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Outstanding Quote

February 15, 2010

The following timely comment is from David Helvarg of Blue Frontier:

So when you look at the collapse of global fisheries and rise of piracy, seaborne migrants, coastal populations at risk, the growth of commercial shipping and impacts of fossil-fuel fired climate change including the opening of U.S. Arctic waters, the sensible response would be to double the Coast Guard in this decade and double it again by 2030 so it’s closer in size to the U.S. Marine Corps than the New York Police Department.

I would be happy if we could at least provide the Coasties with adequate vessels. Did you read this by Susan Schept at the Navy Times?

The Coast Guard responded first to Haiti after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake Jan. 12, but two of the 12 cutters that responded were in such embarrassingly bad shape that they had to leave for repairs, according to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen. Ten needed serious work.

Just heartbreaking when you recall the stellar performance of the service during Hurricane Katrina, just one of many recent National crises  in which the aging cutters were prepared for duty on a shoe-string budget.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 16, 2010 3:39 pm

    Considering the multi-crew concept, I have my doubts. Here is a brief explanation from the official USCG acquisitions web site:

    http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/NSC/crewing.asp

    “Initially, the Coast Guard will employ four crews for three NSCs at a single homeport, rotating the cutters among the crews to limit crew PERSTEMPO to 185 days while maintaining each cutter’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) at 230 days. The three-cutter, four-crew prototype will be evaluated in 2009 through an operational testing-and-evaluation process. Policy and procedures for CRC are based on the lessons learned by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, as well as consideration of the recommendations made by auditors from the Government Accountability Office.”

    First assuming the projections are correct, we are replacing 12 ships which would provide 2,220 operating days with eight ships that will provide at best 1,840.

    Then you will also note that the presumption is that the ships will be operated in groups of three from the same home port, but there are only eight ships planned, meaning there will be a rump group of two somewhere. Will they be operated by three crews or by a single crew per ship.

    What we hope to save here is acquisition cost because the operating costs per op day cannot be lowered by strategy and actually be higher. I don’t know the projected life cycle costs for the National Security cutters, but in general, I’ve heard that the acquisition costs for similar systems is about 15% of the life cycle cost. Fuel and personnel costs are the real driver. Fuel costs should be the same per op day. Personnel costs will actually be higher, since each crew under the multi-crewing concept will only provide 172.5 op days instead of 185, so personnel costs will be 7.25% higher.

    In addition, because the ship will only be in port 135 days a year instead of 180 days a year there will be fewer opportunities for the crew to make repairs and these repairs, normally done by the crew, will have to be done by contractors at additional costs.

    I would also note that the acquisition costs we hope to save actually decline as we add more ships. Four additional units are likely to cost far less on the average than the first 8. There is also the long term value of having four additional ships in hand if the country should need them in the future.

    Frankly I don’t think we will see any significant savings from this manning approach and it may actually cost us in the long run.

    If a truly convincing argument can be made for the concept, I would like to see it. And if the argument involves lower overhead because we get more “mission” op days compared to RefTra day, remember the reason we go is to train the crews, not the ships, so every crew will need to go.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 16, 2010 4:40 am

    Chuck wrote “They are building only 8 ships to replace 12, depending on multiple crewing to provide the additional days.”

    Doing more with less. Self induced decline. They’ve caught this philosophy from the USN except neither can their highly capable platforms being in more place than once, since you can’t duplicate availability.

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 16, 2010 2:28 am

    Got curious about the medium endurance cutters (MECs), the youngest three ships entered service in 1990, almost 20 years ago, the oldest three entered service in 1964, almost 46 years ago. The average age of the 28 ships is over 33 years. The entire class of 14 “Reliance” Class 210 foot cutter is over 40 years old.

    At least the replacements for the High Endurance Cutters are being built. The first National Security Cutter has already completed a patrol and the fifth ship of the class is being funded next year.
    They are building only 8 ships to replace 12, depending on multiple crewing to provide the additional days, which I find questionable.

    Design money for the MECs is in the 2011 budget. It appears certain that all the 210s will reach 50 years of service before they are replaced.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 15, 2010 6:30 pm

    Chuck, it is most perplexing and distressing.

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 15, 2010 6:16 pm

    From the US Naval Institute Blog:

    http://blog.usni.org/2010/02/13/the-state-of-the-coast-guard-2010-by-the-numbers/#comments

    “10, The number of aging Cutters that suffered severe mission affecting casualties during their Haiti response of which two needed emergency repairs and one ended up in emergency drydock;
    “18, The number of months the Cutters DALLAS and GALLATIN were in drydock;
    “30, The age of our two polar ice breakers;
    “41, The average age of our High Endurance Cutters (WHEC) compared to that of the U.S. Navy with an average of 14″

    I might add that the average age of the medium endurance cutters is similar to that of the WHECs.

    Don’t really know the size of the Marine Corp, but the USCG is about 40,000 so I think you would have to increase the size of the USCG 700% to get it the same size as the Marine Corp.

    Can’t believe the administration is cutting the Coast Guard budget next year.

    The Coast Guard has a very effective public/private partnership called the Coast Guard Auxiliary which gives a huge return on investment.

  6. February 15, 2010 12:51 pm

    I think these problems show governance problems. So I suggest privatizing more and public – private partnerships of some kinds. And the solutions should be more agile, more entrepreneurial, not strongly linked to central authority or law. Living systems should be monitoring on a living system basis, not with dead rules.

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