Coast Guard Expected to Scale Back Ambitious Ship Procurement Plans
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp asked shipbuilding industry representative at the the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium for help in telling his story, which is one of out-of-commission icebreakers and aging cutters.
Papp said he is hopeful that the Coast Guard will get funding for eight National Security Cutters to replace 378-foot high-endurance cutters that have been in service since the 1960s. The third NSC was delivered to the Coast Guard last fall. Shortly after, the contract for the fifth was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries.
But Coast Guard officials say there is a real possibility that funding for the rest of the cutters could be taken away.
“I want to get all eight,” Papp said. “But each one’s going to be a challenge.”
National security cutters are likely to be in competition for money with the service’s Offshore Patrol Cutter. The Coast Guard wants to build 25 of these to replace medium-endurance cutters that are between 25 and 40 years old, some older.
The Coast Guard originally had planned for as many as 16 NSCs and 35 OPCs. Papp said this week that “we’re not going to get there.”
Interest in the offshore cutters may be outpacing that for the NSC, with the smaller ship being viewed as a more affordable option that shipyards can build faster. The Coast Guard says it could build two OPCs a year.
Analysts have begun suggesting that the service terminate the NSC and focus on building the OPCs, Papp said. But each time the Coast Guard conducts a fleet study, the results say it needs more ships, including ones that perform the functions of the National Security Cutter.
“I just think we’re going to need those large ships — the NSC — at some point in time,” Papp said. “We’re not building ships for next year or the next 10 years. We’re building ships for the next 40 years of this country.”