Timely Actions Needed to Address Risks in Using Rotational Crews–GAO

Waesche Carat 2012

The GAO has recently issued a report, “Coast Guard, Timely Actions Needed to Address Risks in Using Rotational Crews” (pdf) which discusses the “Crew Rotation Concept” (CRC) which has been part of the proposed National Security Cutter (NSC) program for at least a decade, but never tested. I believe there has also been discussion of using it on the Offshore Patrol Cutter as well.

This is perhaps the last, worst vestige of the Deep Water program.

First there is this explanation of the expectations of the plan from an Acquisitions Directorate web page that has since been taken down.

“Initially, the Coast Guard will employ four crews for three NSCs at a single homeport, rotating the cutters among the crews to limit crew PERSTEMPO to 185 days while maintaining each cutter’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) at 230 days. The three-cutter, four-crew prototype will be evaluated in 2009 through an operational testing-and-evaluation process. Policy and procedures for CRC are based on the lessons learned by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, as well as consideration of the recommendations made by auditors from the Government Accountability Office.”

Please forgive me for quoting myself but I feel the need to repeat some calculations from a post from 2010.

First assuming the projections are correct, we are replacing 12 ships which would provide 2,220 operating days with eight ships that will provide at best 1,840 so we are already two ships short.

Then you will also note that the presumption is that the ships will be operated in groups of three from the same home port, but there are only eight ships planned, meaning there will be a rump group of two somewhere. Will they be operated by three crews or by a single crew per ship?

What we hope to save here is acquisition cost, because the operating costs per op day cannot be lowered by this strategy and will actually be higher. I don’t know the projected life cycle costs for the National Security cutters, but in general, I’ve heard that the acquisition costs for similar systems is about 15% of the life cycle cost. Fuel and personnel costs are the real driver. Fuel costs should be the same per op day. Personnel costs will actually be higher, since each crew under the multi-crewing concept will only provide 172.5 op days instead of 185, so personnel costs will be 7.25% higher.

In addition, because the ship will only be in port 135 days a year instead of 180, there will be fewer opportunities for the crew to make repairs. These repairs, normally done by the crew, will have to be done by contractors at additional costs.

I would also note that the acquisition costs we hope to save actually decline as we add more ships. Four additional units are likely to cost far less on the average than the first 8. There is also the long term value of having four additional ships in hand if the country should need them in the future.

Frankly I don’t think we will see any significant savings from this manning approach and it may actually cost us in the long run.

If a truly convincing argument can be made for the concept, I would like to see it. And if the argument involves lower overhead because we get more “mission” op days compared to RefTra day, remember the reason we go, is to train the crews, not the ships, so every crew will needs to go.

As I noted above three into eight does not make for three ship groups. At that time, I thought it would be two ports with three ships and one with two, but in fact, apparently the intention is now two in Charleston, two in Honolulu, and four in Alameda, so it is three ships nowhere.

I am a little surprised the testing has not already started. After all we have had three ships in Alameda for three years now.

As far as I can tell, rotating multiple crews among multiple ships has never worked out. More here and here. We have certainly had the opportunity to test the concept on simpler platforms, but it has yet to be attempted in earnest. Frankly I think everyone knows this is not going to work, but they have just been pushing facing the embarrassing truth off into the future.

There may be viable alternatives to swapping out entire crews. In fact, apparently crews of existing NSCs have been augmented to allow them to provide 210 days away from Homeport. Actually nine augmented ships, U/W 210 days a year, would provide more availability (1890 days) than eight multi-crewed ships U/W 230 days a year (1840 days) but they would still not reach the level provided by twelve un-augmented ships (2220 days).

Unlike wine, bad news does not get better with age. It is time to bit the bullet. Try CRC or find an alternative. If it doesn’t work, well it was really someone else’s idea after all.

Recapitalization Plan in Eight Slides

FierceHomelandSecurity has a slideshow that summarizes the “Recapitalization Plan” in only eight slides.

If you have been following this web site, there won’t be much new here, but I did note a couple of things that might be significant (or maybe not).

In describing the Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRC), their endurance is now described as seven days instead of the five that was the contract minimum. (Always figured they were probably good for more than that.)

