Program Updates from a GAO Report

September 26, Fiercehomelandsecurity posted a story (“GAO: Not eliminating two National Security Cutters will cause ‘difficult choices'”) on a recent GAO report, “COAST GUARD, Portfolio Management Approach Needed to Improve Major Acquisition Outcomes” (download the report, GAO-12-918 (.pdf)).

I’m going to look at other aspects of the report later, but there were a number of items addressed in the report that readers may not be aware of. This is not an exhaustive list, the report contains even more, but I thought these most interesting. We may have touched on some of  these changes already, but here goes.


“DHS stated that future breaches in Coast Guard programs would almost be inevitable as funding resources diminish.” (p.17)

Maritime Domain Awareness/C4ISR:

Nationwide Automatic Identification System–Indefinitely deferring plan for continuous nationwide coverage. (p14)

Common Operating picture:

“The Coast Guard planned to buy an integrated C4ISR system for each asset to enable greater awareness. As we reported in July 2011, the Coast Guard has spent over $600 million purchasing a C4ISR system that is difficult to maintain and does not yet achieve the system-of systems capability and the Coast Guard’s helicopters are no longer going to be a part of this system” (p.26)

–Neither the OPC or the FRC are expected to be able to exchange near real time “battle data” (tactical data link?) with DOD assets. (p.25)

–Why don’t we use LINK 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals on all these platforms?

Fast Response Cutter:

“…the Coast Guard has attributed the more than $1 billion rise in the Fast Response Cutter’s cost to a reflection of actual contract cost from the September 2008 contract award and costs for shore facilities and initial spare parts not included in the original baseline.”


Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center told us they recently identified that the end of service life for the HH-60s and HH-65s could be reached as early as the 2022 time frame—not the 2027 time frame as originally planned. Officials added that this will require the Coast Guard to either buy new HH-60s and HH-65s or conduct a service life extension—previous service life extensions have been funded with acquisition dollars.(p16)

H-65 program: dropping both a helicopter handling, traversing, and securing system and a surface search radar. (p.13)

H-60 Program: deferring indefinitely upgrades to include a surface search radar and C4ISR due to budget constraints. (p.13)

A revise baseline program for C-130s has been forwarded DHS that recommends 11 H models and 11 J models (p.40) (I think this is an increase in the expected number of “J” models.)

Sanity Prevails:

The Coast Guard has dropped its plans to deliver boarding parties on potentially hostile ships by helicopter (p.27)

A Small Bit of Surprisingly Good News:

The National Security Cutter can do 32 knots (“speed is based on the results of an operational assessment” p. 32), making it almost certainly the fastest major cutter ever.

H-60s on National Security Cutters


As I suggested in the recent review of news from the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9),  I did ask Master Chief Brett Ayer (MCPO for CG-9), “Why is the Coast Guard using a different helo haul down and traversing system from Navy?"(RAST) I thought perhaps he would answer in the newsletter, but instead he answered me directly:

"If you are talking about the ASIST system, it was installed on the first few NSCs under Deepwater. As you know Deepwater was a performance type contract with ICGS. We provided our performance requirements and it was up to them to figure out the best way to meet them.

"My understanding is that we did not specifically spec ASIST. The Coast Guard had a requirement for recovering helicopters and ASIST is what ICGS provided (it met requirements).

"As you know Deepwater is not longer a program, and we are now managing our own acquisitions (although a few Deepwater contracts are still in effect for a little while longer).

"Since the original Deepwater requirements were put together, a few things have changed, one of which is that the Coast Guard had decided that we will not deploy H60s on our cutters. This changes the helicopter handling requirements and somewhat negates the need for the ASIST (or similar) systems. I do not believe the MH65 (as configured) is compatible with either ASIST or RAST.

"Our needs for shipboard handing of helicopters in currently under review, and I have no doubt that we will look at the Navy and their systems as a possible option"

In response to his e-mail I mentioned the discussion in the comments section of an earlier post regarding the possibility of  H-60s could operate from the National Security Cutters. this was his response:

"I think the confusion has to do with the decision not to deploy H-60s on cutters. The NSC were initially designed to deploy HH-60s equipped with the ASIST system.

"However as I stated, the Coast Guard made the decision that the MH-65 would be the primary cutter deployed helicopter not the HH-60. Because of this the Coast Guard never outfitted our HH-60s with the ASIST hardware, they also removed the blade folding equipment from the HH-60s and added other external equipment that makes them incompatible with cutter deployment.

"So in short the HH-60 can operate off the NCSs, but it cannot use the ASIST system and there is no way to fold the blades. This is not a limitation of the NSC, but of the helicopter configuration and policy.

"I cannot answer the question about the Navy HH-60s, but I will ask someone who should have the answer"

I hope the decision not to use the CG MH-60 as a ship board helo does not mean the previous plan to provide accommodations for H-60s on Offshore Patrol Cutter will not be scaled back to accommodate only the H-65. The ability to operate and service H-60s is a potentially important military capability and also will allow the Coast Guard more options when it ultimately replaces the H-65.