Accelerating the Deepwater program and building a larger fleet of National Security Cutters were the focus of my questions to RADM Gary T. Blore, USCG, during a recent DOD Bloggers Roundtable. Dating back to my days on Capitol Hill, I have felt that 25 years was way too long to modernize our Coast Guard. Moreover, I have also thought the Coast Guard should procure more than 8 National Security Cutters.
How much money could you save if the Deepwater program was accelerated? Because it’s been stretched out over 25 years. If you’d done it over 10 to 12 years — and if you could, which programs could be accelerated today?
ADM. BLORE: … in very gross terms — this goes back to some studies that were done in 2003, 2004, so to get anything, you know, reasonably accurate, we would need to take a look at that. But I think — and this is largely based on, I think, some work that RAND and the Center for Naval Analysis did. And they estimated, out of the $24 billion program, that about 10 percent, or $2-1/2 billion, could be saved by accelerating the program. And again, that is a very rough figure that was used back at that time. And a lot of that has to do with, you know, economic order quantities and, you know, maximizing production rates and that sort of thing.
The programs that would have been accelerated — and I think has been our position that if the Congress asked us to accelerate acquisition — would be those programs that are running and successful, so Response Boat-Medium, our patrol boat contract, you know, those lines — the maritime patrol aircraft — those lines that are already producing.
There are some risks to accelerating programs that aren’t in production. There is wisdom to the schedule that acquisition uses so that we make sure all the checks and balances are in place before the product line starts. Once the product line starts then you — very low risk to accelerate up to the maximum that the production line can produce.
Could the National Security Cutter be accelerated?
ADM. BLORE: It could, probably less so than some of the other projects, just because there’s limited capacity at the shipyard in Pascagoula, but it could be accelerated somewhat.
Why are eight national-security cutters replacing a dozen Secretary-class cutters? Why not, like, a one-for-one basis?
ADM. BLORE: The question is why do we have eight national-security cutters replacing 12 high-endurance cutters. When the Deepwater project was originally formulated in the late ’90s, they did use cost as a variable parameter to organize the overall system that was going to replace the Coast Guard assets at the time. And they were allowed to make tradeoffs. So, for example, if, you know, you were going to get more capabilities in aviation that were going to replace some capabilities on the surface side, they were allowed to do those sorts of mixes as the three consortiums that competed for that made their final proposals. So one is there was a tradeoff within the overall mix within the Coast Guard.
The second thing is, the national-security cutter, if you take each individual national-security cutter, it provides about 50 more days away from home port than the 378 does. It is also more capable for each day it’s under way than the 378. And I think if you do the hours, you’re correct, it doesn’t quite equal, you know, 12 times — what is it for a 378? — 130, I think, or somewhere around there, versus eight times 170 days. But it was their attempt to optimize the system — “they” being Integrated Coast Guard Systems at the time. And again, given the cost parameters, given the overall system mix, the determination was made that eight fairly expensive — in comparison to the other assets — national-security cutters was the right mix. There’s also a very robust off-shore patrol cutter, of which we would be building 25 new ones that would be coming in right after the national-security cutters. So I guess the other thing I would invite is, when you think of the mix of your replacing 12 with 8, remember that we’re also coming in with 25 new off-shore patrol cutters.
Full transcript of the interview can be found here.
Cross posted over at An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog
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