“Building the Fleets of the Future: Coast Guard and NOAA Fleet Recapitalization”–Senate Hearing

Congress is back in session. It is likely the current Congress will attempt to complete the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Budget before the new Congress is seated in January.

On October 11, 2018, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a public hearing entitled,  “The Future of the Fleets: Coast Guard and NOAA Ship Recapitalization.” I feel I have been remiss in not talking about this earlier, but the topics are still in question and it appears all the major players in the sub-committee will be returning next year, although committee assignments may change. Despite the name of the hearing, the NOAA representative was unable to attend, so the entire hearing was about Coast Guard programs.

Unfortunately the hearing video was not posted on YouTube so I was unable to post it here. The Commerce Committee website with the video of the hearing, list of witnesses, and links to the prepared statements is here.

I’d like to call attention to the Congressional Research Service’s evaluation of the Coast Guard’s shipbuilding programs in the form of Mr. Ronald O’Rourke’s prepared testimony for the hearing. It is relatively short at 21 pages, and covers the Waterways Commerce Cutter (Inland tenders) and Polar Security Cutter (Heavy Polar Icebreaker) as well as the National Security Cutter (NSC), Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), and Fast Response Cutter (FRC) programs.

As he has done frequently in the past, he makes the case for procuring cutters using Block Buy or Multi-Year Procurement as the Navy has done in some of its most successful Program. I have a hard time understanding why the Coast Guard has not taken advantage of this option. We had an opportunity to do it with the NSC, another with the FRC. Now we have the option of using Block Buy for the Polar Security Cutter (heavy polar icebreaker) and Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The recent Coast Guard Authorization Bill includes authorization to use Block Buy.

Conducting the hearing were:

The video does not actually begin until about time 9:30

Senator Baldwin pushes “Made in America Shipbuilding Act” advocating that components as well as the ships themselves be made in America.

20:30 Admiral Haycock’s prepared statement begins.

26:00 GAO Ms. Marie Mak Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, Government Accountability Office began her prepared statement.

Mrs Mak of GAO is again saying we have not made a good business case for the new icebreaker and that our planning is short term. Pointed to the Navy 30 year shipbuilding plan as a good example of long term planning.

29:30 Mr. Ronald O’Rourke Specialist in Naval Affairs, Congressional Research Service began his prepared statement

An illustration of how useful long term planning can be is found in this quote from Mr. O’Rourke’s written submission, p.3:

“As one example of how…Congress has exercised its constitutional power to set funding levels and determine the composition of federal spending, during the period FY2008-FY2015, when the Navy’s shipbuilding account averaged about $14.7 billion per year in then-year dollars, there was recurring discussion about the challenge of increasing the account to the substantially higher annual funding levels that would soon be needed to begin implementing the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. Projections were prepared by CBO showing the decline in the size of the Navy that would occur over time if funding levels in the shipbuilding account did not increase substantially from the average level of about $14.7 billion per year. Congress, after assessing the situation, increased the shipbuilding account to $18.7 billion in FY2016, $21.2 billion in FY2017, $23.8 billion in FY2018, and $24.2 billion in FY2019. These increasing funding levels occurred even though the Budget Control Act, as amended, remained in operation during those years. At the most recent figure of $24.2 billion, the Navy’s shipbuilding account is now 74% greater in then-year dollars than it was as recently as FY2010.”

Mr. O’Rourke pointed out that using Multi-Year contracting to procure the Offshore Patrol Cutters could save us $1B, enough to pay for the Polar Security Cutter (PSC or Polar Icebreaker) or the entire Waterways Commerce Cutter program.

He discussed increasing rate of OPC procurement.

He noted that there had been a reduction in the estimated cost of the Polar Icebreaker from an initial estimate of $1B to a projected cost of $2.1B for three ships. From pages three and four of his prepared statement.

Coast Guard’s Non-Use of Multiyear Contracting

In connection with my work on ship acquisition, I maintain the CRS report on multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting. In both that report and in testimony I have given to other committees in recent years on Coast Guard ship acquisition, I have noted the stark contrast between the Navy— which uses multiyear contracting (in the form of MYP or block buy contracting) extensively to reduce its ship- and aircraft-procurement costs by billions of dollars—and the Coast Guard, which to date has never used multiyear contracting in one of its ship or aircraft acquisition programs.

