Reviewing the Status of Cutter Procurement

Belatedly, I have taken a look at the July 6, 2018 edition of the Congressional Research Service’s Naval Expert, Ronald O’Rourke’s Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. It was published less than seven weeks after the previous edition.

Thought perhaps a short review of the status of the three programs addressed might be welcome.

NSC: The program of record was eight ships, but eleven ships have been funded through FY2018. Six have been commissioned. One additional delivery is expected each year, 2018, 2019, 2020 and presumably 2021 and 2022. The Senate sub-committee has expressed its intention to procure a twelfth NSC, but the FY2019 budget request did not include funding for an addition NSC. FY2020 would not be too late to fund NSC#12 and keep the delivery schedule at one per year.


OPC: The program of record is for 25 ships. The First ship was funded in FY2018. The Second ship is in the FY2019 budget request along with long lead time items for OPC#3. If all contract options are exercised, we should see one ship delivered each year 2021, 2022, and 2023. Beginning in 2024 the program anticipates delivery of two ships per year. If they hold to that modest rate, as planned, the last OPC will not be delivered until at least 2033 at which time the newest 270 will be 42 years old. Also at that rate, the newest 210 will be 60 years old when presumably, the last of the class is replaced in 2029. (If you think keeping 40 and 50 year old cutters operational is challenging, wait until you try a 60 year old. Particularly since the Coast Guard plans no major life extension work on the 210s.)Ā 

FRC: The program of record is for 58 vessels. There is also a requirement for six more to replace the six Island class 110 foot cutters currently homeport in Bahrain as part of PATFORSWA, that are not included in the program of record. 50 Webber class have been funded through FY2018, with 28 currently in commission. Funding for four additional vessels was included in the FY2019 budget request. The Coast Guard is commissioning Webber class at the rate five vessels annually. The remaining 28 vessel will presumably be commissioned by 2024. Six additional for PATFORSWA would extend that through 2025. Apparently the Congress intends the DOD to fund the six that would go to FATFORSWA so presumably the last Coast Guard funding would be in the FY2020 budget.

If my understanding is correct, it is likely that major funding for the NSC and FRC programs will be complete in FY2020, the same year the third OPC should be funded. At some point, in the not too distant future, we will need to start the process of replacing the 87 foot WPBs, but hopefully we will find a way to accelerate the OPC procurement to something more than two a year.

12 thoughts on “Reviewing the Status of Cutter Procurement

  1. The 210’s were built in 4 different yards. So it would not be a new idea to take the plans and have a few built in other yards. Keep the industrial base busy.

  2. Chuck, I think you’ll appreciate a couple of the images in this tweet.

  3. If Congress would continue with current funding levels for the acquisition line item, there is easily enough money from the completed NSC and FRC programs to build 3 OPCs per year starting in 2022, rather than 2 per year.

    I wonder if the 87s will be replaced with something larger, as has been done with all the other patrol cutter classes? Something around 30m perhaps?

    • “…enough money from the completed NSC and FRC programs to build 3 OPCs per year starting in 2022, rather than 2 per year.” That was sort of what I was implying. It is complicated by the Icebreaker program which looks like it will require uneven funding (high some years, almost none others) unless we start funding ship more like the Navy does aircraft carriers, not getting full funding up front in a single year.

      I do suspect the WPB replacement will be a bit larger and that they will be the true “fast response cutters,” unlike the Webber class they will be at the pier on standby, waiting for a call and then dash out, while the Webbers will be out cruising looking for smugglers or migrants. I expect like the Webbers they will also get a 25 mm Mk38.

  4. I have it on good authority that Eastern could build up to four OPCs annually in the yard they have currently dedicated to OPC construction.

    It appears that major NSC and FRC funding will be complete in FY2020. If so, the money we have been spending on those programs would fund three OPCs per year. If $2B PC&I becomes the norm, I think three perhaps even four per year would be possible. Best compromise might be first three as planned, then four funded in FY2021 and 2022 followed by three a year until completion. That would allow replacement of all 210s by 2026 and all MECs by 2030 three years earlier than currently planned,

    • I was looking at Eastern’s shipyard on Google Earth. I thought the same thing as far as capacity (4/yr possible), BUT that would mean Eastern has little to no room for other contracted vessels. It appears Eastern owns some empty land on what is the East side of the active shipyard. Not sure if they could utilize that somehow for fabricating ship modules before moving them to the assembly points…

      I’m afraid 4/year would be a stretch in 2021 and 2022 with icebreaker funding still going. My premise was that the icebreakers are outliers on the funding, because of their extra expense, the multiple-source funding, and their replacement interval. It makes sense to seperate them from normal procurement funding. However, I don’t think Congress would spring the money for a 4th OPC during “extra funding for icebreaker” years, either. Might get the money for 4th ships (per year) after the icebreakers are paid for…

  5. All respect to Eastern on their win and work so far, but (4-hull capacity or not) I’d like to see an effort to sub some of that work to another yard. At least give it a look.

    Is the House still trying to use the icebreaker money to build the wall?

    • We have an options contract with Eastern, not a multi-year.procurement or block buy–both defined by law. We can continue to exercise options up to the 9th OPC but if we wanted to build at a different rate, I presume there would be a recompetition. How that would be structured is open question.

      Not only did the House Appropriations Committee propose using the $750M for the icebreaker, they also want to take $700M in funds that were to fix infrastructure damaged in the recent hurricanes.

      Commandant says he is “guardedly optimistic” money for the icebreaker will be included in the budget. but I doubt we will see all the money restored.

    • POTUS said on Wednesday he was considering a government shut-down to coerce Congress into funding the wall. He is pondering whether to do that sooner or wait and see what happens with the mid-term elections… If he gets his way, perhaps funding on icebreakers would be restored. Perhaps…

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