is performed at the Coast Guard Yard.
        o MEP is complete on 15 of 17 110-foot WPBs, and 19 of 27 WMECs.

        • ($01B) Offshore Patrol Cutter
        o The Coast Guard is in the process of developing the Request for Proposal for a Preliminary and Contract Design, with the intention to award to 3 prospective shipbuilders. Upon evaluation of these competing designs, the Coast Guard will select one for detailed design and production of a 25-ship fleet of OPCs.

        • ($0.1B) 123’ WPBs
        o Eight 110’ WPBs were converted from 123’ WPBs; this project was halted given problems with the hull structure identified after delivery.
        o Although this was an early challenge for the Coast Guard, this was one of the early challenges that help generate the reforms in place today that have improved the method by which the Coast Guard manages its acquisitions.


        • ($0.8B) HC-144A – 12 aircraft and mission system pallets have been delivered with three more aircraft on order.

        • ($1.1B) H-60, H-65, and C-130 Conversion and Sustainment
        o The Coast Guard leverages the Aviation Logistics Center to perform upgrades and sustainment activities during normal programmed depot-level maintenance cycles for aging aircraft. This work stabilizes the cost per flight hour, extends service life by replacing life-limiting components, improves reliability, and adds capability (e.g. H-65 re-engine, sensors, Airborne Use of Force) to meet current mission needs.
        o HC-130H – The Coast Guard has completed the first of four planned conversion and sustainment projects aboard the service’s 23 HC-130H aircraft (equipped with new surface search radar system). Funding has been obligated for the second segment which will provide an avionics upgrade to 16 aircraft and to replace the center wing boxes aboard six aircraft (a life-limiting component).
        o H-65 – The Coast Guard has completed engine replacement and upgrade throughout its fleet of 102 helicopters, 7 have been modified with enhanced capabilities to carry out the National Capital Region Air Defense (NCRAD) mission, and 84 have been upgraded for Airborne Use of Force. Currently, funding is being used to conduct cockpit upgrades (improving safety and reliability), as well as sensor and avionics upgrades to improve operational availability and capability.
        o H-60 – for the Coast Guard has contracts in place to complete the first two segments (out of four) major improvements to the H-60 fleet; these have been completed on 18 of 42 aircraft, and include re-wiring, service life extension, avionics upgrades, and replacement of life-limiting components to ensure continued cost-effective service.

        • ($0.1B) Vertical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VUAVs)
        o The Coast Guard made an early attempt at deploying VUAVs aboard ships which was met with some challenges given that the technology at the time was not fully mature. The Coast Guard is now partnering with CBP and the US Navy to deploy Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) from land and from cutters, which is a more conservative and cost-effective approach.

        C4ISR ($0.7B)

        Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems provide essential situational awareness, data processing and information exchange tools required to modernize and recapitalize Coast Guard shore sites, surface and aviation assets. The Coast Guard delivered:
        • Forty-two, class-wide-system improvements and capability upgrades for surface and aviation assets that improve operational capability.
        • Supported the sensor packages for the NSC, MPA, and new C-130J aircraft, that tremendously improve operational capability.
        • Delivered CG Independent Validation & Verification lab in Moorestown, NJ for software testing and NSC baseline to C3CEN in Portsmouth, VA which includes new hardware and hardened against emerging information assurance threats.
        • Simultaneously, shifted to open architecture to sustain interoperability w/DHS and U.S Navy and increase information assurance and security posture.


        • Provided new training facilities for C4ISR equipment, NSC, FRC homeports, NSC and FRC maintenance facilities, and expansions of CG hangars to facilitate delivery of new MPAs.
        • Provided Logistics Information Management Systems tools to facilitate configuration and supply management for new assets.
        • Completed C4ISR Training Suite in Petaluma

        ACQUISITION WORKFORCE ($0.7B) – A trained, credentialed professional acquisition workforce is critical to provide requisite oversight and management. AC&I funding pays for the majority of the 1,000+- person acquisition workforce.

        Finally: People can justifiably criticize or second guess our choices and/or our priorities…but the critics are not often the folks who actually carry the responsibility of sustaining challenging maritime operations, while at the same time attempting to rebuild the Coast Guard under some very constrained budget realities. I am proud of all our Coast Guardsmen… active, reserve, civilian and auxiliary. And I’m particularly proud of our acquisition professionals. I will stack up our performance and return on this $7B investment against any other Federal agency.

        This information has been sent to numerous newspapers and publications around the country in the form of an Op-Ed and/or letter to the editor, signed by me. We’ll see who wants to tell the true story.

        Semper Paratus,

        Admiral Papp

      • Thank you Admiral Papp,

        Glad to see we are making the effort to set the record straight. Perhaps AP can be convinced to do a second more accurate story. Unfortunately it would be less sensational and less likely to be picked up.