The Navy in recent years, with congressional approval, has used multiyear contracting for, among other things, all three of its year-to-year shipbuilding programs—the Virginia-class attack submarine program, the DDG-51 destroyer program, and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. The Navy has been using multiyear contracting for the Virginia-class and DDG-51 programs more or less continuously since the 1990s. Savings from the use of MYP recently have, among other things, helped Congress and the Navy to convert a nine-ship buy of DDG-51 class destroyers in FY2013-FY2017 into a 10-ship buy, and a nine ship buy of Virginia-class attack submarines in FY2014-FY2018 into a 10-ship buy. The Navy is also now using block buy contracting in the John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler program, and is considering or anticipating using them for procuring LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ships, FFG(X) frigates, and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The Navy’s use or prospective use of multiyear contracting for its year-to-year shipbuilding programs is arguably now almost more of a rule than an exception in Navy shipbuilding. For Congress, granting approval for using multiyear contracting involves certain tradeoffs, particularly in connection with retaining year-to-year control of funding. In the case of Navy shipbuilding, Congress has repeatedly accepted these tradeoffs.

In contrast with Navy practice, the Coast Guard often uses contracts with options in its ship-procurement programs. Contracts with options can be referred to as multiple-year contracts, but they are not multiyear contracts. Instead, contracts with options operate more like annual contracts, and they cannot achieve the kinds of savings that are possible with multiyear contracts. Like the other military services, the Coast Guard has statutory authority to use MYP contracting and can be granted authority by Congress to use block buy contracting.

Questioning began time 33:00 I will try to summarize some of the discussion, but this is in no way complete.

Senator Sullivan

33:30 questioned how the CG could meet increasing challenges with nearly 14,000 fewer major cutter OP Hours.

RAdm Haycock says new assets are more capable. (He might have noted that FRCs are more capable than Island class and can conduct some missions previously conducted only by major cutters.) He did favorably compare FRCs with existing 110s in Alaska, but perhaps missed an opportunity to push for more assets and/or higher rate of construction.

37:30 Senator Sullivan push to use shipyard in Ketchikan.

Senator Baldwin

42:30 Why are we using predominately foreign made outboards rather than Mercury or Evinrude which are made Wisconsin?

Ans. We want to use American made products, but we also employ competition. We could create a demand signal that is not sustainable. Builders choose components, but must comply with Buy American requirements.

49:30 Senator Sullivan:

Suggestion that perhaps we could lease.

Ans. Design time has decreased as has price due to Navy assistance and use of parent design. Ship and power plant can be smaller than previously thought without loss of capability. Icebreaker will be based on Parent design. Cooperation with the Canadians. This has shortened time line and cost has come down. There are still some risks.

59:30 We have looked exhaustively at foreign designs. Our missions are very different. Our design will be based on yet unbuilt Canadian design (CCGS Diefenbaker).

1:01:30 Baldwin:

Great Lakes Icebreaker–not enough resources, push to build a Great Lakes Icebreaker at least as capable as Mackinaw, some funding provided for design of a Great Lakes icebreaker, what are we doing?

We are looking at requirements. 140s are going through service life extension.

1:04:40 More on made in American requirements.

Ans. Sometime foreign made components can be problematic over lifecycle. 

1:07:00 Senator Wicker

The Senator pushing for 12th NSCs.

NSCs are having a profound impact as we push border south

1:09:00 Polar Security Cutter, what about the fact funding is not included in House budget?

Ans. Will impact scheduling and the interest of the industrial base.

1:12:00 Senator Blumenthal

Concern about opioids, what additional assets do we need?

Talked about Unmanned Air Systems but really did not specifically address opioids intel which I would assume has more to do with importation by merchant ships through our ports.

1:15:00 CG museum. Committed to location at New London.

