Marine Link reports that,
“The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping industry is calling for at least five new icebreakers to be part of the (Canadian–Chuck) federal government’s recent announcement of $15.7 billion for Canadian Coast Guard fleet renewal.”
This appeal was addressed to the Canadian government, but we can expect to hear continued appeals for more USCG icebreakers on the lakes as well.
“Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard crews worked tirelessly during the Great Lakes spring break-out, but were hampered by the age and condition of the fleets at their disposal. Two U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers were out of service in March and a Canadian icebreaker assigned to Lake Superior was only able to operate at 60 per cent of capability and was idled in April due to mechanical issues.”
Congressmen from states bordering the Great Lakes have been asking for more icebreakers for years. There was $5M in the FY2019 budget to start work on procurement of a Great Lakes icebreaker at least as capable as USCGC Mackinaw.
There is an indication that the system may be expanded and the navigation season extended,
That economic contribution is only set to increase as ports and their customers invest in increasing the capacity of the waterway as well as looking at options like lengthening the navigation season of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
There might be an opportunity here to combine the program to provide medium polar icebreakers with a new icebreaker for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes icebreaker might serve as a prototype for the medium polar icebreaker.
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
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.
- 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.
1:24:00 Counter UAS capability. The six WPBs in CENTCOM have some capability.
1:25:00 Manpower analysis
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.
MarineLog brings us some details of the new Norwegian Icebreaker/Research vessel Kronprins Haakon which has been moved from Fincantieri’s Integrated shipyard of Riva Trigoso and Muggiano, Italy, where the bulk of the construction took place, to Fincantieri Group member Vard’s Langsten shipyard in Norway, where it will be completed. Apparently it is behind schedule.
It may not look like it, but it has a hangar for two medium size helicopters.
Length over all (LOA): 100,0m (328′)
Breadth: 21,0m (69′)
Draft: 8.5 m (28′)
Gross tonnage: 10900T
Maximum cruising range of approx. 15.000 nautical miles
Endurance 65 days at cruising speed
Designed to operate in winter ice with pressure ridges and multi-year ice
Accommodation for 55 persons in 38 cabins (15-17 crew).
There is space for 20 containers (20′)
“…project was said to have a total value of about 175 million Euros” ($215M–Chuck)
This looks like something that might evolve into our medium icebreaker. Might also make a pretty good Great Lakes icebreaker. 10,000 KW propulsion makes it about 50% more powerful than the USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30). Of course Marinette Marine, which is also a division of Fincantieri, and the yard that built the Mackinaw, would probably be happy to build one or more–and the ship is narrow enough to pass the Saint Lawrence Seaway locks. .
Above is the video of the Senate Subcommittee hearing for which I provided the Commandant’s prepared remarks earlier.
Participating Senators I noted were:
- Dan Sullivan, Sub-Committee chair (R, Alaska)(Lt.Col., US Marine Corps Reserve)
- Gary Peters, ranking member (D, Michigan)(LCdr. US Navy Reserve, Supply Corps)
- Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Commerce Committee (D, Florida)(Capt. US Army Reserve)(NASA Scuttle payload specialist)
- Roger Wicker, Chairman of the Seapower sub-committee (R, Mississippi)(Lt.Col. ret. USAF reserve)
- Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut) (USMC Reserve 1970 to 1976 discharges as Sargent)
- Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii)
- Ed Markey (D, Mass.) (Spec4, US Army Reserve, 1968-73)
- Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) (Spec4, US Army, 1956-1958)
- Maria Cantwell (D, Washington)
You can also check out the original post from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (Same video is available there, but the meeting does not actually start on that version of the video until minute 36.) There you can also find the written statements of the other three witness who constituted the second panel. The Commandant was the sole witness on the first panel.
This was something of a love fest for the Coast Guard with repeated praise for the people and actions of the Coast Guard.
This hearing was reputedly about how the Coast Guard had been impacted by the unusually severe Hurricane season. There is not a lot new here but there were some interesting remarks.
