that we can put the new ships out
on the water. Bertholf, the first ship
… is on patrol today. We’ve got the
Waesche, the second ship, at 85
percent complete looking at
builder’s trials this summer, with
delivery here shortly after acceptance trials. And then we’ve got
construction on Stratton
proceeding. The proposal that we’ve asked
Northrop Grumman to bid on
[beyond production for NSC 4,
which is in the 2010 budget proposal, is] options for long-lead
[materials] for NSC 5 [and] NSC 6,
and production of NSC 5 all in the
same contract. Now, those are
options. They’re not funded at this
point, but we want to have those
things in place so when money
does become available, we can immediately execute
Do you think eight NSCs are enough and when
would a discussion start on whether more are
RÁBAGO: Right now, we have eight and that was
planned with the original Deepwater plan. It was based
on the capabilities the NSC will provide the Coast
Guard and, as we go out and operate Bertholf in situations, we can use that information to inform us exactly
what kinds of capabilities [we need]. Right now, eight
is the number. We’re focused on getting eight out.
We don’t know if we’ll have conversations about
more. That will probably depend on the missions that
the Coast Guard is given, if they vary and, also, how the
NSC performs. Right now, we’re really excited about
how the ship is performing. In one year, to go from the
shipyard to out on patrol, is really remarkable.
Would it be easier to upgrade the current fleet
of icebreakers or build a new one?
RÁBAGO: We don’t really have the answer yet. It probably depends on how much you upgrade. Right now, we
have $30 million appropriated to do some of the
upgrades on Polar Star. It was estimated we needed at
least that much to finish that initial work to be able to
go to sea. And then, obviously, that’s not the full range
of work that would need to be done to have her be in
extended service for a number of years.
So it becomes a question of how long would you
like the ship to run and then you would have to apportion the effort and the dollars to whatever your expectation was.
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009
Is the service still looking at buying an unmanned
aerial vehicle between fiscal 2011 and 2013?
RÁBAGO: Probably somewhere in that time frame. It
depends on how the testing goes with Fire Scout and
then, also, some of the demonstration work we’re doing.
We see [Predator and Fire Scout] being great prospects
for us. They’re progressing along and we don’t see any
obstructions as they go. Then the question becomes,
what’s the right acquisition strategy for us? Is it a buy?
Is it a lease? Is it work with the Navy, work with CBP
[Customs and Border Protection] and see how best to
do it? We haven’t made that decision.
Earlier this year, the Coast Guard told Congress
that the Deepwater program likely will go over
budget by $2 billion. What can you do during
your tenure to help cut this down?
RÁBAGO: As time marches on and programs stretch, the
costs go up. Once we have the initial work done on an
asset like we do on the NSC, next is to work hard to get as
many on contract as quickly as we can once we understand the risks and have managed them. Get it on contract
and buy as soon as we can, because that will reduce the
cost of the project or program. Every time we stretch a
project, there are additional costs that go along with that.
Again, we have the other drivers, the urgency to replace
our old ships, and so both of those are things I will try to
do … as quickly as I can, given the budgets that we have.
Is Deepwater at that point where it’s going to be
impossible to get it back to the $24 billion cost
figure based on how its projects are going now?
RÁBAGO: The contract was awarded in the first part of
2002 and all the preliminary work had been done two