1:16:30 Admissions at the CG Academy–concern about possible discrimination

1:17:30 Senator Baldwin

1:18:00 More on “Made in America” components

1:20:00 Specifically referenced need to buy propulsion pods for Polar Security Cutter from Scandinavia.

1:21:30 Timeline for Inland tenders? Possibility of using parent craft?

Our needs are different. Have to have more people because of our missions, we need more range, mixed gender birthing. Probably nine months to complete analysis and a year before we start to contract. In service 2023. We are moving as fast as we can.

(Was pleased to note that RAdm Haycock made a strong witness and appeared both competent and cooperative.)

 

 

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –Congressional Research Service


Mr. O’Rourke has been busy (as usual). Also on 26 Oct. 2018, the Congressional Research Service also Issued an updated version of his study of Coast Guard Cutter procurement programs, specifically for National Security Cutters (NSC), Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), and Fast Response Cutters (FRC). Again I have reproduced the summary here. I do think it is strange that we are still talking about initial testing of the NSCs more than ten years after the first of these was commissioned (see page 14).

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests a total of $705 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $682 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring a total of 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2018 has funded 11 NSCs, including two (the 10th and 11th) in FY2018. Six NSCs are now in service, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth are scheduled for delivery in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $65 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 12th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC program as the service’s top acquisition priority. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $391 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $400 million in acquisition funding for the OPC program for the construction of the second OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2022) and procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2023).

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $58 million per boat. A total of 50 have been funded through FY2018. The 28th was commissioned into service on July 25, 2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.

The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following: 

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 12th NSC in FY2019;
  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2019, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;
  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
  • the procurement rate for the OPC program;
  • the impact of Hurricane Michael on Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL, the shipyard that is to build the first nine OPCs;
  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs; and
  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base. .

Modifying Webber Class Cutters for Duty in SW Asia

USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

The first two of the probably six Webber class WPCs that will replace the 110s in PATFORSWA have been funded. Before they go, there will likely be some changes in how they are equipped.

When the 110 were deployed they had some relatively minor changes:

During the delay in Hampton Roads, each of the WPBs received upgrades for overseas service. First, maintenance crews addressed all of the cutters’ mechanical problems. These crews also added two .50 caliber machine gun mounts aft of the pilothouse to supplement the firepower of the forward-mounted MK38 25mm gun. Most of the modifications fell within the area of communications, including new high-frequency transceivers, installation of satellite telephones and a number of improvements designed to reduce electromagnetic interference. Work crews installed new highstrength Kevlar lifelines around the decks and Forward-Looking Infrared Receivers (FLIR) on the cutters’ masts for nighttime operations. Each WPB also received night vision goggles; a translating bullhorn; and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) gear.

Coast Guard planners also increased the patrol boats’ boarding capability. Each cutter received four Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) personnel to bring crew size up to full combat readiness. Coast Guard planners expected this crew augmentation to improve the WPBs maritime interception operations (MIO) capability, which would help the cutters to fulfill their primary mission in the Arabian Gulf. Work crews also added extra bunks in the aft berthing area of each WPB to provide for the war-time crew complement. Even so, certain crewmembers still had to practice “hot bunking,” with different watches sharing the same bunks

Now there is more time to plan and make upgrades. These ships also might serve as prototypes for equipment changes to the rest of the Coast Guard’s Webber class fleet either in response to the terrorist threat or in the future, in anticipation of an armed conflict.

In addition, the Navy’s Cyclone class patrol craft are coming to the end of their service life, and suitably modified Webber class might serve as a replacement.

Missions:

Originally eight Island class cutters were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, four in the Mediterranean and four in the Persian Gulf. They were to provide force protection. In addition they participated in the capture of an Iraqi vessel attempting to clandestinely mine the Gulf. Later they escorted humanitarian relief supplies up the rivers. They protected Iraq’s off shore oil terminals. Now there are six stationed in Bahrain. In addition to continuing force protection duties, they provide training to Navy ships as they enter the area. They promote capacity building in the navies and coast guards of SW Asia and East Africa. They have conducted counter piracy operations off the Horne of Africa.

