Seattle to be Homeport for Polar Security Cutter

Not surprisingly the Coast Guard has announced that Seattle is the planned homeport for the new Polar Security Cutter (heavy polar icebreaker). Below is the press release. 

U.S. Coast Guard announces homeport of newest Polar Security Cutter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard today announced that Seattle, Wash. will be the home of the service’s new Polar Security Cutters.

“I am pleased to announce that Seattle, Washington will be the home of the Coast Guard’s new Polar Security Cutters,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.  “The Pacific Northwest has been the home of our icebreaking fleet since 1976, and I am confident that the Seattle area will continue to provide the support we need to carry out our critical operations in the polar regions.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency responsible for providing assured surface access in the polar regions.  The addition of the Polar Security Cutters in Seattle will support the United States’ ability to conduct national missions, respond to critical events, and project American presence in the high latitudes.

The Coast Guard conducted a detailed analysis to identify locations that could accommodate the Polar Security Cutter. Based on operational and logistical needs, Seattle was determined to be the appropriate homeport for the first three Polar Security Cutters.

In April 2019, VT Halter Marine, Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi, was awarded a contract for the detail design and construction of the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter class.

“Coast Guard Needs Congress for Budget Bailout” –National Defense

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

National Defense reports that the Administration’s 2020 budget request makes deep cuts in the Coast Guard budget compared to recent years, but that there is a good chance Congress will make up at least some of the difference.

You can see a brief summary of the budget submission here.

We have Congress plus up the Coast Guard’s budget in the past, particularly in terms of increasing numbers of Webber class cutters funded. The 2020 budget includes only two. This is likely to be increased to four or even six.

Congress has also added three Bertholf class NSC to the program of record and there have been suggestions that a 12th is needed to fully replace the 378 foot WHECs. If we are to get a 12th NSC, it almost has to happen in FY2020 before we OPC construction goes to two per year and before we need to fund Polar Security Cutters 2-6.

The Commandant has been talking about maintenance backlogs recently. Unfortunately maintenance does not have the highly visible job creation impact of new construction, although the dollar for dollar impact may be as great. It seldom makes the evening news, so this may be a harder sell.

 

“Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, Updated May 9, 2019”

The Congressional Research Service has updated their report on the Polar Security Cutter Program. This is the first revision since the award of the contract, so there are significant changes, including a section on the selected design found on pages 5-9.

“VT Halter releases more details of winning Polar Security Cutter design” –Marine Log

Marine Log provides some additional details on the specifications for the Polar Security Cutter (Heavy Polar Icebreaker) construction project, recently contracted to VT Halter.

Projected delivery dates, 2024, 2025, 2027.

  • Displacement, Full Load: 33,000 tons
  • Length: 460 ft (140 meters)
  • Beam: 88 ft (26.8 meters)
  • HP: 45,200
  • Accommodations: 186
  • Endurance: 90 days

For comparison, USCGC Polar Star is:

  • Displacement: 13,623 long tons (13,842 t) (full)
  • Length: 399 ft (122 m)
  • Beam: 83 ft 6 in (25.45 m)
  • HP: (3 × 25,000 hp (19,000 kW))
  • Accommodations: 187

Thanks to Secundius for bringing this to my attention

Thoughts on PSC Diver Support Requirements

I am passing along some thoughts on Diver Support requirements for the Polar Security Cutter from a former USCG diver, Michael W. Carr, 

Divers are assigned to all Coast Guard Icebreakers, but this operational requirement has, in the past, been an afterthought. Dive lockers were cramped, not designed to support diving operations, and hampered equipment maintenance. Additionally, Coast Guard Icebreakers have rarely carried recompression chambers, even though these ships operate thousands of miles from diving medical assistance. I have not seen the specifications for these new vessels but I hope this new design incorporates DIVING features, and there is a DIVING OFFICER assigned to the design and construction team. Listed below are features which should be on these new Coast Guard Icebreakers:

1. Doublelock Navy approved recompression chamber.
2. Full suite of Surface Supplied Diving Systems, capable of supporting a US Navy MK21 Diving System.
3. Two independent Air Compressors capable of supporting Recompression Chamber Operations, Surface Supported Diving Systems, and SCUBA Operations.
4. A dedicated Diving equipment repair and maintenance space.
5. A dedicated space for a Diving Medical Corpsman.
6. Direct Access to the outside (weather) deck and diving station, with necessary heat and lighting for day/night operations.
7. Necessary equipment to support both hot water suit and dry suit operations.
8. Systems for supporting hydraulic and pneumatic tool operations.
9. Equipment necessary to support ship husbandry operations (propellor, sea chest, transducer, etc maintenance, and repair).
10 Dedicated meeting/training room for Dive Team planning and operations.
11. A Navy approved diving stage and crane to lower and raise divers (In the past divers conducted diving operations from the ice alongside the ship, or from a small boat tied alongside the icebreaker.
12. And finally: NO overboard suctions or discharges in the area of the diving station.