In describing the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) the speed is given as specifically 25 knots, not as a range from 22 to 25. I hope this is true, because it the increase from 22 to 25 makes the ships a lot more useful as potential naval vessels, if we ever need them to go to war.

The slides do seem a bit out of date in calling the helicopters HH-60 and HH65 instead of the current designations, MH–60 and M-H-65.

Draft Technical Package for the Offshore Patrol Cutter Released

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has issued the draft technical package for the Offshore Patrol Cutter. It was announced on the Federal Business Opportunity website, March 12, 2012.

“The red-lined draft System Specification contains all of the changes that the Coast Guard incorporated as a result of industry comment. This document will be automatically distributed to those companies and individuals that received the draft OPC specification released in May 2011. The other draft documents will be available on the USCG OPC website at: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/OPC/default.asp

A two step Acquisition process is expected. First, three contractors will be selected to develop their preliminary designs into fully detailed contract proposals. They will compete for the final award which will include the first OPC and all documentation. It may (and probably will) also include options for follow-on ships. So far, the Coast Guard is saying they will maintain their flexibility regarding who will build follow-on ships.

On the Acquisitions directorate website, you can down load hundreds of pages of technical requirements for the contractors, but don’t expect to find updated information on the specification of the ships. As noted above, revised draft specifications were sent to companies and individuals that received the draft OPC System Specification released in May 2011. Hopefully the Acquisition Directorate will release at least some basic information in the near future.

Still going through the documents yields some useful information of more general interest. The list of Government furnished Equipment (GFE) and Government Furnished information (GFI) tells us about much of the equipment the vessels are expected to carry. (I will not list all the normal items included on every cutter.)


  • Mk 48 mod 1 Gun weapon system
  • Mk 110, 57mm gun system
  • Electro Optical Site Sensor (EOSS), MK 20 MOD 0
  • 25mm, MK 38 MOD 2
  • Two SSAM gun systems, (remotely operated .50 Caliber)


  • IFF, AN/UPX-29A
  • AN/SLQ-32B(V)2 (and Mk 53 NULKA decoy system)
  • Multi-Mode Radar (air as well as surface? AN/SPQ-9?)
  • Encrypted GPS
  • CBRN monitoring

Boats: 2 x 7m OTH IV (apparently no 11m boat)


  • Visual Landing Aids (VLA)
  • Glide Slope Indicator (GLI)
  • Wave Off Light Assembly (WOLS)

The Mk48 Mod 0 (www.dtic.mil/ndia/2011gunmissile/Thursday11660_Aswegan.pdf) is apparently the system on the National Security Cutter. Perhaps, the Mk48 mod 1 is simply an improvement, but unlike some of the other components of the system, the AN/SPQ-9 radar is not called out specifically, so this system may not have a radar. It may be that the “multi-mode radar” refers to the AN/SPQ-9. Hopefully that is the case.

A quick scan through the other documents shows that the Coast Guard has not ruled out the possibility of hybrid or integrated diesel-electric propulsion.

“One Line Diagram. During Contract Design the Contractor shall provide the Electric-Drive Propulsion System One Line Diagram (if an Electric Propulsion System or IDE is provided). [235-01-2219]”

Other included systems are:

  • Two encrypted computer networks including one for classified material.
  • Television systems for both monitoring security and entertainment and training.
  • UHF MIL SAT COM Equipment
  • A crane for loading stores
  • A bow thruster
  • An unmanned air system (UAS)

It appears there may also be a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).

Generally it appears, a much more sophisticated ship that the WMECs they are replacing.

(illustration: French shipbuilder DCNS concept)

Deepwater program “Unachievable”–GAO, Part Two

As I noted in part one, GAO has found the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program “unachievable.” Basically, they see a mismatch between the historic funding levels and the anticipated funding requirements. This in turn has impacted the delivery schedule, which in turn further adversely effects cost. Additionally significant questions still remain regarding the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) system that was intended to tie the “system of systems” together. There also remains a significant unknown in the form of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) which, as the most costly single system in the program, constituted a third of the total “Deepwater” Program’s estimated cost in the 2007 Baseline.