Threats: 

Most of the duties these ships encounter are similar to those of continental US vessels, but there are some significant threats in the are we might want to consider.

Revolutionary elements in Yemen have been using unmanned explosive remotely controlled motor boats to attack ship in the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits

The Navy of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp has a force of about 1500 fast inshore attack craft ranging from simple rocket equipped speed boats to torpedo and missile boats. If there is a conflict, they are expected to be used in swarming attacks. My take is that the majority of these boats serve primarily as a distraction and screen to facilitate the attacks of the torpedo and missile armed craft, but some may be used as suicide improvised explosive devices.

Weapons: 

None of these projected threats require large warhead weapons to deal with them, but they do require a short time critical, high probability of kill. The Iranian threat also means there is a need to deal with multiple threats, from multiple directions simultaneously. Attacks could be prolonged, so running out of ammunition could be problem.

The easiest change is to convert the four single .50 caliber mounts to twins. This doubles the ammunition on each mount and provides redundancy if a weapon jams. I think I may have seen that this was already done on the 110 in PATFORSWA.

We might want to give those .50 cal. machine guns the best possible sights. 

Twin or single we need to provide ballistic protection for any exposed gun crews, although putting shield around the forward mount positions might hamper forward vision from the bridge.

We might want to replace some or all of the crew served .50 caliber machine guns with the more accurate, stabilized Mini-Typhoon Mk49 Mod1 ROSAM remote weapon station which is already on four Coast 87 foot cutters used for Force Protection of Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines. This mount is also expected to be installed on the Offshore Patrol Cutters. Their electro-optic devices could also improve situational awareness, particularly at night. 

They will need a laser target designator even if there are no laser guided weapons on the cutter, to allow it to designate targets for other US and allied platforms, perhaps provision for one mast mounted and one hand held.

I would like to see the 25mm gun in the Mk38s replaced by the 30mm which is longer ranged, more accurate, and harder hitting, but that is unlikely to be an option.

To dispatch threats, quickly and effectively, these vessels really need small guided weapons in addition to guns. 

The only small missile installations the Navy has made are Sea Griffin on the Cyclone Class patrol craft and a relatively large 24 round installation on the Littoral Combat Ships.

Sea Griffin lost out to the Hellfire Longbow for installation on the LCS. Hellfire and APKWS have been declared among six “preferred munitions” being procured at maximum production rates, literally thousands of rounds per year. With Sea Griffin falling in size between APKWS and Hellfire, this probably means Sea Griffin does not have a great future. 

As a minimum I think our cutters need a number of APKWS, Hellfire may also be desirable for its longer range, greater hitting power, and fire and forget capability. It would be best if we could use either and trade them off. Unfortunately right now there is no system in the Navy inventory, other than perhaps Sea Griffin, that could readily be installed on our cutters.

The Israeli’s have attached missile launch tubes to their versions of both the Mk38 gun mount that we have on the Webber class and on their mini-Typhoon which is in USN and Coast Guard service as the Mk49 mod1. (Both systems are also expected to be on the OPC.)

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

Rafael Mini Typhoon 12.7mm RWS (MK49 mod1 in USN) and Spike-ER missile launcher recently tested by the USN on an unmanned surface vessel. (photo : Rafael)

This looks doable:

I would suggest these little ships should be armed with a Mk 49 remote weapon station taking the place of, at least the two crew served .50 cal. mounts on the aft corners of the superstructure, perhaps the two forward as well. In addition, the Mk38 mod3 and the Mk49s should be modified to also support a pair of four tube APKWS launchers, similar to the one pictured below. (Perhaps seven or even 19 round launchers in the case of the Mk38.) Assuming we replace only after Mk49 mounts, and have two four round launchers on each mount, this would provide at least 24 guided rockets ready to launch.

Unfortunately, while the Navy has done a test with the Mk49 and has been talked about adding missiles to the Mk38, they have never followed through.  We need to convince the Navy to rapidly push development of this additional capability. They should also have an interest in doing this, since Mk38s are mounted on their destroyers, Cyclone patrol craft, Mk VI patrol boats, and a number of other vessels.  BAE should be all in, they make both the MK38 gun mount and the APKWS. Plus these modified Webber class may be the next Navy PC as well.

