Africa — so I do believe we should
think this through again. Also, it’s
not clear that the Navy’s Littoral
Combat Ship makes more sense
than the NSC; perhaps we need
a more full-throated roles-and-
missions debate between the Coast
Guard and Navy.”
O’Hanlon believes the debate
should begin sooner rather than
later. If it’s determined that the
Coast Guard should take on addi-
tional missions, O’Hanlon favors
building more NSCs.
Despite the increased attention to
maintenance, a majority of the
HECs are breaking down more often
due to age.
“The trend line has actually been
going that way for several years.
When you start looking at the data,
it’s just reaching the point where it’s
getting painful the last couple of
years. And as the cutters have been
aging, [repairs have] been coming
like a freight train,” said Capt. Mark Butt, commander
of the Coast Guard’s Surface Forces Logistics Center.
The service has been modifying all of its cutter-class
maintenance plans in recent months to add more anticorrosion work. Corrosion is considered one of the top
mission degraders for the cutters, especially on those
built 40 to 50 years ago.
“If we didn’t work this into the plan, it would end up
costing us more to tie the boats at the dock and wait until
we get funding to do a complete overhaul,” Butt said.
The Coast Guard is also going back to manufacturers to try to get longer contracts to repair parts. Service
officials said the extended contracts should give the
manufacturers incentives to fix problems such as
engine or propeller issues on the older cutters.
“Our objective is to keep the HECs in mission-ready
state for as far as possible with the resources that we
have,” said Capt. Marc LeBeau, long-range enforcer product line manager.
Butt said repair costs for the Coast Guard’s entire
fleet, including emergency dry docks, have risen significantly over the last four years. As an example, he said
HEC maintenance and repairs cost $20.7 million in fiscal 2006. That jumped to $44.2 million in fiscal 2010.
“As far as reducing the costs, we’re way past that
point,” Butt said. “The key right now is controlling the
costs and being able to take whatever funding we get and
maximize the number of cutter days we’re able to get.
We’re going to end up losing cutters days though.” ■
U.S. COAST GUARD
The High-Endurance Cutter Hamilton arrives at the Coast Guard Station
Juneau, Alaska, pier Feb. 4 after spending three months patrolling in the Bering
Sea. Hamilton, which was commissioned in 1967, will be decommissioned in
May along with Chase as the High-Endurance Cutter class makes way for the
National Security Cutter fleet.
to use parts from decommissioned HECs on the cutters
that remain in service. The plan is to have at least one
or two HECs last the full decade it will take to get all
the NSCs in service.
The Coast Guard will begin testing a multicrew concept on the NSCs within the next year in an effort to
find a solution to the service gap. The plan would call
for the cutters to maintain four crews, instead of three,
which would allow crews to be rotated out while the
cutter remains in service. The concept would allow the
NSC to be out to sea for 240 days per year instead of
the traditional 185.
A challenge with this plan is that the amount of
maintenance time a cutter would have at the dock
would be significantly decreased. The service is working closely with Military Sealift Command — whose
vessels also conduct lengthy patrols in support of
Department of Defense missions — to understand how
it operates with fewer maintenance days.
A definitive plan must be in place when all NSCs are
delivered and in service.
Michael O’Hanlon, a national security and defense
policy expert at the Washington-based Brookings
Institute, said he believes a further analysis should be
done about how many NSCs the Coast Guard needs.
“[The commandant] seems to believe eight is
enough for current missions,” O’Hanlon said. “But I
believe there is a case for adding to our missions — in
overseas theaters like the Western Pacific and parts of