Decommissioning the 110s

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Photo: USAF photo, USCGC MUSTANG (WPB 1310), underway at Port Valdez, Alaska, while providing harbor security during Exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002.

The Coast Guard recently commissioned its eighth Webber Class Fast Response Cutter, and it has accepted the ninth. Since these are replacements for the 110 foot Island class, we should not be surprised that Island class cutters are being decommissioned.

This is the first I have heard about since the decommissioning of the 123 conversions: USCGC Bainbridge Island (WPB-1343).

The FY2015 budget provides for decommissioning eight 110s.

The Coast Guard plans on 58 Webber class, so presumably they would want to retain enough 110s to provide a total of 58 larger patrol craft with the 110s filling in until replaced by the new ships. It does not look like this will happen. Since the decommissioning of eight Island class as a result of the failure of the 123 conversion, there have been 41 Island class WPBs. Adding the Webber class WPCs currently commissioned that gives the Coast Guard a total of 49 large patrol craft. It appears the total will not exceed 49 at any time in the foreseeable future.

If 110s are decommissioned at the same rate Webber class are built, the number may stabilize at 49. If on the other hand the Coast Guard is unable to keep these older vessels going, the total is likely to drop. If that happen, as little as I like the idea of multiple crews, perhaps it is time to look at multi-crewing the Webber Class. .

OPC Multi-Year Procurement-a Clarification

I have been made aware that the earlier post on this topic might lead to some confusion. Lets look at it in more detail. This is what the bill actually says about this,

“SEC. 215. MULTIYEAR PROCUREMENT AUTHORITY FOR OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTERS.

” In fiscal year 2015 and each fiscal year thereafter, the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating may enter into, in accordance with section 2306b of title 10, United States Code, multiyear contracts for the procurement of Offshore Patrol Cutters and  associated equipment.”

First, it should be apparent that this applies only to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). This will not help with the Fast Response Cutter (FRC) program.

Second it refers specifically to section 2306b of title 10, the section governing muti-year procurements (MYP), which brings with it some specific requirements, one of which is that to be eligible for consideration for a multi-year procurement, the program must be  “stable.” In the case of shipbuilding, this usually means that the first ship is at least complete. That will probably be in 2020, by which time, at least the first three ships should have already been contracted.

There is a form of contracting that would provide many of the advantages of multi-year procurement (MYP) that can include these first few ships, this is Block Buy Contracting (BBC) as was used at the start of the Navy’s current submarine program, but that was not what was authorized.

Clearly the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants to allow the Coast Guard to exploit potentially more efficient forms of contracting, but the potential of multi-year procurement of OPCs is still years away. If they want to realize savings earlier, they will need to authorize Block Buy Contracting for the Offshore Patrol Cutters and/or Multi-Year Procurement for the Fast Response Cutters.

There is another issue here also. That is the disagreement between the Department and Administration (in the form of OMB) on one side and the Coast Guard and some members of Congress on the other about what elements of the project must be funded before it is considered fully funded and a contract can be awarded. This is a funding approach question. and it is actually not directly connected to the contracting mechanism. Authorizing MYP does not resolve this disagreement. The Department and Administration’s apparent reticence may be symptomatic of a desire to delay committing, which would work against the long term commitment required for a multi-year procurement, but it should be obvious to anyone that while the final number of OPCs may be open for debate, the Coast Guard does need at least the eleven that are currently planned to be included (one contracted and ten as options) in the initial construction contract.

Honoring More CG Heroes–Naming Ten More Cutters

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US Coast Guard Illustration

As names were announced for the first fourteen Webber class Fast Response Cutters, the official USCG blog, “Coast Guard Compass” gave a short description of the service of the enlisted heroes these ships were named for. (You can find links to these fourteen posts here.)

Now ten more names have been selected and Coast Guard Compass is again posting descriptions of their service. The first five are:

Getting Outflanked along the California Coast

FierceHomelandSecurity is reporting the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection are admitting that Pangas smuggling north from Mexico are going around existing patrols. Shouldn’t surprise anyone, there is a lot of money in it. In addition to drugs they could be  smuggling terrorist just as easily.

Perhaps we need a few of those Webber Class WPCs in the Pacific. Reportedly the administration is taking another look at border security. Its time to make our case that the water side is way too porous.

Seventh Webber Class WPC to be Commissioned Saturday, 16 Nov.

Press release announcing the planned commissioning of the seventh Fast Response Cutter, Charles W. David, Jr. (WPC-1107) (The press release says, this is “…the eighth Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) to arrive to Coast Guard Seventh District”  but by my count this is the seventh to be commissioned. Suppose it may be possible both statement are true. Last one commissioned was Paul Clark, on 24 August.) They are coming out at approx. three month intervals.

This will be the first FRC homeported in Key West.

Six more FRCs and Approval of Full Rate Production, Time for a Multi-year Contract

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You may have already seen that the Coast Guard exercised a $250.7M option for six more Webber Class WPCs (Fast Response Cutters). I have seen it reported in six to eight different blogs. Here is the Acquisition Directorates (CG-9) news release. These will be units 19 though 24 of the class.

It is certainly welcome news, but I is worth remembering that this was not in the original budget request. A year ago I reported a similar event, the exercise of an option for six FRCs when only two had been requested in the budget. I called for a multi-year contract at that time.

Quoting the CG-9 news release, “This contract action follows the Sentinel-class FRC acquisition project receiving DHS approval to enter full-rate production Sept. 18, 2013.   Also known as the “Produce, Deploy and Support” acquisition phase, approval was granted after the cutter successfully completed Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).  This approval allows the Coast Guard to continue with FRC acquisitions.”

A year ago three vessels had been delivered, now we have seven. FY2014 is the last year of the current contract with Bollinger. In February 2012, the Coast Guard exercised a $27.2M option to purchase the “Procurement and Data License Package” for the Cutters so the Coast Guard now owns the design which would allow other shipyards to bid to build follow-on ships of the same class.

Everything is in place to make this program a multi-year procurement. We have a proven design that we wish to procure in fairly large numbers, 34 more over at least the next six fiscal years, and the Coast Guard owns the design. The Coast Guard can put the contract out to bid, if not FY2014, at least by in FY-2015.

All the most successful Navy ship building contracts (DDGs and SSNs) have been multi-year contracts.  These contracts are a win-win-win. The shipyard gets steady work that they can make a rational plan to fulfill efficiently. The service gets a predictable stream of new ships, and the nation saves from five to 15% on the cost of the assets. Its time the Coast Guard took advantage of this option.

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USCGC Margaret Norvell, USCG photo

Robert Yered Commmissioned

The forth Webber Class Fast Response Cutter Robert Yered (WPC-1104) has been commissioned. This Miami Herald report includes some good video, including structural test firing of the ships weapons, mooring using a wired remote controller they call a pendant, and interior shots from the ship.

The bridge is certainly large; so large it was apparently used for the pre-fire brief. The watch will need to be careful not to be distracted, if meetings on the bridge becomes common.

This report mentions that the cutter is capable of 32 knots, which is substantially more than the usually reported 28 knots.

This report from NavalToday, includes a video with a more personal look at the heritage the ship represents.