The Fletcher laser guided rocket launcher fires BAE’s 2.75 inch laser guided rockets known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Shawn Snow/Defense News Staff)

Other Options:

I have seen a mockup of small Hellfire Vertical Launch Systems that might it might be possible to mount on the outer superstructure bulkheads in the form of multiple single launch tubes. There are other launch systems like the one below that fit on vessels much smaller than the Webber class.

At the Improv–Marines on Cutters

If we don’t provide guided weapons for these cutters, and the situations deteriorates, adding a fire team or even a squad of Marines to augment the crew with their weapons might be a short term option. In additions to rifles, they might bring with them machine guns, Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles that the Marines are now pushing down to the squad level (and which may soon get guided projectiles), or  even Stinger Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MADPAD).

Other Things to Think About:

The Cyclone class have light weight EW systems including decoys, some of them have small unmanned air systems, and they have provision for employing Stinger man portable air defense systems.

A Link16 capability would be nice, even if read only.

Other Reading:

“Switchblade Loitering Munition Puma-Switchblade Sensor to Shooter Capability” July 8, 2018

“Guided Weapons Made Easy,” Oct. 21 2017, which discussed the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

“Guided Weapons–Getting Closer,” July 18, 2014, which discussed dual mode Hellfire, Brimstone, and Sea Griffin

“Weapons Effectiveness Testing–25mm vs 30mm,” Aug. 25, 2017 Which seemed to show that the 30mm equipped Mk38 mod2, would be much more effective than the 25 mm version.

“Fletcher/APKWS, a Pocket Missile System Made in America,” May 12, 2018 Looks at a simple launcher for Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

“At Last, a New Sight for the .50 cal.” Oct. 10,2017

“Navy Chooses Longbow Hellfire,” Oct. 5, 2015

“ASuW Hellfire Test Success–Operational Late 2017,” Aug. 1, 2015

“New Weapon for Patrol Craft,” Jan.24, 2013, specifically about Sea Griffin

 

Sub-Committee Hearing, Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future, 26 Sept. 2018

Note, the hearing does not actually begin until time 20:30 on the video above. 

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation conducted a hearing on “Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future” on September 26, 2018.

You can see the “Summary of Subject Matter” that was prepared for the Congressmen here.

This is the first hearing for both Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) as subcommittee chair and Admiral Karl L. Schultz as Commandant. What I saw looked promising.

The Commandant’s prepared remarks has some items of interest. 

The Commandant announced that he would soon issue a Coast Guard “Strategic Plan 2018-2022”

He referenced the new icebreakers as “Polar Security Cutters.”

This past March, we released a request for proposal (RFP), setting the stage for award of a Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract in FY 2019 for the construction of up to three heavy Polar icebreakers. We are as close as we have ever been to recapitalizing our Polar icebreaking fleet; continued investment now is vital to solidify our standing as an Arctic nation and affirms the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured, year-round access to the Polar regions for decades to come.

This seems to be a part of an effort to broaden the appeal of the icebreaker program as discussed in a recent USNI post, “Coast Guard Renames Icebreaker Program ‘Polar Security Cutter.'”. Their “…hull designation will be WMSP. W is the standard prefix for Coast Guard vessels, and MSP stands for Maritime Security-Polar, Brian Olexy, a Coast Guard spokesman, told USNI News.”

Apparently we are working toward a fleet of 64 Webber class WPCs rather than the 58 in the Program of Record. The first two additional to replace six Island class WPBs currently assigned to Patrol Force South West Asia have already been funded.

“…Earlier this summer, we exercised the second option under the Phase II contract to begin production of six more FRCs. The FY 2018 appropriation also included funding for two additional FRCs, beyond our domestic program of record of 58 hulls (emphasis applied–Chuck), to initiate the vital replacement of our six patrol boats supporting long-term U.S. Central Command missions in southwest Asia.”

Q&A. Topics discussed during the question and answer period included:

Civil Engineering/Shore infrastructure. $1.6B backlog.

