Coast Guard Cutter Procurement–Ronald O’Rourke

Navy Air/Sea PEO Forum has published a report on Coast Guard cutter procurement written by Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service. As far as I can tell this is the same information he has given to Congress. It is fairly long, but very complete, accurate, and balanced.

There are a number of troubling issues identified in the report, most of which boils down to the fact that while the fleet continues to age, funding for replacements continue to fall and most recently is less than half of the approximately $2.5B/year really needed to recapitalize the cutter fleet.

An immediate concern is that, the Offshore Patrol Cutter  (OPC) has again slipped to the right with the first ship now expected to be funded in FY2018 instead of 2017.

Another area of concern is how the leadership is portraying the Program of Record (POR).

The Coast Guard estimates that with the POR’s planned force of 91 NSCs, OPCs and FRCs, the service would have capability or capacity gaps in six of its 11 statutory missions—search and rescue (SAR); defense readiness; counter-drug operations; ports, waterways and coastal security; protection of living marine resources (LMR); and alien migrant interdiction operations (AMIO). The Coast Guard judges that some of these gaps would be “high risk” or “very high risk.”

Public discussions of the POR frequently mention the substantial improvement that the POR force would represent over the legacy force. Only rarely, however, have these discussions explicitly acknowledged the extent to which the POR force would nevertheless be smaller in number than the force that would be required, by Coast Guard estimate, to fully perform the Coast Guard’s statutory missions in coming years. Discussions that focus on the POR’s improvement over the legacy force while omitting mention of the considerably larger number of cutters that would be required, by Coast Guard estimate, to fully perform the Coast Guard’s statutory missions in coming years could encourage audiences to conclude, contrary to Coast Guard estimates, that the POR’s planned force of 91 cutters would be capable of fully performing the Coast Guard’s statutory missions in coming years.

We are not being competely honest in that we are painting to rosy a picture of the program of record.

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