We need to think far into the future, ensuring these vessels meet both present needs, and the expansion of responsibilities as the Arctic and Antartic change due to our rapid climate changes. Coast Guard Divers assigned to Icebreakers are likely to be tasked with many more missions repairing other vessels and offshore structures, oil spill response actions, maritime security, and a myriad of other tasks. Lets really think this through and get it right. Bring on Divers with experience and knowledge to ensure we make these new icebreakers state of the art. Let’s examine icebreakers from all the other countries which operate in Arctic and Antarctic regions, and incorporate that knowledge.

Michael W. Carr is a Coast Guard Academy graduate (1977) and attended US Navy Diving & Salvage Officer training while in the Coast Guard. He then served as Diving Officer on US Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team Dive Team for 6 years. After 10 years in the Coast Guard, Carr went into the US Army Watercraft community. He retired from Army in 2015.

Coast Guard FY 2020 Budget Request

Below I have duplicated the Coast Guard’s FY2020 Budget “Fact Sheet”. You can see supporting documents here. My comments are at the bottom.

U.S. Coast Guard Fact Sheet

Fiscal Year 2020 President’s Budget  

BACKGROUND: The FY 2020 President’s Budget requests $11.34 billion for the Coast Guard, including $9.32 billion in discretionary funding.  This begins to address the Service’s erosion of readiness through critical investments in the workforce, cybersecurity, and depot maintenance of legacy assets and infrastructure.  The Budget also supports the Service’s highest priority acquisition, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), and continues recapitalization efforts for capital assets and infrastructure.

BUDGET PRIORITIES:

  • Maximize Readiness Today and Tomorrow—increasing global complexity and expanding demand for Coast Guard services necessitates investment in the workforce, assets, and infrastructure to address the erosion of Service readiness.   
  • Address the Nation’s Complex Maritime Challenges—as the Nation’s unique instrument across the full spectrum of maritime operations, the Budget invests in capabilities and capacity to detect, deter, and counter maritime threats in support of homeland security and defense operations.
  • Deliver Mission Excellence Anytime, Anywhere—the Coast Guard is an agile and adaptive force whose greatest value to the Nation is an ability to rapidly shift among its many missions. The Budget advances modernization efforts in both operations and acquisitions by adapting to the dynamic nature of maritime operations.

MAXIMIZE READINESS TODAY AND TOMORROW: The FY 2020 Budget requests $7.9 billion for Operations & Support (O&S).  Budget highlights include: 

  • $118 million for requisite military pay and allowances as per the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requirements, which keeps DoD and Coast Guard military members compensated equitably, as well as providing civilian benefits and retirement contributions.
  • $59 million for new assets including: crew and shore-side support for NSC #9; operations and maintenance for FRCs #3741; crews for FRCs #39-43; shore-side maintenance personnel for FRC homeports; crew for OPC #1; maintenance support personnel for the C-27J fleet; and operations, maintenance, and flight crews for HC-130J aircraft #12. 
  • $27 million for human capital support infrastructure, and vessel, aircraft, and C5I maintenance funding to address spare parts inventory shortfalls that have led to decreased operations and lower readiness levels due to unplanned repairs. 
  • $22 million for the final phase of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance upgrades, including the replacement of obsolete aircraft equipment and systems necessary to meet 2020 airspace requirements.

ADDRESS THE NATION’S COMPLEX MARITIME CHALLENGES: The FY 2020 Budget requests $1.2 billion for Procurement, Construction, & Improvements (PC&I) to continue recapitalization of the Service’s highest priority acquisitions: 

  • $792 million for vessels, including: $457 million for the construction of Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) #3 as well as long lead time materials for OPCs #4 and #5; $140 million for the procurement of two Fast Response Cutters (FRCs); $60 milllion for post-delivery activities for the seventh through eleventh National Security Cutters (NSCs); $35 million for program management and production activities associated with the detail design and construction contract for Polar Security Cutters (PSCs); and $15 million for a multi-year Service Life Extension Project (SLEP) for POLAR STAR. 
  • $200 million for aircraft, including: $20 million to support service life extensions for MH-60T helicopters; $50 million for a service life extension and avionics upgrade on the H-65 helicopter fleet; $120 million for missionization of fixed-wing HC-27J and HC-144A aircraft; and $9 million for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).
  • $174 million for shore infrastructure projects, including funding for: utility upgrades and construction at Air Station Ventura, CA; improvements at Station Tillamook Bay, OR; replacement of moorings at Station Siuslaw River, OR; and facility upgrades and construction to support FRC and OPC homeports.

