First Look at new OPC Acquisition Strategy, “Coast Guard Issues RFI for Offshore Patrol Cutter” –MarineLink

Thanks to MarineLink for bringing this to my attention.

The Coast Guard apparently wants a rapid response, “Responses to this RFI must be received no later than 11:00 a.m. eastern time (ET) November 6, 2019,” but otherwise we are not in such a big hurry, as I will explain below.

I will replicate the RFI at the end, but the notional schedule tells us a lot about the currently envisioned acquisition strategy.

Notional Schedule:

You can find the Notional Schedule here. Attachment_1-Notional_Schedule.pdf  Basically it looks like a restart from ground zero.

  • There is to be an Industry Studies RFP Released in mid FY2020
  • Draft Spec are to be released third quarter of FY2020 (don’t we already have not just draft specs but detailed specs?)
  • Draft DD&C RFP at the beginning of FY 2021
  • Detailed Design &Construction RFP Released Second Quarter FY2021
  • Award for Detail Design & Lead Ship Construction does not happen until late FY2022.
  • Again we expect to only build one ship per year for the first three ships before transitioning to two ship a year.
  • The final to OPC would not be delivered until the fourth quarter of FY2037

It appears there are 33 months between the issuance of this RFI and award for Detail Design & Lead Ship Construction and 45 months between the RFI and start of construction of OPC#5. After as much planning and effort has gone into the design of these ships, that has got to be wrong.

The fourteenth OPC will not replace the last 210 until fourth quarter FY2032. That 210 will be over 63 years old. The last 270 decommissioned will be at least 48 years old. I’m sorry, that is ludicrous.

Something is terribly wrong here. Why are we paying for multiple detail designs? This will mean we will have at least two class, even if they may look alike. Did Eastern never complete the detail design as they were contracted to do? Why not demand the detail design as a condition of contract relief? These ships are long overdue. Where is the sense of urgency?

The RFI below does seem to open some additional possibilities including awarding contracts for construction to more than one yard, construction of more than two ships per year, and block buy contracting.

The possibility of multiple detail designs from multiple shipyards, “…the USCG intends to release a solicitation for multiple-award, Government-funded Industry Studies to prospective prime Shipbuilders for an OPC Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract” is troubling and raises the possibility of a proliferation of detail designs within the class that is certainly undesirable.

If we persist in this slow approach to construction of the rest of the class, perhaps we should make them faster, quieter, and better armed so they would make better warships if we have to engage in a major naval conflict in the future.

——

Request For Information:

Solicitation Number: RFI-USCG-OPC-2020-1
Notice Type: Special Notice
Synopsis:
Added: Oct 18, 2019 12:01 pm

This Request for Information (RFI) issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is for information and planning purposes only. It does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP in the future. No contract award will be made based on any responses to this notice. The Government is not responsible for any costs associated with providing information in response to this RFI and no reimbursement will be made for any cost associated with effort expended in responding to this notice.

Submission of proprietary information is not requested, and respondents shall refrain to the maximum extent practical from providing proprietary information in response to this RFI. If respondents volunteer to provide proprietary information, clearly mark such proprietary information appropriately and separate it from the unrestricted information as an appendix.

Responses to this RFI must be received no later than 11:00 a.m. eastern time (ET) November 6, 2019. Respondents shall email responses to the following email address: OPC@uscg.mil. Please direct any questions regarding the posting of this RFI to the attention of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Program at OPC@uscg.mil. To assist the Government with tracking responses, please reference “Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC)” and company’s name in the subject line. Telephonic responses will not be accepted. Follow-up discussions may be conducted with respondents.

Purpose

On October 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved and granted extraordinary relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc., on its OPC contract, for up to four hulls as a result of the impact of Hurricane Michael (DHS & USCG press releases are available at the following links: https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/1987279/department-of-homeland-security-approves-limited-extraordinary-relief-for-offsh/ and https://www.dhs.gov/news/2019/10/11/dhs-extends-contract-relief-offshore-patrol-cutter).