40:00 possibility of a 12th NSC

42:30 Where is the $34M taken out of the FY2018 budget will be coming from–reprogramming within the Department.

44:30 Closures of the Potomac

54:00 Diversity within the service.

1:14:40 Need for larger Reserve Force

1:18:00 Icebreaker program

1:20:00 Waterways commerce cutters

In addition response to the recent Hurricanes seemed to be very much on the minds of Representatives and was referred to repeatedly.

Contract awarded for FRC #45-50

The primary thrust of the Acquisitions Directorate post is on what Webber class WPCs are doing in response to recent hurricanes, but it also mentions that a contract option for six more has been exercised bringing the program to 50 cutters.

The service exercised a contract option on Aug. 9 worth just over $294.4 million with Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana, for production of six more Sentinel-class FRCs and eight shipsets of rudders as spares. Keeping spares on hand enables greater mission readiness by minimizing operational downtime in the event that some systems need repair or replacement.

This option brings the total number of FRCs under contract with Bollinger to 50 and the total value of the contract to nearly $929 million. The contract has a potential value of $1.42 billion if options to procure all 58 cutters are exercised.

Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness–Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

This is not going to flow well, I apologized for the mishmash. The video above is of a House Sub-Committee hearing that occurred on July 24. I think it is still worth a look. The video does not actually begin until just before time 19:55

Before watching the video, I would suggest a look at the “Summary of Subject Matter.” This is what the Congressional Representatives are looking at.

End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates:

Check out the charts on page 2. The second chart shows “End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates.” It illustrates the risks and loss of capacity that appears likely, if OPCs are funded at the planned rate of no more than two ships a year. It is unclear why the WMECs are to be retired in the order intended since it is not the order of their completion. Presumably it is based on an assessment of the condition of the ships, but it is very clear that they will all be well over aged. The 210s will retire first. The youngest retirement would be at age 53 and some would qualify for Social Security before replacement.  (Diligence, 66)

How they arrived at the expected service life shown is hard to understand, because every 210 is going to be 53 years old or older at the end of projected service life plus 15 year life extension. The 210s were, of course, substantially reworked during a “Major Maintenance Availability” 1986 to 1990, but no further life extension work is apparently planned based on the testimony in the video.

It may appear we are in much better shape with respect to the 270s, but these more complex ships may actually be harder to keep operational. We saw this in the number of breakdown experienced after the Haitian Earthquake eight years ago. They were commissioned between 1983 and 1991 and are expected to be replaced between 2130 and 2135. Legare, second to newest, is planned to be the first replaced, and would be “only” 40 years old. Harriet Lane one of the earliest completed is expected to be one of the last replaced and would be 50 years old. The rest fall within that range. SLEP for 270s beginning 2021, but it is not certain it will be applied to all 13 ships. 

Because ships are not being replaced as quickly as they were originally built, we see a growing gap between the end of the ship’s projected service life, even with a 15 year service life extension, and the projected date of replacement.

Cutter Capability (by operating hour):

See also Appendix A, which illustrates the current shortfall in cutter hours available compared to the “Legacy Fleet” the recapitalization program was intended to replace. The “Legacy Fleet” is based on 12 WHECs, 29 WMECs, and 49 island class WPBs. (Not sure why they used 29 WMECs, since we had 32 as recently as 2001.)

There are two charts, the first includes WPBs and Webber class WPCs as well as WHECs, WMECs, NSCs, and OPCs. The second considers on the only the larger vessels, excluding WPCs and WPBs. 

The first chart shows that we are currently down 20,450 hours (8.6%) relative to the legacy fleet, but that when the recapitalization is complete the total will be 31,970 hours (13.4%) greater than the legacy fleet. This increase is all due to the greater number Webber class and the greater number of hours each is expected to operate annually compared to 110s.

The second chart looks only at the larger ships, leaving aside the Webber and Island class WPCs and WPBs. It shows we are currently down 13,950 op hours (10%) and further, that when the program is completed, we will be down 15,030 hours (10.7%)reflecting the smaller number of large patrol cutters. If we could view this as a chart of actual cutter available on a yearly basis, it suggest that we will never be down by more than the 10.7% that shows upon completion of the program. Actually that is unlikely to be the case. The aging fleet means a higher probability of unplanned maintenance and even catastrophic failure that may result in WMECs being decommissioned prematurely and becoming parts donors like the Polar Sea.

