The Federal Register /Vol. 85, No. 31/Friday, February 14, 2020/Notices reports that the Coast Guard is considering closing five stations and has asked for public comment. This is in response to GAO report 18-9, Oct. 2017,”COAST GUARD Actions Needed to Close Stations Identified as Overlapping and Unnecessarily Duplicative.”
Stations Oxford, MD; Fishers Island, NY; Shark River, NJ; Roosevelt Inlet, DE; and Salem, NJ have been identified for consolidation with neighboring stations.
“In October of 2017, the Government Accountability Office issued report GAO–18–9, titled ‘‘Actions Needed to Close Stations Identified as Overlapping and Unnecessarily Duplicative.’’ This GAO report recommended the consolidation of eighteen boat stations. Due to environmental and operational factors, the Coast Guard is not considering all eighteen boat stations identified in the GAO report for consolidation. Instead, we anticipate consolidating five stations, with implementation notionally scheduled for fiscal year 2021. These stations have been identified because there are other units nearby capable of responding to cases in these areas, and because these five stations respond to a low number of cases. We do not anticipate any adverse effect on Coast Guard response capability. We expect an improvement to the proficiency of boat operators as well as a less complicated response system. “
It is by no means certain that these five stations will be closed. The GAO report notes that the Coast Guard has a long history of failed attempts to close stations that appeared redundant.
The GAO noted that the Coast Guard has good criteria for determining which SAR boat stations should be closed, but that while it has some data based criteria for Air Stations it was not as rigorous as that for the small boat stations.
Actually looking at Figure 6: “Map of Coast Guard Helicopter Coverage as of August 2017” on page 24 of the GAO report, while there are areas of overlap off Washington State, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Delaware and over Lake Michigan, there are also apparent gaps between LA and San Franciso, at the Florida panhandle, and over Lake Superior.
When the Coast Guard gets its next generation aircraft, including, hopefully, products of the Future Vertical Lift program that is expected to double the range and speed of vertical takeoff aircraft, we are going to need to take a fresh look at the number and location of Coast Guard Air Stations.