New Budget Cancels Plan for Last Two NSCs

File:USCGC Waesche by Yerba Buena Island.jpg

U.S. Coast Guard photo ID: 100228-G-2129M-004, by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Metcalf

Defensedaily.com is reporting that while the FY 2013 budget request would fund the sixth National Security Cutter, additional purchases would be delayed while the Department reevaluates its needs.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday that the reason for proposing a pause in the NSC program is due to budget constraints as well as examining how it fits with the Navy’s plans.

“We will look at [NSC’s] seven and eight in light of what the Navy is doing,” Napolitano told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee during a hearing to examine her department’s budget request. “So we need to look at what the DoD is doing with respect to their own force lay down to see what we need to be putting in the acquisition pipeline.”

Presumably this ties in with the Navy’s review of their own programs.

It has been recognized for a long time that current plans would require a substantial increase in AC&I funding. The GAO has called the program of record “unachievable.”

While I certainly applaud coordination with DOD, this could mean a lot of different things.

Will the Navy try to move the Littoral Combat Ship program to the CG as replacement for the OPC?

Will the Navy try to avoid cutting their building programs further by suggesting that the CG does not need large ships for drug enforcement because they will supply platforms for CG boarding teams? or

This might not be so bad. When Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work  discusses American Sea Power, he almost never fails to mention the contribution of the Coast Guard. Perhaps some additional thought will go into how possible military roles should be reflected in the requirements for Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), Icebreakers, and other assets.

An OPC that  reflects military requirements would almost certainly be larger and more capable than one designed only to meet peacetime requirements that might otherwise have been forced on the CG in an austere budget climate. Those greater capabilities probably would also make it a more capable CG asset in peacetime.

The differences might include a larger hull, more speed, better aviation facilities, and better communications and sensors, possibly including a towed array that would be useful for detecting drug subs (both true subs and self propelled semi-submersibles).

Its not clear yet, if this is a disaster or an opportunity. Perhaps a new way of justifying CG assets will come out of this, and the government will see that putting money in the CG is a sound investment.

23 thoughts on “New Budget Cancels Plan for Last Two NSCs

  1. According to the Colombian Navy who have some experience catching drug runners in the Carribean and Pacific and employ SSKs for surveillance, they have yet to detect a semi-submersible or jungle-built submarine on sonar. Detection has always been from the air by MPA. Not sure how useful that proposed towed array sonar from a surface ship would be for this particular mission, but by all means design space and weight for one into an OPC.

      • To late to reply in all probability, but I forgot about the thread for a while.
        Colombian Navy used passive (bow cylindrical array) sonar on submarines for detection of drug runners. Adding passive towed array or flank array would increase that capability. Using a towed passive array from a surface ship may have lower performance, and using low-frequency active would be overkill to catch a drug sub and may be a lot of trouble for potential of zapping marine life like whales.

      • Using a towed array from surface ship should be more efficient than even the bow cylindrical array on their subs. Not only are they more sensitive, the target is most likely near, or at, the surface and in the surface duct if there is one.

        I suspect the US may have had some success using a submarine towed array. (Don’t know it for a fact, only a suspicion.)

  2. Disaster or Opportunity? “We will look at [NSC’s] seven and eight in light of what the Navy is doing” is just another way of dressing up a defeat and calling it a victory.

    12 HECs being replaced with 6 NSCs is just the beginning. Say goodbye to the future Coast Guard operating anything other than coastal patrol vessels. In fact, by giving ground on the NSCs, DHS has just undermined the need to replace the MECs with similarly capable vessels.

  3. All this is not surprising. It happens throughout the Coast Guard’s history, “striking while the iron is cold,” is just part of the culture.

    “pause in the NSC program is due to budget constraints as well as examining how it fits with the Navy’s plans.”

    In his 1965 book, Captain Capron cautioned the Coast Guard to avoid the “Me-Tooism” of following the other other services. Here we are and the secretary is being “Me-Too.”

    What of the Coast Guard’s plans? Does the NSC not fit them, if not why were they built in the first place — more Me-Tooism?

  4. I hope we stick with the decom schedule for the MHEC class. First, someone or many someones is/are going to get killed on these ships. In addition the loss in capability would would soon force the hand of congress and whatever administration in deciding the future of the service.

    I feel like this is in part the result of forever doing more with less.

  5. If there is to be a reduction in WHEC type vessels, then there should be a corresponding reduction in captains (O-6). This is part of the Coast Guard’s history. Whenever a cutter was lost without replacement all the officers and crews were laid off.

    I mean if we are serious about reducing costs, personnel are always the greatest.

