Why the Coast Guard (also) Needs a 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan

When I first learned that the Navy had a 30 year shipbuilding plan, I thought it was silly, too many unknowns, too many variables. But I have changed my mind. The Coast Guard has made a serious tactical error in not paralleling the Navy planning process and creating a similar annual 30 year plan.

In the federal government budget process, the default allocation is that an agency will get the same proportion of the budget they got last year, in fact the same amount they got last year adjusted for inflation. The Coast Guard has not even been getting that. Increasing that proportion is always difficult.

When you concentrate on only one project at a time (it has been the National Security Cutter, now it is becoming the Offshore Patrol Cutter or OPC) without recognizing all the work that will be required in out years, it is too easy for Congress and the Administration to figure they can stretch out the project at hand without realizing it results in a growing backlog. Current Coast Guard public planning budget documents generally look only five years ahead, but most procurements take at least ten years to realize. The Navy considers ten years “near term” planning. The OPC project, as currently planned, will require funding at least through FY2030 and almost certainly some follow-up beyond that.

But FY2030 is not an end point. Keeping in mind that typically we need to start planning for replacement ten years before it is actually needed, the Coast Guard will not only need Polar Icebreakers, it will also need to begin several more replacement projects:

  • New small harbor tug/icebreakers (WYTL), the oldest of the eleven existing ships is already 54 years old.
  • New Inland Aids to Navigation vessels (WLI, WLIC, WLR), about 40 of them entered service prior to 1970.
  • New Icebreaking Seagoing Tugs (WTGB), The oldest of the nine Katmai class are 36 years old already.
  • New WPBs. The oldest of the 73 Marine Protector Class will be 25 years old in 2023.
  • New Sea Going Buoy Tenders, the oldest of the 16 Juniper class will be 30 years old in 2026.
  • New Coastal Buoy Tenders, the oldest of the 14 Keeper class will be 30 years old in 2027.
  • Even funding for designing the replacements for the Bertolf class which began entering service in 2008 should be included in a 30 year plan. Probably funding for the replacing the older units as well.

We need a plan to replace them all. We need to look at least 30 years into the future which would now mean FY2046. It would be the best argument for a realistic Coast Guard shipbuilding budget.

This is the Navy’s latest 30 year plan in tabular format.

PDF: Read the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan

14 thoughts on “Why the Coast Guard (also) Needs a 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan

  1. Couldn’t the Coast Guard use the same upgraded systems for both Buoy Tenders during FRAM? I know there is a size difference. but it would save a whole lot of money, They really wont need replacing until 2060 I feel .

      • Considering how long their predecessor’s lasted that is probably going to be the norm. Especially since they would be considered auxiliary vessels compared to the military minded security and patrol cutters. We only have a limited amount of funds no matter what the budget is.

  2. http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/670215.pdf
    This is yet another article stating what the CG leadership has been forced to say now for years. The fleet is a disaster, far worse than before Deepwater began, missions are failing at an increasing rate and massive amounts of $$$ are needed to fix it. The same battle cry that brought us Deepwater, ICGS and a project price tag that went from $17B to over $30B with a fraction of the deliverables. Unfortunately the CG leadership wants to pawn their politcal cowardice and misplaced loyalty off to the taxpayer as their being the victim of congressional budget cuts and an aging fleet. Yes budgets in recent years have gone down. HOWEVER if you look at the post 9/11 RAND report on the timetable to get the fleet where it needed to be you will see the CG was fully funded and ICGS was paid under a contract mission performance guaranty. Unfortunately they fell far short of their guaranteed delivery.

    Instead of taking on industry CG leadership has rewritten history and swept their incompetance and political cowardice under the rug so they can portray themselves as the victims, They are trying to convince us to forget Deepwater ever happened and to fund doing it all again. Just look at the 123s, their purposeful desire to put crews at risk to save money and lie about it and their getting every ship contract under the sun since. (Watch to see who wins the second set of FRCs and the OPCs.)

