June 06, 2012
Credit: USCG photo
The U.S. Coast Guard’s proposed fleet plan could still cost far more than the service anticipates, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says.
The Coast Guard completed a two-phased Fleet Mix Analysis that intended to eliminate uncertainty surrounding the future mission performance of the service’s fleet and produce a baseline for the acquisition of a majority of its assets, the GAO notes in a May 31 report.
Fleet Mix Analysis Phase One assessed surface, air, and information technology capabilities and mission demands in an unconstrained fiscal environment. The Coast Guard then factored in cost constraints, resulting in Fleet Mix Analysis Phase Two.
Seeking information to aid in making trade-offs, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at the suggestion of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), commissioned a Cutter Study looking at potential trade-offs within the Coast Guard’s major cutter fleet, which comprises National Security Cutters (NSCs) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs).
“Fleet Mix Phase One, which was not cost constrained, indicated that the planned program of record does not fully meet long-term strategic goals and found that, to meet these goals, the Coast Guard requires a fleet that could cost as much as $65 billion to acquire, which is about $40 billion more than the $24.2 billion program of record,” the GAO says.
“Coast Guard officials stated that the analysis supports the continued pursuit of the program of record,” the report says. “However, DHS Program Analysis & Evaluation (PA&E) and OMB officials told us that the analysis has limited utility without cost constraints and trade-offs.”
GAO says, “DHS PA&E officials stated that the usefulness of the Phase Two study is limited because it was based on the program of record. OMB officials added that the scenarios in the study were based on the program of record and only increase the total number of assets acquired.”
The DHS Cutter Study primarily demonstrated that the performance of the Coast Guard’s future fleet is dependent upon the “effective presence” of the assets, which, according to the Coast Guard, means having the right assets and capabilities at the right place at the right time, the GAO says
“However, the study did not fully consider how often the Coast Guard needs to operate in (certain) rougher waters,” it says. “The Cutter Study also examined the Coast Guard’s defense readiness mission and found that defense readiness is a key factor in determining the quantity of NSCs to purchase.”