  6. What if … what if the shipbuilder and Coast Guard could somehow get the cost of each WMSL reduced way down low ? You know, cut 45 percent of the cost off WMSL-753, 754 ? The old Northrop Grumman and now Ingalls shipyard has for 3 years proposed a reduced cost frigate version, by both cutting off un-needed systems as well as guaranteeing some sort of build rate / funding rate to keep the construction yard level funded.

    Brainstorm. Eliminate _____ lots of extra, redundant, un-needed equipments. If you could cut $100,000,000 dollars off each WMSL, then perhaps you could build a total of 12 of them ? Of course, the last 7 or 8 of them would be reduced capabilities. Perhaps only with 2 main propulsion diesels (which yields 24 knots max speed) and no gas turbine ? Perhaps eliminate that monsterous crane contraption back aft and only carry one large OTH boat in the after well deck ? Perhaps cut out all the extra radars and redundant radios that are packed into the NSC-1, NSC-2, NSC-3 ? Try cutting out those duplicate bridge wing helm/lee helm control stations on both bridge wings ? Nice, but definitely not needed nor labor saving during maneuvering. Why put degaussing on these last 7 WMSL ‘s ? Treat them like transistion OPC’s, while the OPC/WMSM’s are being finally designed (which will take 10 years before the first one deploys). Build 7 WMSL sized cutters that have the missions of WMSM / OPC’s and homeport them whereever the 12 WHEC’s have been based. So what if they only do 24 knots max speed. That’s all an OPC or WMSM will do anyway. So what if they have fewer radios, less radars, no SCIF suite ? They will exist at least ! Think of them as large OPC / WMSM’s that have a few extra staterooms for a larger crew if needed temporarily. Homeport some in Charleston, Seattle, San Diego, Hawaii where they now have WHEC’s. What would the USCG save if they deleted a big old SCIF system ? Perhaps $30, 40 ,50 ?? million per ship ? No gas turbine ? save another $15 million or more ? Leave off CIWS ? What’s that cost ? $15 or 20 million per cutter ? Leave off the Gun Fire Control Radar SPQ-9B and only fire the 57 mm gun optically just like LCS-1 and LCS-2 ! Save another $10 million plus installation costs for each SPQ-9B ? Will the new WMSM’s eventually carry 2 helo’s ? if not, leave off the 2 helo hangers on these last 7 WMSL cutters. Cmon, think. The USCG can stretch a dollar farther than any other armed service. And there is obviously a real need for 12 large WHEC sized cutters, proven well in the past 30 plus years. Think a bit …

  7. Continuing my long rant above, here’s another idea: build the first 6 NSC’s as National Security Cutters, capable of travelling all over the World and helping the Navy sometimes. Build the 6 WMSL’s as lower cost WMSL’s for a total of 12 large, capable cutters. The last 6 six could be perhaps $100 to 150 milion dollars cheaper to build. It is a proven fact that the major lifetime cost of a ship is not the steel used to build it. It’s the cost of all the equipment going onboard, plus large crew, and fuel. WMSL NSC- 1 2 3 have proven that they handle very well at sea: from Norfolk, Charleston, Carribean, South of Equator, North Bearing Sea, etc. They are great sea keeping hull forms. Get fantastic fuel economy and can travel from Mississippi to Alameda without refueling. Carry food and supplies for 60 days underway. I really doubt that any new WMSM OPC will ever handle nearly as well as these Bertholf class cutters have proven they can do. Even worse, I doubt that some of us readers will even be alive when the first OPC WMSM finally makes its very first operational patrol. Let’s suggest the USCG build a total of 12 big new cutters: 6 equipped with all the gee whiz bells and whistles, degaussing, SCIF stuff, electronics galore. And the last 6 WMSL’s without the extra’s that are not needed to chase druggies and fishery violators, and do boardings of other ships, etc. Just deleting that old Navy ESM system called SLQ-32 would probably save over $10,000,000.00 per cutter for procurement and installation and checkout. Time to brainstorm while the old Northrop Grumman, Ingalls shipyard has acquired the skill to produce this 400 foot long ++ cutter with good quality and deliver a decent , sea going vessel.

  8. One final idea since it’s getting late here in the Eastern Time Zone: for those final 6 or so WMSL’s that really need to be built for the Coast Guard to replace 12 WHEC’s, why not put essentially everything on them that the Coast Guard plans to install onboard the new OPC / WMSM class ? Install the same weapons, same communications, antenna’s, same navigation stuff, identical sensors, radars, etc. Even install the same electrical generators, gyro’s, switchboards, etc. That way, you could ensure that these final 6 low-cost WMSL’s have the identical (nearly ?) suite of expensive equipments planned for those smaller Medium Maritime Security Cutters. And in the next 5+ years, those final 6 (low cost) WMSL’s could be working out all the bugs in the new suite of equipments to be installed onboard all 25 + OPC or WMSM follow-on boats.

