The FY 2012 budget for “vessels” is a year without major funding for the National Security Cutter (NSC) project. It only includes $77M to finish funding the fifth ship. Consequently, even though vessel funding dropped from $851.7M in the FY2011 request to only $642M, we see the start of a program to update 140-foot WTGBs, 225-foot WLBs and 175- foot WLMs, beginning with the oldest WTGB and funding of five Mission Effectiveness Projects (MEP) for 270 foot WMECs. We also see an acceleration of the Response Boat-Medium and Fast Response Cutter Programs.
But of course the plan has been to complete the NSC program before starting the OPC program and having the first OPC delivered in 2019. I don’t see how this can happen without a major bump in AC&I funding or at least a major diversion from other areas. The funding for the first five NSCs was spread over eleven years. In the last ten budgets, from FY 2003-2012, NSC funding has averaged $312M. Only in FY 2011 did funding for the program approach the full cost of an NSC ($615M requested compared to a projected cost of $697M for NSC#5), that year, there was no funding for the Fast Response Cutter Program. The Coast Guard is unlikely to get $1.2B it needs in FY 2013/14/15 to complete the “In Service Vessel Sustainment” and WMEC Mission Effectiveness Projects and each year build:
- one NSC (approx. $700M)
- six FRC (approx. $350M)
- 40 Response Boat-Medium (approx $100M)
Short of canceling one or more of the NSCs (my preferred alternative), the only way to deliver an OPC by 2019 is to build the NSCs and OPCs in parallel.