The USCG is now working to further develop and finalize its acquisition strategy for completing the OPC Program of Record of 25 hulls. The purpose of this RFI is to obtain feedback on a notional OPC acquisition approach and schedule for completing the OPC Program of Record as soon as possible.

Notional Approach & Schedule

Attachment 1 is a notional schedule that outlines a high-level acquisition approach where multiple Government-funded Industry Studies contracts may be awarded to assist in the refinement and completion of the existing OPC Detail Design and the development of a Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) solicitation to facilitate delivery of affordable OPCs to the fleet as quickly as possible, while reducing program risk over the course of the Program of Record. Under this approach, it is anticipated that upon completion of Industry Studies, the USCG would award one or more competitive contract(s) for completing the Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) of OPCs (emphasis applied–Chuck) in a continued effort to fulfill the USCG’s Program of Record requirements for 25 OPCs.

In order to meet the OPC Program’s operational fleet needs, it is assumed that Shipbuilders would utilize the mature parts of the existing OPC functional design (emphasis applied–Chuck)– to the maximum extent possible – and mature any incomplete aspects of the detail design. The existing functional design, including selected 2D design drawings, calculations, and diagrams, will be made available for Industry Studies contract awardees and will not be warranted by the Government. While schedule is a major driver, program affordability must remain a constant consideration.

Industry Studies Contracts: In early FY20, the USCG intends to release a solicitation for multiple-award, Government-funded Industry Studies to prospective prime Shipbuilders for an OPC Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract. (emphasis applied–Chuck) It is anticipated that the Government will award Industry  Studies contracts to Shipbuilders able to build (i.e., with a certified launch facility), design (i.e., Shipbuilders with in-house design capability or a designer as a team member), and have the capacity to deliver (i.e., within the shipyard’s current build schedule) OPCs featuring Command and Control, Navigation, Aviation, and Navy-furnished Combat systems no later than the dates included in the notional schedule below. As part of the Industry Studies solicitation, the Government may provide a draft OPC System Specification, technical data package, and draft DD&C Statement of Work. This data describes a basic OPC functional design, which has completed a Critical Design Review. Shipbuilders may be required to use this non-warranted data as the basis for completing an affordable Detail Design of the OPC on an accelerated delivery timeline. An overview (placemat) of this functional design will also be provided to Industry Study awardees. As part of Industry Studies, the Government is interested in understanding how the 2D functional design will be transitioned and incorporated into a final 3D production design for OPC construction at each Shipbuilder’s facility. It is anticipated that each Shipbuilder will conduct several cost, schedule, capability and technical studies to support validation and refinement of its proposed OPC Detail Design and transition to a production design. The results of the Industry Studies will further inform a Government RFP for an OPC DD&C contract.

Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) Contract(s): The Program intends to release an RFP, through separate full and open competition, leading to award of Long Lead Time Material (LLTM) and DD&C for OPCs in an effort to complete the OPC Program of Record of 25 hulls.

The OPC Program seeks industry feedback on the notional program schedule (Attachment 1) as well as industry feedback on how construction of OPCs could be further accelerated and how acceleration would affect program risk and cost.

 Requested Information from Industry

Acquisition Strategy Feedback

1. Given the publicly-available information and description provided above on the status of the OPC program, please provide a recommended contracting approach for the USCG to obtain Long Lead Time Material (LLTM), Detail Design, and Construction of OPCs in an effort to complete its Program of Record of 25 hulls. Describe perceived risks, impediments to competition, and opportunities available to the USCG to incentivize robust industry interest and competition and maintain program affordability. Examples of other input being sought includes, but is not limited to, contract type, Industry Studies scope of work, performance incentives, evaluation criteria, source selection approach, etc.

2. Identify risks with the notional approach described in this RFI, suggest measures to mitigate risk, and identify potential opportunities to accelerate the notional schedule, while maintaining program affordability.

3. Provide a notional plan of action and milestones for how your company would meet or accelerate the delivery dates depicted in the notional schedule provided in this RFI, while maintaining program affordability.