I’m not sure I would call that “unachievable,” rather it is simply more expensive and more difficult than the Coast Guard was lead to believe, and four years later the plan is already well out of date. The Cost overruns are significant, but no more so than a lot of procurements and pale in comparison to the F-35 and Littoral Combat Ship cost overruns.


This is the cost growth GAO has seen. From Table 2 (page 12), “Increased Total Acquisition Cost Estimates for Deepwater Assets with approved baselines as of May 2011 (Then year dollars in millions)”:

Asset                                                    2007 Baseline                Revised Baseline                 % Change

NSC                                                             3,450                                 4,749                                  38
FRC                                                             3,206                                 4,243                                  32
OPC                                                             8,098                         Not yet revised                         —
Cutter Small Boats                                       110                          Not yet revised                         — (see b. below)
MEC Sustainment                                        317                                       321                                    1
Patrol Boat Sustainment                             117                                       194                                 66
MPA                                                             1,706                                  2,400                                  41
C-130J                                                               11                                       176                             1,500 (see c. below)
C-130H                                                            610                                      745                                  22
HH-65                                                             741                                    1,242                                  68 (see d. below)
HH-60                                                             451                                       487                                    8
UAS (unmanned air system)                     503                           Not yet revised                         —
C4ISR                                                            1,353                                   2,522                                  86
Other Deepwater                                        3,557                           No revision expected              — (see e. below)
Total                                                           24,230                                   29,347                                21

There were some notes with this, including some that explained some of the increased costs:

If the revised baselines present both threshold costs (the maximum costs allowable before a
breach occurs) and objective costs (the minimum cost expected), threshold costs are used. An
acquisition program baseline breach of cost, schedule, or performance is an inability to meet the
threshold value of the specific parameter.

a. When a revised baseline is not available, the 2007 baseline cost is carried forward for calculating
the total revised baseline cost.

b. The cutter small boat program includes two different versions of small boats. Only one had an
approved revised baseline as of May 2011.

c. The acquisition costs are related to the mission system. The original HC-130J baseline only included
costs associated with the fleet introduction of missionized aircraft and did not include the cost of
acquiring the mission system and logistics support of the first six aircraft, and the revised baseline
corrected this omission.

d. The 2007 approved baseline did not include airborne use of force, National Capital Region Air
Defense, and the surface search radar for the HH-65. The addition of these capabilities constitutes
about $420 million of the revised costs.

e. Includes other Deepwater costs, such as program management, that the Coast Guard states do not
require a new baseline.

Additional note from page 13, “The original 2007 estimate for one OPC was approximately $320 million. However, the Coast Guard’s fiscal years 2012-2016 capital investment plan cites a planned $640 million in fiscal year 2015 for the lead cutter. Coast Guard resource and acquisition directorate officials stated that this $640 million is a point estimate for the lead cutter, some design work, and project management”

If we look at only the programs that have had revised baseline (these make up 64% of the 2007 baseline), the cost growth has actually been 33% and even that cost is not really reliable since, in some cases, prices have increased since the revised baseline. The true cost of the eight NSCs for which good cost information is now available is expected to be approximately $5.6B, a 62% increase over the 2007 baseline. There is also still considerable uncertainty about the final cost of the unmanned air systems and the C4ISR systems.


The second dimension that GAO regards as unachievable is projected delivery schedule. Figure 3 on page 16 shows scheduled deliveries of the final item in each of the several projects, as originally scheduled in the Baseline document approved in 2007, as approved in subsequent baseline revisions, and as projected in the FY2012-2016 Capital Investment Plan (CIP) and the projected delay, comparing the 2007 baseline and the 2012-2016 CIP. Because the projected costs exceed likely funding, they believe that even the FY2012-2016 Capital Investment Plan schedule is “unachievable.”

Asset                                                    2007 Baseline    Revised Baseline      2012-2016 CIP     Projected Delay (years)
NSC                                                              2014                        2016                       2018                            4
FRC                                                              2016                        2021                       2022                            6
MEC Sustainment                                    2016                        2017                       2014                     (2 years early)
Patrol Boat Sustainment                         2013                        2014                           —                               ?
MPA                                                            2016                        2020                      2025                             9
C-130J                                                        2009                        2011                       2011                              2
C-130H                                                       2017                         2017                       2022                             5
HH-65                                                        2013                        2020                      2020                             7
HH-60                                                       2019                        2020                      2020                              1
C4ISR                                                        2014                        2027                       2025                             11
OPC                                                            2021                          —                          2031                              10

You might note that the Cutter boats and Unmanned Air Systems are not included in this table.