  5. Every buddy sure have a lot of ideas about what the Coast Guard should acquire in terms of new cutters. Some think that the Coast Guard should go into its archives and dust off some old cutters plans and simple updated and build new versions of them. Other seem to think we should buy from here to there mostly from European Shipyards. And others just say buy some offshore supply vessels and throw a a helicopter landing pad and maybe a couple of 25-mm chains guns. Hey that all we need right? Wrong!

    Here a novel idea. How about looking at are friends the Japanese Coast Guard about their ships.
    Must of their fleet is new and modern. Their country acutely seems to likes them and their treats them with respect! They don’t to seem to have no problems getting new ships , boats and aircraft. And they have a fair number of large, medium and small ships to choose from. As well as some very nice patrol boats. Think about it! Also since they operate in the Northern Pacific, their ships seem to be well designed and quit seaworthy. By the way Chuck, they have one ship that is acutely much larger then our NSC cutter. They don’t to seem to have a problem with size.

    • Part of the problem with us is not so much lack of support, but rather how our previous leaders did not often make as strong of a case for demonstrating what we needed. Fortunately, those days seem past now and we are out of the dark and into the light with ADM Papp.

    • Actually I’m well aware of the Japan Coast Guard. In fact, I spent some time on the Mizuho when she visited San Francisco for the 200th anniversary of the CG. I have a lot of respect for them. They make for a good “compare and contrast.”

      With less than a third the number of people (12,000), they field more patrol ships than the USCG. They do seem to have far fewer aircraft and AtoN vessels than the USCG. They also apparently do the survey work that NOAA does for the US.


      The very large ship you refer to is specifically designed to escort plutonium shipments back to Europe for reprocessing. They, like most Japan CG ships, are built much more like merchant ships than the NSCs. Apparently they plan to build two more.


      They have about a dozen large ships, all over 4,000 tons that they classify as High Endurance Helicopter Carrying Cutters (PLH) that include hangers, a couple of ships 3,000-4,000 tons and at least three dozen ships 1,000-2,000 tons that they classify as High Endurance Cutters (PL); less than half of those have flight decks, and none have hangers. They also have a lot of ships around 500 tons that look more like the old 165s than the FRCs. They don’t seem to have any patrol ships in the 2,000-3,000 ton range.

      In general their ships appear to be built more like merchant ships or fishing vessels than warships. Very few of their ships have air-search radars. None have ESM or ECCM. None of their weapons are larger than 40mm. I don’t believe any have a gas tight envelop like the NSC or anything like a SCIF.

      Looking at their newest class of medium sized ships, closest in concept to WMECs, typified by the Hateruma Class (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hateruma_class_patrol_vessel), they are relatively fast (30 knots), their weapons systems are simple but effective at short range (30mm mount and optronic fire control similar to that on the FRC). Their crews are relatively small (30). The design thinking seems to have been driven by the idea of engaging Korean spy vessels as in the “Battle of Amami-Oshima (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Amami-%C5%8Cshima). Although this sort of thing has only happened twice, as far as I can tell, it seems to have driven the choice of higher speed, the type of weapons, and the decision to armor selected areas of the ship.

      Operationally they also seem to operate these ships in groups in contrast to USCG’s solitary patrols (see their tactics in seizing the Chinese F/V in the related story below).

      I’m not advocating their approach, these are just observations. I’m not averse to building large cutters. I’m very much in the “steel is cheap and air is free” camp on the side of making cutters larger. Making cutters larger certainly doesn’t necessarily make them proportionately more expensive and it provides a lot of benefits including flexibility for future upgrades.

      Related: http://cgblog.org/2010/10/28/chinese-and-japanese-coast-guards-another-turn-of-the-screw/

      • “Operationally they also seem to operate these ships in groups in contrast to USCG’s solitary patrols (see their tactics in seizing the Chinese F/V in the related story below)”

        This is a cultural factor of the U. S. Coast Guard. They began as single patrol vessels in the 18th century. About the only times they patrolled during peacetime, other than singularly, was the destroyer squadrons during Prohibition, the Nullification Crisis in 1832, and the Yellow Fever Quarantine near New Orleans in 1905. Not much history of the Coast Guard working in groups.

  6. Check out these designs from Blohm + Voss Naval for the OPC that the US Coast Guard could consider looking at,
    Corvette Class 130

    MEKO® 100 Patrol Corvette

    MEKO® D Corvette

    MEKO® A-100


    • With the large number of shipyards interested, I suspect we will see some variations of existing designs offered as candidates for the OPC. In their current form, none of these designs have the range the Coast Guard is looking for. Seakeeping may also not be up to CG specs. (Note the MAKO 100 Patrol Corvette is being built for Malaysia.)

      • Virtually no one else makes conventionally powered ships with the range of Coast Guard Cutters, so any design, including frigate size ships, would probably have to be modified. Size matters for seakeeping. You can make a ship of virtually any size very seaworthy, but making it both seaworthy and fast requires size. Some of the ships you mention might meet those requirements, but it is not something we can tell from basic specs and pictures.

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