4. Identify how your company would approach using a Government-provided, non-warranted functional design to construct one or more OPCs. Discuss any potential technical risks associated with refining/completing an existing design from industry’s perspective. Describe your company’s preferred approach to completing an OPC production design, based on the notional schedule outlined in this request, and how your company views a requirement to utilize a non-warranted functional design data package.

5. Provide input on the potential use of a block buy contracting approach (emphasis applied–Chuck) during the course of the program and recommendations for incorporation of such an approach if your company deems that block buy contracting is feasible. Also, if your company deems that block buy contracting is not feasible, explain the rationale against using this approach.

6. Indicate if constructing two hulls per year is feasible and provide your company’s expected shipbuilding capacity with respect to constructing multiple hulls per year. (emphasis applied–Chuck) Any recommendations or input on the overall production schedule are encouraged.

Respondent Company Information

7. Please provide the current status of the DFARS-based certifications or approvals of your company’s: 1) Accounting System (DFARS 252.244-7006); 2) Earned Value Management System (DFARS 252.234-7002); 3) Purchasing System (DFARS 252.244-7001); and 4) Estimating System (DFARS 252.215-7002).

8. Aspects of this program will require access to Secret material. Please address your company’s ability to meet personnel and facility security requirements.

9. Provide one recent example of your company’s experience in delivering ships featuring C5ISR, Navigation, Aviation, and Combat Systems, and identify major subcontractors used to manage development, construction, and/or integration of those systems. (emphasis applied, not going with any inexperienced shipyard this time. Eastern will not have delivered such a ship when this submission is required and may disqualify them from the recompete –Chuck)

10. Provide a yard-loading schedule that demonstrates your company’s expected shipbuilding capacity to support the OPC program and its planned serial, multiple-hull build approach.

11. Indicate your company’s interest in participating in the potential future Industry Studies and DD&C contracts.

 

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, October 16, 2019, A New Version Only Five Days After the Last

Congressional Research Service has again updated their review of the Coast Guard’s Cutter acquisition programs and the changes are significant. You can see it here.

Again the significant changes begin on page 8, with the section labeled “October 2019 Announcement of Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition.” It looks at the authority for contract relief. It goes on to discuss the “60-Day Congressional Review Period That Started on October 11” on page 9. This is followed by quotation of various press reports about the decision through page 11. Discussion of the OPC resumes on page 14 in the “Issues for Congress” section under the title, “Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition for OPC Program.” These include questions that might be asked during the 60 day Congressional Review period. This continues through page 16

It quotes the Commandant as saying, “the first ship now delayed 10 to 12 months and the three subsequent ships about nine to 10 months each from that point,” and that “If DHS decided to reopen the competition immediately, that would probably mean a three year delay before a new vendor delivers the first OPC.” (I expect a minimum of four years.) and “If another vendor is selected through a re-competition, it’s unlikely the new shipbuilder would be tasked with building multiple ships per year immediately, Schultz said.”

The Coast Guard’s rights to Eastern’s OPC design data are discussed. My position would be that relief should be granted only if Eastern conveyed rights to all design data to the Coast Guard upon final grant of contract relief. 

The possibility of procuring a twelfth National Security as a means of ameliorating the effects of the delays to the OPCs program was discussed on page 17. (It is not addressed here, but delays in the OPC program also argue strongly for fully funding the FRC fleet to 64 units.)

The form of the follow-on contract, either annual or multi-year, was discussed on page 17 and 18. (A block buy could encourage more competition, offering stable work and to a degree offsetting Eastern’s learning curve edge in a re-compete, possibly resulting savings that might approach $1B.)

OPC procurement rate is addressed on pages 18 and 19. This question was raised in all previous editions of the report, but may gain additional urgency because of the delays associated with contract relief and because the program was supposed to transition from one ship per year to two ships per year with OPC #4 and #5 in FY2021.

If I had my druthers, we would fund NSC#12 in addition to OPC#3 in FY2020, then in FY2021 award two block buy contracts for ten ships each over five years (1, 2, 2, 2, 3) to two different shipyards. Assuming award near the end of FY2021 we might have all 20 plus the four currently planned from Eastern by the end of FY2029, five years earlier than previously planned. That could mean the last 270 would only be 38 years old when decommissioned, and we might not need to do as much work on old ships to keep the operational. That would give us 36 large ships (12 NSCs and 24 OPCs), more than the original Program of Record. That would mean funding three OPCs in FY2021, one to Eastern and one to each of the two new shipyard contracts.