    I’ll bet the overall cost of doing these 6 “mock-OPC/WMSM’s” would be nearly identical to the first brand new 6 actual OPC/WMSM’s built by the down-selected winning shipyard in the next decade. And all the misc software and integration issues will be resolved on these final 6 WMSL’s while some company is still designing the hull HM&E etc. for the new, smaller Offshore Patrol Cutter OPV, WMSM, or whatever they end up being called. Most likely, the USCG won’t see a floating new OPC/OPV/WMSM until after the year 2020, right ? And who knows, it just might handle like a dog, ride the seas like a dog, and generally do sea keeping poorly. Unlike the known, excellent, proven Bertholf class which, by all accounts, is a quiet, smooth, safe riding deep water cutter in both the Atlantic and Pacific excursions that they have racked up already. Washington CG HQ should minimize the risks that will, no doubt, accompany this unknown new, planned class of OPC/OPV/WMSM by constructing a total of 12 larger WMSL’s (6 full up versions and 6 stripped down versions) while all the various shipyard competition fights over making those new 25 or 30 cutters that are to be just about the size of LCS-1 (which handles rather poorly while underway in the big, deep oceans). Think outside the box in this tight new era of shrinking budgets.

    • Are you sure that the design costs that would be incurred by designing a NSC “lite” would offset the construction costs? And the delay in construction that would surely follow?

      I’d like to believe that your idea would work. That said, given how long it is taking for the Coast Guard to settle on a configuration for the OPC class suggests that asking the procurement folks to take on the task you suggest would not be a quick process.

      The WHECs are approaching the point where they can’t reliably be sent to sea. Yes, the current NSC design is, to an extent, somewhat gold-plated. But after the CG has spent enormous effort in getting approval for hulls 1-6, walking away now – which is what Secretary Napolitano has done – is beyond foolish.

  9. Bill-Retired wrote, “Continuing my long rant above, here’s another idea: build the first 6 NSC’s as National Security Cutters, capable of travelling all over the World and helping the Navy sometimes. ”

    There is historical precedent for this. The turn of the 20th century cutters were grouped in two categories. Those that could and those that could not. The Coast Guard sent but six of its more capable cutters to Europe. It also sent the wreck destroyer Seneca as a salvage vessel.

    The Navy has much to do with what is sent. They take a look and decide what would be useful to them and leave the rest for home work.

    • Reports seem to indicate both are not “seakindly” ie they ride badly. Both have relatively short range. At top speed the LCS-1 runs out of fuel in 12 hours and its max cruise speed on diesels is low (I think I remember 14 knots).

  10. Admiral Thad Allen, whom we used to affectionately refer to as the Thadmiral, visited the first LCS, USS Freedeom back about 4 years ago and decided that it was not at all what the US Coast Guard wanted or needed. We can probably trust Adm Allen’s good judgement and decision making. Sure miss him.

    • Mathew, I am a former squid whose son now attends the Coast Guard Academy.
      What about the Independence class? I believe the price is comparable to what the projected OPC costs are, lots of the same mission capabilities. Seems like Cg maybe wasting money trying to reinvent the wheel, I would love to see the USCG get whatever they need but using something thats already designed and in production seems worth exploring.

      • The LCS is a fuel hog, too short ranged to be useful as a Coast Guard cutter. Considering how much of a money pit the LCS program has become, completing the cancelled NSC’s is a better option. Not only should the Coast Guard not adopt an LCS, the Navy should cancel the program!

      • The average cost of the OPC should be substantially less than the LCS although the first in class will probably be close to the cost of mature production LCS. The LCS classes are both heavily compromised to achieve a high top speed and the characteristics that have been compromised are those most needed for a cutter–endurance and seakeeping.

      • The only way the LCS would ever work for the US Coast Guard is that it would involve swapping out the Engines. If you swap the engines on the LCS for the same Engines that run on the NSC, I would bet you the US Coast Guard would consider taking the LCS as their future OPC. You would have to swap it for a CODAG Engine though I wouldn’t mind seeing the LCS run on CODAG WARP Engines that are being used by the South African Navy’s Valour class Frigate and The Kedah class Corvette. I’ll bet you if they swapped out the engines on the LCS for the economical CODAG or CODAG WARP, it would make a perfect exportable warship for countries like Israel and Taiwan.

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