GAO: Affordability of Cutters, Icebreakers a Concern

USCG Icebreaker Polar Star (WAGB-10)

The Coast Guard’s plans for modernizing its cutter fleet remain a concern to congressional auditors, who say that the service has yet to articulate how it will afford both its future Offshore Patrol Cutters and new Polar Icebreakers.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a July 25 report “Coast Guard Acquisitions: Limited Strategic Planning Efforts Pose Risk for Future Acquisitions,” noted, “Coast Guard officials stated that they are developing a 20-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP), but the timeframe for completion is unknown.”

The report notes that the Coast Guard is procuring its new Offshore Patrol Cutter “which is estimated to cost $12.1 billion through 2032.”

The report also said the service estimates a cost of approximately $75 million for a limited service life extension of its only operational polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and that the it intends to take delivery of the first new heavy icebreaker in 2023.

“This delivery schedule poses potential risk as the required acquisition documents may not be completed in time to award the contract in 2019, as currently scheduled,” the report said. “Further, in order to meet this accelerated schedule, the first polar icebreaker would need to be fully funded in fiscal year 2019 with a preliminary cost estimate of $1.15 billion, alongside the Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition.

“The Coast Guard has not articulated how it will prioritize its acquisition needs given its Offshore Patrol Cutter is expected to absorb half to two-thirds of its annual acquisition funding requests — based on recent funding history — starting in 2018,” the report said.

The Coast Guard selected Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Fla., in September to build the Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), with an award of $110.3 million to complete the ship’s detailed design. Options for the construction of nine OPCs are available in the contract. Construction of the first OPC is scheduled to being next year. Delivery of the lead ship is planned for 2021. The Coast Guard plans to procure 25 OPCs.


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