The Navy League’s publication, Seapower Magazine, is reporting the Commandant, ADM Paul F. Zukunft, speaking at a special topic breakfast, on Dec. 15, sponsored by the Navy League and PricewaterhouseCoopers, sounded remarkably positive.
Regarding the Bertholf Class, “…We said eight National Security Cutters, now we’re negotiating a ninth…Sometimes it’s very difficult to stop at what that program of record is.”
“We will see an appropriation today, and, quite honestly, I will not be surprised if we see a ninth [National Security Cutter] because it won’t penalize the largest acquisition in our history, the Offshore Patrol Cutter…” Of the NSC, he said, “These ships are more than paying for themselves.
Regarding the Offshore Patrol Cutters, he confirmed that he expected construction to begin on the first of class during 2017, but he went on to suggest that there was a good possibility that it was possible, additional ships beyond the 25 planned might added “to the program of record as the cutters demonstrate their worth.”
Regarding new icebreakers, “The good news is that we’ve got great bipartisan support to invest in this…We will find the money,” he said. “This isn’t as expensive as an SSBN [ballistic-missile submarine], but it is an investment that we need to make.”
A ninth Bertholf class makes a lot of sense right now. Plus it should ramp up the CG AC&I budget to something more realistic.
I hope we will build more than 25 OPCs, after all the plan is to go from 44 large cutters (not right now, but in the recent past) to 33 (34 if we get a ninth NSC), but that is on a very distant horizon. Right now, the plan is to fund one OPC in FY 2017, 2018, and 2019 and only two per year aft that, until the program is complete. Hopefully, the rate of construction will go to at least three a year after the first of class is tested. The MECs we have now are just not going to last until 2035.
The Commandant has not suggested that the first new icebreaker will be funded before 2020. Even if funded then, we are going to have a problem bridging the gap between now and the commissioning of that icebreaker which, presumably will not be until at least 2024.
It does seem the CG budget is getting some attention, but we will have to wait to see if good intentions materialize in the form of a reasonable AC&I Budget.
A ninth NSC would be a good first step.
Thanks to Daniel for bringing this to my attention.