“Appendix E. Impact of Hurricane Michael on OPC Program at Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG)” provides additional background on the decision to provide contract relief.

Incidentally, on page 20, the House Appropriations Committee is reported to have recommended funding five FRCs in FY2020 and on page 21 the Senate Appropriations Committee is reported to have recommended funding four FRCs instead of the two requested by the administration.

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, October 11, 2019

Busy as always, the Congressional Research Service has already updated their examination of the Coast Guard’s cutter procurement program to reflect the results of the contract relief extended to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) and the intention to re-compete for contracts to construct OPC#5 and later. You can see the new report here. 

Significant changes are found on pages 8-10 under the title “October 2019 Announcement of Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition,” and pages 13-15 under the title “Issues for Congress–Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition for OPC Program.”

Delays in the execution of the OPC program might be seen as justification for NSC#12 particularly if it is seen as a trade-off for a future OPC.

Not new to this edition, but looking at “Table 1. NSC, OPC, and FRC Funding in FY2013-FY2020 Budget Submissions” on page 13, raises a question about how many Webber class FRCs are to be built. The Program of Record is 58, but this did not include replacements for the six vessels assigned to Patrol Forces SW Asia. Adding six for PATFORSWA should bring the total to 64. So far 56 Webber class have been funded, including four to replace 110 foot patrol boats assigned PATFORSWA. There is $140M in the FY 2020 budget request, which would fund two more, but there are insufficient funds in the out years to fund even a single additional FRC. This appears to mean the program will end with a total of 58 vessels unless Congress steps in.

 

“DHS, Coast Guard extend limited contract relief for Offshore Patrol Cutter” –CG News Release

Below is a news release in full. It reports that “contract relief” will be granted to Eastern Shipyard for construction of the first four ships but that the Coast Guard will reopen bidding for the follow on ships. The Coast Guard always had this option although it seemed unlikely before. The statement that this relief will be granted, “in parallel with immediate recompete” probably means we will see a request for proposal in the near future. 

It seems unlikely that the follow-on ships would be of a different design. The Coast Guard now owns the detail design (correction, I am told the CG does not own all the design details yet but has the option to purchase them) and a different design would introduce additional delays and expense for design development. 

A recompete once again opens the possibility of using a block buy which could result in substantial savings. The recompete could easily provide a block buy for ten ships over five years. A block buy, rather than a contract for two with options, would tend to level the playing field between Eastern, that has the advantage of already building this class, and other shipyards. 

From a historical perspective, the 270 program was also completed by two different shipyards, the first four being built by Tacoma Boat, the other nine by Derecktor Shipyard in Rode Island. The change did result in an 18 month gap between the fourth and fifth ship. 

united states coast guard

 News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
Contact: Coast Guard Acquisitions
(202) 475-3069/5532
Headquarters Media Relations (202) 372-4630
mediarelations@uscg.mil
Headquarters online newsroom

 

DHS, Coast Guard extend limited contract relief for Offshore Patrol Cutter

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security, in close coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, granted extraordinary relief to the Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) under the authority of Public Law (P.L.) 85-804.

ESG submitted a request June 30, 2019, for extraordinary relief after their shipbuilding facilities sustained significant damages from Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, in October 2018.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan made the decision to grant extraordinary contract relief limited to the first four hulls on the basis that ESG’s performance on the OPC contract is vital to the national defense. The Coast Guard will immediately transition to a follow-on competitive contract for the remaining OPC program of record.

P.L. 85-804 was enacted in 1958 and extended to DHS through Presidential Executive Order in 2003. Under this law, an existing contract may be amended or modified when such actions are necessary to facilitate the national defense.

