Six more FRCs and Approval of Full Rate Production, Time for a Multi-year Contract

File:USCG Sentinel class cutter poster.pdf

You may have already seen that the Coast Guard exercised a $250.7M option for six more Webber Class WPCs (Fast Response Cutters). I have seen it reported in six to eight different blogs. Here is the Acquisition Directorates (CG-9) news release. These will be units 19 though 24 of the class.

It is certainly welcome news, but I is worth remembering that this was not in the original budget request. A year ago I reported a similar event, the exercise of an option for six FRCs when only two had been requested in the budget. I called for a multi-year contract at that time.

Quoting the CG-9 news release, “This contract action follows the Sentinel-class FRC acquisition project receiving DHS approval to enter full-rate production Sept. 18, 2013.   Also known as the “Produce, Deploy and Support” acquisition phase, approval was granted after the cutter successfully completed Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).  This approval allows the Coast Guard to continue with FRC acquisitions.”

A year ago three vessels had been delivered, now we have seven. FY2014 is the last year of the current contract with Bollinger. In February 2012, the Coast Guard exercised a $27.2M option to purchase the “Procurement and Data License Package” for the Cutters so the Coast Guard now owns the design which would allow other shipyards to bid to build follow-on ships of the same class.

Everything is in place to make this program a multi-year procurement. We have a proven design that we wish to procure in fairly large numbers, 34 more over at least the next six fiscal years, and the Coast Guard owns the design. The Coast Guard can put the contract out to bid, if not FY2014, at least by in FY-2015.

All the most successful Navy ship building contracts (DDGs and SSNs) have been multi-year contracts.  These contracts are a win-win-win. The shipyard gets steady work that they can make a rational plan to fulfill efficiently. The service gets a predictable stream of new ships, and the nation saves from five to 15% on the cost of the assets. Its time the Coast Guard took advantage of this option.

File:The USCGC Margaret Norvell, delivered to the USCG 2013-03-21, but not yet commissioned.jpg

USCGC Margaret Norvell, USCG photo

20 thoughts on “Six more FRCs and Approval of Full Rate Production, Time for a Multi-year Contract

  1. The DoJ is suing Bollinger for fraud because they used thin steal when upgrading the hulls, to save money, on purpose. This put the men and women of the USCG and the general public at risk. All 8 of the first boats were taken out of service and the program stopped because of this. The DoJ has emails from Bollinger internally where TJ Hamblin tells ownership that they used the thinner steel and fudged the hull strength calculations. To this day there has been no accountability for the 123s. No refund, no one fired, no one in jail and the USCG even paid extra for 4 123s to be “fixed” in spite of Bollinger’s fraud and a program wide performance guaranty. How far will the USCG bend over for these guys? I am pretty sure Bollinger spewed the same BS about ethics, quality and treating the customer right when they delivered all 8 123s.

    • Thin steel is used in the National Security Cutters. It is a valid way to build ships if you do your stress analysis correctly. Apparently they got it wrong with the 123s.

      I thought the DoJ case had been dismissed?

      • The problem was the stress analysis was fudged to misrepresent the strength. They used thicker hull plating in the calculations but installed thinner plating.

  2. Bollinger may have screwed up the 123′ upgrade but these 154′ seem like extremely good patrol boats. The design is productive and appears resilient, but WPBs get worked hard, so we’ll see in the near future.

    I agree that there are cheaper, and better for planning, ways to procure these. Why doesn’t CG do it better? My guess is the Acquisitions directorate doesn’t do it often enough so there is a learning curve.

    My one complaint about the 154’s — Why does it take an O-4 to command a patrol boat?? 110s were commanded by O-3s. Same mission and not that much bigger of a crew. It feels like CG is just trying to create more billets for higher ranks. Personally, I think COs for these should be O-3s, the OPC should be an O-4, and WMSL should be an O-5. O-6 only on the WAGBs and Eagle. Most O-6 should be Sector commanders and District, Area, and HQ staff. CG just doesn’t have the seagoing assets to justify requiring O-6 skippers, and O-4 skippers on FRCs is ridiculous.

    • I have always said that the people in that area deserve the work and that Bollinger did just fine on the 110s. The problem isn’t the workers but leadership. They used thin steel on purpose to save money and could easily have gotten someone killed. Especially the Matagorda when she was running from that storm and buckled. Those leaders should have been fired and faced criminal charges and personal civil suits. The fact that the company protected them is a tragedy. Then again the CG keeps giving them work don’t they? Bollinger should have been debarred until they did the right professional and ethical thing. Fire those people and make the government whole for the loss.

  3. Pingback: Multi-Year Contract for the Offshore Patrol Cutter? | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

    • It has now been commissioned. This is the first of six Webber class to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico. That will put three groups of six units each in the 7th district. Obviously these are expected to be patrol assets rather than “fast response” units. In many ways this makes them more akin to MECs than PBs.

    • All the first 18 go to the 7th district where they can be used almost like MECs. There are already 32 built, building, or contracted so we should see the first non 7th District Webber class in about a year.

  4. Pingback: Document Alert: Jan.27, 2016 Congressional Research Service report, Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. Bollinger reports delivery of Webber Class WPC #21, and scheduled to becommissioned in Ketchikan April, 2017.
    Looking back, this is the 5th vessel in less than a year. At this rate we should have all 58 in about seven years, about early 2024. That should take some pressure off the AC&I budget just about the time we want to increase OPC construction from one a year to two a year. (We of course should build them faster than that.)

  6. Note this is the third of six contracted at the end of FY2013. (see post above) That took us up to #24. Assuming six contracted per year, the remaining 34 would be contracted by the end of FY2019. Sounds like that will dovetail nicely with the OPC contract.

    • What is the notional hull life of the FRC? I know the USCG will run them longer than that, but I assume it’s about 20 years?

      I think the USCG needs to keep building FRCs (maybe in reduced numbers after the program of record is achieved) until the sentinel class replacement program is started (at least in design funding). This is how the USCG keeps getting itself in a mess, by halting ship classes prior to funding the replacement. They need to be constantly replacing their vessels like the USN does.

      You once mentioned that a 30 year ship building plan would be a good idea for the USCG. I think that would be a good idea. Recapitalization of a fleet is should be a continuous process not something done in fits and starts.

      • We are also will need to replace the 87 foot WPBs.

        Yes I am still strongly in favor of a 30 year recapitalization schedule. We will also need to start replacing helos within the next 10 years.

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