Beginning on page 30 the study notes, “Key Decisions Remain for Assets in Design to Ensure Promised Capabilities Are Achieved.”

The primary technical risk appears to be the C4ISR system which was to tie the “system of systems” together and allow the service to perform the missions with few (but more capable) assets. The CG has apparently already backed away from the concept of providing all units a common operational picture. The all singing, all dancing NTDS with pictures now appears both unnecessary and too expensive. The additional overhead in maintaining classified material may also a consideration. What the Coast Guard will ultimately choose was undecided when the study was written.

By far the largest chunk of  “Deepwater” AC&I money is expected to go for the twenty-five Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC). “DHS approved the OPC’s requirements document in October 2010 despite unresolved concerns about three key performance parameters—seakeeping, speed, and range—that shape a substantial portion of the cutter’s design. For example, DHS questioned the need for the cutter to conduct full operations during difficult sea conditions, which impact the weight of the cutter and ultimately its cost. The Coast Guard has stated that limiting the ability to conduct operations during difficult sea conditions would preclude operations in key mission areas. While it approved the OPC requirements document, DHS at the same time commissioned a study to further examine these three key performance parameters. According to Coast Guard officials, the study conducted by the Center for Naval Analysis found that the three key performance parameters were reasonable, accurate, and adequately documented.”–That is the good news–The GAO again took the CG to task because it has not completed a Fleet Mix Study that can be used for determining trade-offs (page 45/46), but noted that DHS is doing one that includes an updated 270 and the Littoral Combat Ship as alternatives.

The report talks about a number of remaining issues, some of which have already been corrected, some of which sound like typical teething problems for new systems. One that does bother me is that the helo haul down and traversing system referred to as “ASSIST,” has been found unsatisfactory. The CG, having already bought four systems and equipping one helicopter, is now looking at the system the Navy uses (p. 40). I’m a bit surprised we didn’t go to the Navy system first for the sake of commonality.


The Deepwater systems are not “unachievable” in the literal sense. The question remains, will it be pursued? and will it be pursued in a reasonably expeditious fashion?

The decision to “outsource” to ICGS (Integrated Coast guard Systems) was a mistake, but it was what the government was encouraging at the time. The 2007 baseline was the best the CG could do at the time, but it was inevitably flawed having been tainted by the “puffing” of contractors who were at best overly optimistic.  Actual costs have exceeded estimates but they are not out of line compared to similar DOD programs. As I understand it, the Coast Guard engineering staffs had been gutted in previous economy moves so it is not surprising they did not get it 100% correct first try. To hold the CG to the 2007 baseline is simply unrealistic. The Question remains, does the nation want the CG to have a presence in the offshore regions? The Navy is shrinking and will not fill that void.  Dragging out the procurement will only result in higher prices in the end.


Deepwater program “Unachievable”–GAO, Part One

The GAO has issued a status report on the Coast Guard’s “Deepwater” programs. The Navy Times has a pretty good summary. (Note the Coast Guard has requested that the “Deepwater” designation be dropped, but it had not happened when the report was issued.)

Based on the the GAO report, we can expect that the programs will both cost more and take longer than planned. In fact these two problems appear to be mutually reinforcing. Because the costs are higher, the schedule is stretched out. Because the schedule is stretched out, the cost goes up.

Illustration below: The plan–six years ago


You can see the entire GAO report (pdf format) here. Below is the GAO’s own summary of the report taken from the “recommendations” page associated with this report on their web site.

“The Deepwater Program includes efforts to build or modernize ships and aircraft, including supporting capabilities. In 2007, the Coast Guard took over the systems integrator role from Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) and established a $24.2 billion program baseline which included schedule and performance parameters. Last year, GAO reported that Deepwater had exceeded cost and schedule parameters, and recommended a comprehensive study to assess the mix of assets needed in a cost-constrained environment given the approved baseline was no longer feasible. GAO assessed the (1) extent to which the program is exceeding the 2007 baseline and credibility of selected cost estimates and schedules; (2) execution, design, and testing of assets; and (3) Coast Guard’s efforts to conduct a fleet mix analysis. GAO reviewed key Coast Guard documents and applied criteria from GAO’s cost guide.