    This is all setting up for a catastrophe. Which is unfortunately what may be needed to get it fixed. During the Haitian and Deepwater Platform missions several assets broke down. Things are so bad that a couple years ago the CG leadership actually asked if they could stop measuring Cutter Readiness. That is no different that GM conspiracy to chnage ignition part numbers to mask a fatal flaw.

    Here is the killer in the report and is EXACTLY what Deepwater was supposed to do and was GUARANTEED to do so.

    “We recommended in 2014 that the Coast Guard develop a 20 year fleet modernization plan that identifies all acquisitions needed to maintain the current level of service aviation and surface and the fiscal resources needed to buy the identified assets. We recommended that the plan should consider trade offs if the fiscal resources needed to execute the plan are not consistent with annual
    budgets. The Coast Guard concurred with our recommendation, but its response did not fully address our concerns or set forth an estimated date for completion”

    The courageous answer would be to use that guaranty to push the contractors, congress and even themselves to clean up their mess.

  3. Other troubling parts of the report

    “…We reported in April 2015, however, that during this initial operational testing, t
    he NSC was found to be operationally effective and suitable, but with several major deficiencies. For example, the NSCs small boat which is launched from the back of the cutter is not suited to operate in rough waters (sea state 5) as intended. In the meantime, the Coast Guard’s legacy Medium Endurance Cutters, which the Offshore PatrolCutter is planned to replace, have begun to reach the end of their service lives creating a potential gap.Coast Guard officials told us they planned to test a new small boat by March 2015.”

    “As we also reported in June 2014, further changes may be needed due to issues discovered through operating the NSC, which could result in the Coast Guard having to spend even more money in the future to ensure the NSC fleet meets requirements and is logistically supportable.
    In April 2015, the Coast Guard accepted delivery of the 13th of 58 FRCs and now has 32 of the cutters on contract. Aswe reported in April 2015, the Coast Guard is introducing additional competition into this purchaseby recompeting the construction contract for the remaining 26 vessels; this contract is planned to be awarded in fiscal year 2016. According to the Coast Guard, the FRC has already been used to rescue over 400 undocumented immigrants, seize nearly $20 million in contraband, and apprehend several suspected drug smugglers. The fiscal year 2016
    Capital Investment Plan includes $1.47 billion over the next 5 years to continue purchasing these assets by which time the Coast Guard plans to have fielded 42 FRCs.For example, the cutter is experiencing problems operating in warm climates, including cooling system failures, excessive condensation forming puddles on the deck of the ship, and limited redundancy in its air conditioning system affecting use of information technology systems.According to operational reports from a 2013deployment, the Commanding Officer of an NSC had to impose speed restrictions on the
    vessel because of engine overheating when the seawater temperature was greater than 68 degrees. In addition, cold climate issues on the cutter include a lack of heaters to keep oil and other fluids warm during operations in cold climates, such as the arctic. Further, Coast Guard
    operators state that operating near ice must be done with extreme caution since the ice can move quickly and the NSC could sustain significant damage if it comes in contact with the ice. In June 2014 we reported that while senior Coast Guard officials acknowledged that there were issues to
    address, they stated that the Coast Guard has not yet determined what, if any, fixes are necessary and that it depends on where the cutter ultimately operates”

  4. Pingback: GAO makes astounding discovery | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. How come you advocate for a 30 year plan for the Coast Guard in this post but then criticize the GAO for making the same recommendation (see later post)?

      • Here comes the broken record.

        The problem is the reason for it is that the situation goes on and on and on. The primary cause for the deplorable condition of the fleet and the associated declining mission performance is USCG leadership rolling over for and enabling the defense contractors to avoid accountability for creating the current situation. As opposed to fixing it – which is what they were paid to and legally contracted to do. There was a mission performance guaranty in that contract the leadership has refused to use as a remedy. Maybe the Commandant would like to come here and explain why that is? Or why the USCG allowed the guaranty to be fraudulent?

        Unfortunately the situation will not be remedied until a tragedy occurs.

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

  7. Pingback: Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities–House Subcommittee Hearing | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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