U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Aircraft May Fall To Cuts

By Michael Bruno
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

The vice commandant, Vice Adm. John Currier, told Hunter's panel that the Coast Guard and its parent Homeland Security Department are reviewing the acquisition portfolio, but that the service remains “committed to realizing a balanced force structure necessary to address future national interests in the maritime domain.”

While the results of the portfolio review, started in April, remain to be seen, the Coast Guard has not given up on gaining new equipment. Obama administration officials are looking at transferring at least 14 newly built Finmeccanica C-27J transports from the Air Force, which has controversially declared them “excess” to its needs. As CRS reported, if the Coast Guard were to receive 14 or more C-27s, it could stop procurement of EADS HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at the halfway point, with 18 aircraft, saving $887 million.

Already, EADS North America CEO Sean O'Keefe has acknowledged that his unit will fall short of meeting a long-held goal of $10 billion in revenues from North America by 2020. The company's UH-72 Lakotas for the Army also have been eyed by officials as a source of funding for other needs.

Ironically, in June the HC-144A was selected as Homeland Security's Acquisition Program of the Year, a point EADS's U.S. spokesman underscores. “The HC-144A Ocean Sentry is an indispensable asset not just because it can do the mission, but because it is highly cost-effective to own, maintain and operate—a critical consideration for any asset the Coast Guard takes into its inventory,” spokesman Guy Hicks argues.

Whether the service will receive the C-27s is not clear, according to O'Rourke, as a recently enacted law allowing the transfer does not appear to guarantee this outcome. For Coast Guard advocates, the lack of transfer would be just one more quiet insult for a service well-known for doing more with less.

“The men and women of the Coast Guard's unofficial motto seems to be 'We can do more with less,'” testified Navy Capt. (ret.) Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Unfortunately, in today's bureaucratic culture, you get even less if you do more, unless you mount a large public relations effort.”

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