“The Deepwater Program continues to exceed the cost and schedule baselines approved by DHS in 2007, but several factors continue to preclude a solid understanding of the program’s true cost and schedule. The Coast Guard has developed baselines for some assets that indicate the estimated total acquisition cost could be as much as $29.3 billion, or about $5 billion over the $24.2 billion baseline. But additional cost growth is looming because the Coast Guard has yet to develop revised baselines for all assets, including the OPC–the largest cost driver in the program. In addition, the Coast Guard’s most recent capital investment plan indicates further cost and schedule changes not yet reflected in the asset baselines, contributing to the approved 2007 baseline no longer being achievable. The reliability of the cost estimates and schedules for selected assets is also undermined because the Coast Guard did not follow key best practices for developing these estimates. Coast Guard and DHS officials agree that the annual funding needed to support all approved Deepwater baselines exceeds current and expected funding levels, which affects some programs’ approved schedules. The Coast Guard’s acquisition directorate has developed action items to help address this mismatch by prioritizing acquisition program needs, but these action items have not been adopted across the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard continues to strengthen its acquisition management capabilities, but is faced with several near-term decisions to help ensure that assets still in design will meet mission needs. For example, whether or not the planned system-of-systems design is achievable will largely depend upon remaining decisions regarding the design of the command and control system. Important decisions related to the affordability, feasibility, and capability of the OPC also remain. For those assets under construction and operational, preliminary tests have yielded mixed results and identified concerns, such as design issues, to be addressed prior to initial operational test and evaluation. The Coast Guard is gaining a better understanding of cost, schedule, and technical risks, but does not always fully convey these risks in reports to Congress. As lead systems integrator, the Coast Guard planned to complete a fleet mix analysis to eliminate uncertainty surrounding future mission performance and produce a baseline for Deepwater. This analysis, which the Coast Guard began in 2008, considered the current program to be the “floor” for asset capabilities and quantities and did not impose cost constraints on the various fleet mixes. Consequently, the results will not be used for trade-off decisions. The Coast Guard has now begun a second analysis, expected for completion this summer, which includes an upper cost constraint of $1.7 billion annually–more than Congress has appropriated for the entire Coast Guard acquisition portfolio in recent years. DHS is also conducting a study to gain insight into alternatives that may include options that are lower than the program of record for surface assets. A DHS official stated that this analysis and the Coast Guard’s fleet mix analysis will provide multiple data points for considering potential changes to the program of record, but Coast Guard officials stated they have no intention of examining fleet mixes smaller than the current, planned Deepwater program. GAO is making recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that include identifying trade-offs to the planned Deepwater fleet and ensuring the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) design is achievable and to the Coast Guard that include identifying priorities, incorporating cost and schedule best practices, increasing confidence that assets will meet mission needs, and reporting complete information on risks to Congress in a timely manner. DHS concurred with the recommendations.”

For those of you who don’t want to wade through the entire report, I’ll be revisiting this topic to highlight GAO’s reservations regarding costs, scheduling, and capabilities.


UAVs Starting to Score

From U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs, “EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) — During a routine test flight, a MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Take-off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) supported its first drug interdiction with USS McInerney (FFG 8) and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (USCG LEDET) Apr. 3.” Read the rest of the story here.

Looks like UAVs are starting to show what they can do. UAVs flying from the Seychelles, in this case Air Force MQ-9s Reapers, are also having some success looking for pirates.

Hope we start seeing some Coast Guard use of these assets soon.

More news on the 123 WPB front

As reported here there is more news on the 123 WPB legal fight:

“Yesterday the United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division denied a motion to dismiss Deepwater whistleblower Michael DeKort’s false claims act suit against Integrated Coast Guard Systems LLC (ICGS) and Lockheed Martin Corporation. The court has not prevented the case from moving forward, finding that DeKort’s allegations to be true, ‘well-pleaded factual allegations.'”…

Check the link for more details and background.