Affordability Key for Coast Guard's Offshore Patrol Cutter Program
"Our acquisition projects are well along for the most part," Rear Adm. John Korn, chief of Coast Guard acquisitions, said at the service's innovation expo Oct. 25.
The only exception is the Offshore Patrol Cutter. The second largest ship in the service's modernization program is still in the beginning phases. According to the Government Accountability Office, the OPC is expected to cost about $8 billion to produce at the current proposed fleet size of 25.
The program gets under way as the Coast Guard, along with federal agencies, is facing budget uncertainties. Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., commandant on the Coast Guard, testified on Capitol Hill earlier in the month that the service is "employing a very deliberate process" to ensure that it can deliver a ship that is both affordable and meets all the operational requirements.
Capt. Lisa Festa, program manager for surface acquisition projects, declined to say exactly when a request for proposals would be released. She would only say that it would not be as long as two years. There is money in the 2012 fiscal year budget to award preliminary contract design awards, she said.
"It's going to be difficult to meet that date," she said.
The Coast Guard asked industry for its ideas about the ship based on preliminary requirements for what the Coast Guard would like to see. The acquisitions office is about 75 percent through reviewing the information, Korn said.
Meanwhile, the surface acquisition program signed $700 million worth of contracts in September alone, for a total of more than $1.2 billion in 2011, Festa said.
Korn reiterated that the goal is to keep the new cutter as affordable as possible while meeting the minimum operational requirements.
"We are dedicated to meeting those minimum requirements. We think we can get within an affordable range using commercial practices" rather than methods used to build combatant ships, Korn said. Among the initial industry proposals submitted were ideas to reduce costs, he added.
The Coast Guard has already made some decisions as far as what the ship will not feature. Gas turbine engines and a system to launch small boats from the stern are two ideas that have already been scrapped, he said. Other Coast Guard ships may have these capabilities, but they would be too costly for the OPC, Korn said.