The saving grace may be that the Webber class have proven capable of performing some WMEC like duties and they are coming on line very rapidly. In all probability, the 58 cutters in the FRC program of record will all be delivered by the end of 2024.

At some point Coast Guard leadership is going to have to tell Congress the ugly truth that we have started the OPC/WMEC replacement program much too late, and we need to double down on the production rate. As soon as the first ship is completed and tested we need to issue a Multi-Year Procurement contract and it should include building up to four ships a year, at least until all sixteen 210s are replaced and at least three ships a year until all the WMECs are replaced.

We need to tell the Congress this as soon as possible, because bad news does not get better with age. Unfortunately it did not happen in this hearing. In fact when asked about the possibility of accelerating OPC production, time 1:10:00, VAdm McAllister seemed to dismiss the possibility saying we had other higher priorities. This was the wrong answer. You don’t always get to decide how money is spent. If we should get the opportunity to accelerate OPC construction, as has happened with the FRCs, we should welcome it.

Mission Needs Statement:

You can see the “Mission Needs Statement” referred to here. It is 70 pages plus about 45 pages of Appendices, but as noted, “…  it does not identify asset gaps or a material solution to meet Coast Guard’s mission needs.”

GAO findings, failure to plan long term:

The GAO has taken the Coast Guard to task because their acquisition portfolio planning has been limited to apparently short term planning using the annual budget and five year Capital Investment Plan (CIP). That this has resulted a bow wave of unfunded requirements being pushed progressively further into the future.

“When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

I have to think GAO has a point here.

We still have not provided a 20 year acquisition plan that the Coast Guard said they would provide in 2014, much less the 30 year plan I have suggested that would parallel the Navy’s planning process.

We have only done one fleet mix study. It was completed in 2007 and included the apparent assumption of applying the now rejected Crew Rotation Concept to both the NSCs and OPCs. Even so, it is still being used as a basis for critiquing the program of record that was last re-baselined in 2005. Things change, we now have better information about how our assets actually function. It is long past time for updated planning.

The Video: 

Witnesses were:

  • Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony

Here is a brief outline of the topic discussed. Video actually begins 19:55.

23:00 Administration and CG leadership priorities do not demonstrate a commitment to rebuild infrastructure.

42:00 Appropriation deleted $1.4B including $750M for the Heavy Polar Icebreaker and the rest from an account to repair of replace hurricane damaged infrastructure.

46:00 Icebreaker schedule is overly optimistic.

47:00 WMEC gap.

49:00 No service life extension program for 210s. Some, but not all 270s, will have 10 year life extension.

51:00 Capabilities vs hours.

55:30 WMECs are operating at higher than anticipated tempo. Anticipate catastrophic failures within in the WMEC fleet. 5 out or 14 WMEC 210s are at high risk.

59:30 Maintenance backlog.

1:08:00 Still no 20 year plan has been provided since it was requested in 2014.

1:10:00 accelerate OPC procurement?

1:12:30 OPC homeports, of the first four, two will go to Kodiak and two to LA

1:14:00 Great Lakes icebreaking,  Mackinaw replacement? SLEP of 140′

1:15:45 Will be doing a fleet mix study for the Great Lakes.

1:17:00 Inland fleet. Doing alternatives analysis.

1:20:00 Homeport for icebreakers has not been decided. Working on homeport decisions for the entire fleet.

1:23:00 UAS

1:24:00 Counter UAS capability. The six WPBs in CENTCOM have some capability.

1:25:00 Manpower analysis

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Opening Statement of the Sub-Committee Chair:

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review how the Coast Guard is integrating their acquisition, manpower, and maintenance plans to align to their mission needs and assure the Service has the assets, personnel, and expertise needed to carry out its missions.