Polar Icebreaker Contracts
The intention is to Contract for the first Icebreaker and then employ block buy for the next two (28m). To me this seems to negate most of the advantage of a block buy. I don’t believe we will or should buy one and then wait until we have tried it out before contracting for the next two. That would necessitate a delay of at least five years during which we would still have the nightmare scenario of our only heavy icebreaker having no rescue if it should break down in the ice–certainly not an impossibility even with a new ship. If we are going to contract for the remaining two before testing the first, we might as well block buy all three.
First of class is always the most expensive. If the shipyard gets a block buy they know that initial improvements in productivity can be amortized over the entire block buy quantity. In some cases, in order to win the whole project, the shipyard will cut the price of the first ship substantially knowing they will make a profit over the entire project.
If we buy one and then block buy the second and third, we have paid for improvements to the winning yard with the first contract and minimized the chances for a competitive bid for numbers two and three.
Legislation has capped DOD participation in icebreaker procurement, so the bulk of icebreaker procurement costs will come out of the Coast Guard budget.
There was a lot of discussion about the need to have the Coast Guard Authorization Bill signed into law, still not approved. You can see it here.
There was a discussion of the high cost of the Coast Guard response to the recent series of Hurricanes.
Representative Sullivan spent a lot of time, discussing and advocating for an eleven mile road from King Cove (population estimate–989) to Cold Bay, Alaska (population estimate–122) which has an all-weather airport with two runways, one 10,180 feet and one 6285 feet in length. The Coast Guard connection is that the road would minimize or eliminate the necessity for the Coast Guard to Medivac emergencies from King Cove by helicopter, which is frequently hazardous. It is a Federal issue, because the road would run through a Federal reserve. The Commandant fully supported the desirability of completing the proposed single lane gravel road as a means of minimizing the requirement for helicopter medivac.
28m Domestic icebreakers–Design work on new domestic icebreakers is expected to start in 2030. That sounds a bit late to me. Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006 so if that is what he is really talking about, that makes sense, but the 140 foot icebreaking tugs are a different story. The first for of these will be 51 years old in 2030. More than half of them have already completed in-service which was expected to add 15 years to their service life. Morro Bay, at least, is expected to reach the end of her service life in 2030, and considering how long it takes us to build a ship we really need to start the process not later than 2025.
45m Western Pacific Fisheries Protection–They have not seen much risk of Illegal, Unregulated, or Unreported fishing.
51m Inland River Tenders
56m We may need to replace the 52 ft MLBs with something larger than the 47 foot MLB sometime in the future, but their end of life is not yet apparent
58m Coast Guard Museum in New London
60m Sexual Assault in the CG
1h02m Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands continuing commitment and its effects on drug seizures and alien migrant interdiction.
1h05m Vessel homeporting
1h08 CG center of expertise, particularly in regard to clean up spills in ice and fresh water
1h16m Army Corp of Engineers dredging backlog.
1h17m Second Panel begins.
1h19m Medivac from King Cove
1h31m Mr Smithson regarding Deepwater Horizon experience, unified approach, investment in mitigation.
The hearing recorded above was held 7 June. The original video was found here. That page also provides the chairman’s opening statement and links to the witnesses’ written statements that are also provided immediately below. The video does not actually start until time 4:30.
Below, you will find my outline of the highlights.
The GAO’s written testimony is particularly comprehensive. They report that new assets (NSCs and FRCs) are not meeting planned availability. There have been an unexpected number of engine replacements. In the case of the National Security cutters it appears to me the down time was predictable, a normal part of introducing new ships and availability should return to planned levels as more ships join the fleet. The known defect, that when operating in waters 74 degrees or warmer, the NSCs cannot maintain maximum speed has apparently not been corrected. Max speed must be reduced two to four knots to allow adequate cooling.
Planning Documents: The Congressional Representatives repeatedly complained that they were not getting an unsensored statement of the Coast Guard’s needs. It appears the Coast Guard is not being allowed provide this information. Rather it appears the GAO is telling the Coast Guard how much they will be getting and told to submit a budget that fits the predetermined amounts. Reportedly the Unfunded priorities list will be provided by the end of June. They also asked for the 5 year and 20 year plan (1h04:30). Coast Guard representatives were repeatedly told the Coast Guard does not say what they really need, that information provided by the Coast Guard is inadequate for the sub-committee to make decisions (1h48m).