The Coast Guard, supported by DHS and the Navy, conducted an extensive analysis of ESG’s request guided by law and Federal Acquisition Regulation. This review included an assessment of the cost, schedule, and performance impacts on the existing contract. The review was overseen by a Contract Adjustment Board chaired by the DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Management.

“Eastern Shipbuilding’s request for extraordinary relief was carefully considered,” said Coast Guard Vice Commandant, Admiral Charles W. Ray. “This review validated the essential contributions the OPC will provide to our national security and determined that limited relief, in parallel with immediate recompete, is the best option in this exceptional situation. Doing so is consistent with the law, fiscally responsible, and the most expeditious means to deliver this essential national capability.”

The Coast Guard intends to release a Request for Information to gauge industry interest in re-competing the remainder of the OPC program of record. This information will inform the acquisition strategy for the follow-on procurement.

The OPC will replace the fleet of Medium Endurance Cutters, commissioned between 1964 and 1991, providing a critical capability between the National Security Cutter and the Fast Response Cutter. OPC acquisition will expand the Coast Guard’s capability to secure the U.S. border and approaches, disrupt drug cartels and other illicit actors, prevent unlawful immigration, and enhance national preparedness. This decision will ensure critical capabilities are delivered to the fleet as expeditiously and responsibly as possible.

-USCG-

MAD-FIRES –Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System

DARPA is working on what is essentially a gun launched guided missile, and reading their description or this report of testing of the rocket motor, you would not know that it is intended for the 57mm Mk110 gun currently mounted on the National Security Cutters (NSC) and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). Fortunately the video above makes that clear. The portion related to MAD-FIRES is time 6:30 to 7:35. (I have seen some indications they plan to use the same technology on different size rounds, but the 57mm looks like the first beneficiary.)

“Envisioned benefits of MAD-FIRES for future systems include:

  • “Improved real-time defense against evolving air and surface combat threats, facilitated by:
    • “Extreme precision
    • “An ability to defend against greater numbers of simultaneous and diverse attacks
  • “Decreased per-engagement costs by a factor of 10 or more
  • “Potential future applicability to air and ground platforms”

MAD-FIRES Projectile. Photo by Dederot

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, Updated May 22, 2019

Offshore Patrol Cutter future USCGC ArgusThe Congressional Research Service has once again updated their look at Coast Guard Cutter procurement.

I have quoted the summary below and will comment on some of the questions.

The Coast Guard’s 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 FY2020 budget requests a total of $657 million in procurement 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 $670 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 FY2019 has funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. Six NSCs have been commissioned into service. The seventh was delivered to the Coast Guard on September 19, 2018, and the eighth was delivered on April 30, 2019. The ninth through 11th are under construction; the ninth is scheduled for delivery in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $60 million in procurement funding for the NSC program; this request does not include 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 $421 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard awarded a contract with options for building up to nine OPCs to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The second OPC and long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third were funded in FY2019. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $457 million in procurement funding for the third OPC, LLTM for the fourth and fifth, and other program costs.

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 56 have been funded through FY2019, including six in FY2019. Four of the 56 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the Coast Guard’s 58-ship POR for the program, which relates to domestic operations. Excluding these four, a total of 52 FRCs for domestic operations have been funded through FY2019. The 32nd FRC was commissioned into service on May 1, 2019. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $140 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of two more FRCs for domestic operations.

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

  •     whether to provide funding in FY2020 for the procurement of a 12th NSC;
  •  whether to fund the procurement in FY2020 of two FRCs, as requested by the Coast Guard, or some higher number, such as four or six;
  •  whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
  •  the annual 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; and
  •     the planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs.

Bertholf Class National Security Cutters (NSCs):

If there is going to be a 12th NSC, it almost certainly has to be funded this year. Future years will see the Polar Security Cutters and OPCs further crowding the budget. Frankly I see little to choose between the NSC and OPC for peacetime missions, but the replacement of the legacy fleet is becoming urgent and the price of the NSCs has decreased as funding became more regular, so a 12th might be reasonable. If we had started the OPC program earlier, it might have offered a lower cost alternative to additional NSCs, but we will not be ready to start multi-ship procurements of the OPCs until FY2021 and then only at the rate of two per year if we follow current planning.

