will be evaluated by the Coast Guard and one contractor
will be selected to continue into Phase II — detailed
design and construction. Phase II is planned for fiscal
2016 and will include additional options for production
of the lead OPC and up to 10 additional cutters.
During his State of the Coast Guard address Feb. 24 in
Washington, ADM Paul F. Zukunft said the procurement
of that fleet would be the most important acquisition priority of his four-year tenure as commandant. He took over
the post in May from now-retired ADM Robert J. Papp Jr.
The 25-ship program is expected to cost more than
$12 billion. It will be the Coast Guard’s most expensive
program, about twice the cost of the eight-ship
National Security Cutter (NSC) program that will be
wrapping up over the next few years.
“The OPC will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities. It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea; for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing people, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting
our ports,” Zukunft said during his address.
The budget also requests funds to continue the preacquisition work for a new polar icebreaker, including
development of a request for proposals. The icebreaker, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion, has
been a sensitive issue for the service and lawmakers,
who have yet to find a way to fund it.
The service has one active heavy icebreaker, Polar
Star. It rejoined the fleet in 2013 after undergoing a
three-year, $90 million upgrade that was supposed to
extend its service life by seven to 10 years.
Clark believes the Coast Guard should not be putting money into the procurement of an icebreaker, as
he fears it would suck a majority of the AC&I budget
for years, similar to what the NSC did.
“The Coast Guard’s main problems are just having
enough force structure to maintain its current responsibility for patrol, maritime security and SAR [search
and rescue], and those things are going to get harder
and harder,” he said.
A 2013 Congressional Research Service study
penned by Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in naval
affairs, said the Coast Guard requires six heavy and
four medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory missions and maintain the continuous presence requirements of the Concept of Naval Operations.
“At the end of the day, they would have one ship that
helps with patrolling the Arctic, but that does nothing to
address a problem with patrols and that problem would
be 10 years from now, when today’s generation of small
boats and offshore patrol craft are gone,” Clark said.
On the aviation side, an unusually high amount,
$200 million, was requested. A majority of those funds
will be used for the continued acquisition of the C-27J
Spartan medium-sized military transport aircraft from
the Air Force.
The service received the first of 14 of the aircraft last
year. They are being acquired as part of 2014 National
Defense Authorization Act that was signed last fall.
The Coast Guard expects to have some of the air-
craft flying basic and logistics missions around 2016.
The Asset Project Office (APO) is in charge of handling
the transfer and subsequent reconfiguration of the air-
craft to meet Coast Guard standards. The APO, located
in Elizabeth City, N.C., stood up in June.
According to the budget request, “The APO organizes
logistics, training, maintenance support and ensures these
newly acquired aircraft are ready for induction into the
operational fleet and funds aircraft regeneration, spares,
initial training, mission system development, ground sup-
port equipment to stand up first operational unit.”
Brian Slattery, a research associate focusing on defense
and security studies with the Heritage Foundation, said
it is encouraging that the service was able to smoothly
acquire the aircraft from the Air Force, and the fiscal
budget request further confirms this.
“That’s a good sign,” he said.
The aviation budget also requests funds to maintain
the operational availability of the HC-144A Ocean
Sentry aircraft and funds initial spare parts required for
stand up of the second operational HC-130J unit.
The future of the HC-144A fleet remains in limbo as
the service continues examining the feasibility of ending that program after being granted the C-27J aircraft
fleet. The Coast Guard originally planned to buy 36
HC-144As, but has halted procurement at 18. Officials
estimate they could save $800 million from the transfer if the program is discontinued. ;
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 22 SEAPOWER / APRIL 2015
Petty Officer 3rd Class Timothy Klein, a machinery techni-
cian, and Fireman Strait Pope work with an MH- 65 Dolphin
helicopter during air operations training off Galveston,
Texas, Feb. 19.