On June 1, 2018, Admiral Karl Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard.  His guiding principles for the Service are: Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.  He said, “These guiding principles frame my direction and will support the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders, and other national and global maritime interests.”  Admiral Schultz and his senior leadership team are in the midst of reviewing the status of the Coast Guard and making changes to align the Service with those guiding principles.  Today, we will hear from two members of that team, and look forward to better understanding their perspectives on the status of the Coast Guard.

The ongoing recapitalization of the Service’s cutters was planned two decades ago to address mission demands at that time.  The world and the demands on the Coast Guard have since changed and it is critical that the Service be ready to respond to the demands of today, as well as those that will exist in decades to come. It is also important that the Coast Guard is prepared to manage capability gaps that are occurring and likely to continue to occur as recapitalization continues.

The decisions being made today will shape the Coast Guard of the future.  The cutters being built today have a planned 30-year service life and will probably serve longer, and the final OPC is projected to be patrolling the seas until 2064. Like Admiral Schultz, Congress wants to ensure the Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive for years to come.  In order to do so, we need accurate information from the Service to determine whether current plans will provide the capabilities to meet future demands.

Even more important than Coast Guard ships and aircraft are the people who operate them.  The Coast Guard’s active duty workforce is only slightly larger than that of the New York City police department and less than ¼ the size of the next smallest U.S. Armed Force.  Congress has encouraged the Coast Guard to better understand and articulate its workforce needs to meet current and emerging needs. Looking forward, it is likely that the Service will need to make tough, strategic decisions regarding how Coast Guard personnel are allocated.  Even before the advent of a new cybersecurity operating domain, the Coast Guard was struggling to meet mission demands; creating a cybersecurity workforce while also conducting legacy operations poses an additional challenge that must be addressed immediately.

In addition to our focus on Coast Guard assets and personnel, this Subcommittee has continually pushed the Service to improve its shore infrastructure made up of approximately 43,400 assets nationwide.  Unfortunately, even after several years of us stressing the need for action, much of that property is in dire need of rebuilding or repair.  While Coast Guard leaders consistently stress the importance of investing in shore infrastructure, the budgetary trade-offs being made within the Coast Guard and the Administration do not reflect a genuine commitment to address this need.  For example, despite a shore infrastructure backlog of more than $1.5 billion, the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request only includes $30 million to address those projects.

Shore infrastructure is critical to every Coast Guard mission – cutters need piers, aircraft need runways, inspectors need buildings, etc. – and if the Service truly desires to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive, it needs to find ways to address these critical needs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a number of reports since 2012 reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and providing recommendations to improve those programs.  Over the years, the Coast Guard has agreed with many of those recommendations and agreed to take action on them.  However, the new GAO report released today notes that the Coast Guard has not fully implemented those prior recommendations.  Hopefully, today’s hearing will help us understand why that is.

A new senior leadership team brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new priorities.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how they see the Coast Guard and how we can best position the Service for success going forward.

Coast Guard Contract for sUAS for Bertholf Class Cutters

Insitu ScanEagle small Unmanned Air System (sUAS)

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has announced a contract award to Insitu, to provide a capability to operate a small unmanned air system from the Bertholf class National Security Cutters.

“…The service contract covers installation and deployment of sUAS for approximately 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period.

“Installations of sUAS capability on NSCs are planned at a rate of about two per year. Total value of the contract including the seven option years is approximately $117 million.”

It does not say which airframe Insitu will be providing. They have more than one, but it is likely to be Scan Eagle which was the small UAS used by Stratton during the trials.

200 hours per 30 day operational patrol period might be 20 sorties of 10 hours each or 25 sorties of 8 hours, but in all probability it will include a few shorter flights to provide documentation and over-watch during boardings. 

The Coast Guard is contracting out the operation and maintenance of the systems rather than training Coastguardsmen to perform these functions. Hopefully, in time that will change.

Also there is no reason these systems should not also operate off of smaller cutters and icebreakers. Operating from 210s should be relatively easy, although it might preclude operating a helicopter, and with a little engineering they could probably operate from Webber class WPCs.

If you want to trace some of the progress on this issue, here are some earlier posts.