DELIVER MISSION EXCELLENCE ANYTIME, ANYWHERE: In FY 2020, the Coast Guard will make sound, riskbased decisions to efficiently allocate resources while investing in critical recapitalization initiatives.  Highlights include: 

  • $15 million to address obsolete communications equipment on cutters, aircraft, and shore facilities to ensure continued interoperability with DoD Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) in theater, as well as in the high latitudes, and during disaster response.
  • $12 million in savings associated with the planned decommissioning of one High Endurance Cutter (WHEC) and three 110foot Patrol Boats (WPBs).  These assets are being replaced by new, more capable NSCs and FRCs, respectively.

My Commentary: 

The $118M quoted above for military pay and allowances is to fund the pay increase not the full amount of pay and allowances.

The top line amount in the budget request, $11.34B, is roughly $770M less than the final FY2019 budget and about $860M less than the FY2018 budget as enacted. Fortunately Congress has usually made additions to the request, but this request is also less than last year’s request.

The big difference, more than $1B, is in the Procurement, Construction, and Improvement account. Amounts requested for Ships and Boats, Aircraft, and Shore-side Infrastructure are all lower. The $1.2B total is little more than half the approximately $2B/year the Coast Guard has been saying they need.

Items missing in the description of the budget that might have been expected, are a second “Polar Security Cutter” (better to do it in 2020 when we are not trying to also fund two OPCs), the Waterways Commerce Cutter, any additional HC-130J aircraft, and a land based Unmanned Air System. The procurement of only two Fast Response Cutters is below the optimum build rate and appears to have resulted in higher unit costs.

FY2019 Budget


US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

With a bit of help from a friend, the actual FY2019 budget documents were located:  “The Joint Explanation” and “The Conference Report.”

I found the Joint Explanation easiest to wade through. The Budget breakdown is found on pages 65 to 69 of the 612 page pdf.

Note in some cases I have rounded to the nearest $0.1M


Our total Coast Guard FY2019 budget is $12,015,921,000. This is $91,803,000 less than last year, but $577,720,000 more than the budget request.

The Operations and Support allocation is $7,808.2M. That is $434.9M more than last year (a 5.6% increase), and $215.1M more than requested.

I have provided information on the PC&I budget below including a complete list of line items that I was unable to provide before.

PROCUREMENT, CONSTRUCTION, AND IMPROVEMENTS (PC&I) $2,248.26M

Vessels and Boats

  • Survey and design:                      5.5M
  • In service vessel sustainment:   63.25M
  • National Security Cutter:              72.6M (Follow up on ships already funded)
  • Offshore Patrol Cutter:                  400M (Second of class + LLTM for third)
  • Fast Response Cutter: 340M (Six Webber class including two for PATFORSWA)
  • Cutter boats                                       5M
  • Polar Security Cutter:                     675M (First of class + LLTM for second)
  • Waterways Commerce Cutter:           5M
  • Polar sustainment:                            15M (Polar Star Service Life Extension)

—-Vessels Subtotal:  $1,581.35M

Aircraft

  • HC-144 Conversion/Sustainment:         17M
  • HC-27J Conversion/Sustainment:         80M
  • HC-1330J Conversion/Sustainment:   105M
  • HH-65 Conversion/Sustainment:           28M
  • MH-60 Conversion/Sustainment:         120M
  • Small Unmanned Aircraft:                        6M

—Aircraft Subtotal:  $356M

Other Acquisition Programs:

  • Other Equipment and System:                                               3.5M
  • Program Oversight and Managemen:                                    20M
  • C4ISR                                                                                    23.3M
  • CG-Logistics Information Management System (CG-LIMS):   9.2M

—Other Acquisitions Programs Subtotal:   $56M

Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation:

  • Major Construction; Housing; ATON; and Survey and Design: 74.51M
  • Major Acquisition Systems Infrastructure:                                 175.4M
  • Minor Shore                                                                                      5M

—Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation Subtotal:  $254.91M

The PC&I total, $2,248.26M, was $446.48M less than FY2018, but it was $361.51M above the budget request.

R&D was cut by almost a third. This is probably a place to spend more not less.

Reserve Training disappeared as a separate line item, so I can’t tell what happened there.

Also included in the new budget is $5M for the National Coast Guard Museum

Incidentally, the total amount appropriated for the polar security program includes $359.6M (FY2018 and prior) + $675M (FY2019), or $1,034.6M, of which $20M is for Long Lead Time Material for the second ship, and the remainder is for the first ship and other program-related expenses.

With Operations and Support up more than 5% over 2018 and Procurement Construction &Improvement (PC&I) over $2B for the second year in a row, this is the kind of budget we can live with. It just needs to keep happening.