It appears that the GAO continues to ask the Coast Guard to plan procurements based on historically low AC&I appropriations that were adequate for a time because of the sporadic character of Coast Guard ship building. They acknowledge that the current budget is not realistic. (43:45)
The Coast Guard is now consistent in requesting $2B in the AC&I annually and a 5% annual increase in its operating budget and that we need 5,000 additional active duty billets and 1,100 addtional reservists. There was a statement from one of the Representatives to the effect, We need you to fight for yourselves (1h50:30). The representatives were informed that the 5 year, 20 year plans and unfunded will be delivered together (1:56)
My opinion: we need a regularly revised Fleet Mix Study. That in turn should feed directly into a 30 year ship and aircraft procurement plan.
Webber Class WPCs: The Coast Guard is reportedly pushing WPCs operations down as far as the coast of South America. (50:00) This confirms my earlier speculation that these ships would be operated in what had been WMEC roles. Six cutters for CENTCOM The representative confirmed that they had approved procurement of six Webber class requested by CENTCOM. Apparently their approval was in the form of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which has still not been made law. Adm. Ray stated that these would be in addition to the 58 currently planned (9:30) and it is not clear how or when they would be funded. Adm Stosz indicated it was not certain six Webber class would be the Coast Guard’s choice in how to fill this requirement and the question required more study. (1h11)(1h41m).
Shore Facilities: Reportedly there is a $1.6B shore construction backlog. $700M shore facilities maintenance backlog. Some infrastructure improvements that directly support new operational platforms.are being accomplished under the platform programs (55:00) The representatives asked, why we have asked for only $10M if the total shore facilities backlog is $2.3B?(1h35)
Icebreakers: The possibility of leasing the commercial icebreaker Aiviq is still being considered. (1h27) The owners have offered a plan for Ice trials and the Coast Guard has said it would be interested in observing. (1h29:50)
Great Lakes Icebreaker: Rep. Lewis brought up icebreaker for Great Lakes.Adm Ray says for now we will address with the existing fleet. (1h00:30) Priority is still Polar Ice Breakers.
eLoran: There seems to be considerable interest in eLoran to deal with GPS vulnerabilities. (1:22) The Navy League representative supported the need. The Re-Authorization Bill directs Secretary of Transportation to initiate E-Loran testing. There was a clear anticipation that the Coast Guard would support implementation.
Coast Guard Health Care: Looks like the Coast Guard heath care records system which reverted to paper now may be able to piggy back on the VA’s conversion to the DOD system. (1h25)/(1h32:30) There is currently a major gap in funding for medical care of CG retirees
A Better Armed Coast Guard: Not that the Representatives were specific, but there was a statement, “We want to weaponize you.” (5:55) I think I heard essentially a second time as well. I’m not sure what that means.
Rising Sea Levels: There was concern expressed regarding rising sea level and how they might impact shore facilities (1h12:20)
WMEC Service Life Extension: The Coast Guard was given money several years ago to plan a service life extension program for 270. The Congress has not seen or heard any result and they questioned, why delay? (1:09) See fig. 4 on page 17 of the GAO’s written testimony
Operating Expenses: Replacement ships are costing more.(26:25)(50:55). This is becoming problematic without an increase in operating budget.
Changing the way we buy ships: Included in the Reauthorization Bill are changes in the way the Coast Guard can fund its shipbuilding, putting us on par with the Navy (5:50)
Cyber: Budget includes 70 additional billets. (19:45) What are we doing for the ports? (1h13:45)
Inland Tender Fleet: Budget includes $!M to investigate alternatives. (52:30) (1h19)
It is remarkable that there seemed to be no sentiment that the Coast Guard budget should be cut, while there was considerable evidence the Representatives believe the Coast Guard is underfunded.
An MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter taxis on the runway at Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, April 13, 2017. Jayhawks are replacing the current helicopters the air station operates to provide improved search and rescue coverage in the area. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Traverse City)
A bit of reshuffling of air assets as SeaWaves reports CGAS Traverse City receives the first of three MH-60Ts that will replace the four MH-65 previously deployed there.
One of the H-65s has already been transferred to CGAS Atlantic City. Two will go to the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Florida. One will be transferred to the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, to support a fleet-wide training initiative associated with a modernization effort.