Argus Class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs):

There is probably good reason to accelerate the OPC program beyond the two per year currently planned to begin in FY2021. If we maintain that rate, the last 210 foot WMEC will not be replaced until 2028, the last 270 not until 2034. I expect we may see some catastrophic failures that will result in either sidelining ships or unacceptably high repair costs, before the program of record is complete.

The Coast Guard should plan on expediting testing of the first OPC so that production could move from the current contract with options to a true Multi-Year contract as soon as the design has proven successful.

We probably will need more than 25 OPCs. The Coast Guard has operated more than 40 cutters of more than 1,000 tons for decades. It seems likely we are going to need more than 36 total NSCs and OPCs. (See the discussion about the Fleet Mix Study below.)

Webber Class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs):

We are nearing the end of the Webber class program with 52 of the 58 program of record vessels, plus four additional vessels for Patrol Forces South West Asia (PATFORSWA), already funded. Buying only two for FY2020 raises the unit costs of these vessels. Congress has consistently increased purchases to four or even six per year when only two have been requested. Adding the final two additional FRCs intended to replace the 110s assigned to PATFORSWA would bring the total buy to four. That would leave only four to be purchased in FY2021 which could wrap up the funding. The question is, will Congress stop the program at the 64 vessels total when there may be justification for more?

Impact of Hurricane Michael: 

The Coast Guard budget is not the place to provide disaster relief for businesses. Maybe they have insurance. Maybe the state or Federal Government wants to provide aid, but renegotiating the contract for OPCs is not the way to do it. No way should it come out of the Coast Guard budget.

If on the other had we do renegotiate the contract, it is not to late to make it a “Block Buy.”

One solution might be for the contract to be converted to a block buy, using purchase amounts no more than current contract with options. That would assure the contractor and its creditor that they would have a steady stream of work. The contract might even have options for production of additional ships at rates higher than two per year.

We Need a New Fleet Mix Study:

The number of OPCs and FRCs actually required to fulfill Coast Guard statutory missions was examined in a fleet mix study (see pages 19 and 20 of the report) that found that the Program of Record (8 NSCs, 25 OPCs, and 58 FRCs) fell far short of the number of vessels required to meet all statutory requirements. Phase One of the study (2009) found that the total “objective” requirement was 9 NSCs, 57 OPCs, and 91 FRCs. Phase Two found that only 49 OPCs would be required but found the same requirements for NSCs and FRCs (see page 22).

The problem is that the analysis is getting pretty old and its assumptions were wrong. The Coast Guard will have at least 11 NSCs. The FRCs appear to be more capable than anticipated. Perhaps most importantly, the study assumed the NSCs and OPCs would use the “Crew Rotation Concept,” resulting in an unrealistic expectation for days away from homeport. From my point of view, the study failed to even consider the requirement to be able to forcibly stop a medium to large size ship being used as a terrorist weapon. None of our ships are capable of doing that reliably, and even our ability to stop small fast highly maneuverable ships under terrorist control is far from assured, even if the objective fleet were available.

The Procurement, Construction, and Improvements FY2020 budget request is about $1.2B. Adding NSC #12 and a pair of FRCs using the costs in the CRS report ($670M/NSC plus 2x$58M/FRC) which are probably high for the current marginal costs, would still leave the PC&I budget under the $2B/year the Coast Guard has been saying they need and about $250M less than the FY2019 PC&I budget.

For the Future:

While we are thinking about cutters, with the FRC program coming to an end, it is not too early to think about the 87 foot WPB replacement. I think there might be a  window to fund them after the third Polar Security Cutter if we have our requirements figured out. That means preliminary contracts such as conceptual designs have to be done during the same period we are building PSCs, e.g. FY2022 and earlier. .

To avoid always being constantly behind the power curve, as we have been for the last two decades, we really need a 30 year shipbuilding plan. The Navy does one every year. There is no reason the Coast Guard should not be able to do one as well. The Congress has been asking for a 25 year plan for years now, but so far no product.

Thanks to Grant for bringing this to my attention.