WASHINGTON—Citing concerns about the safety and efficiency of Coast Guard ships and aircraft, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) are renewing their call for an acceleration of the 22-year timetable for the Coast Guard’s modernization program, known as the Integrated Deepwater System.
In a letter sent this week to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten, the Senators asked that he consider a 10-year schedule, arguing that “the nation simply cannot afford to wait until 2024 or later for the Coast Guard to employ more effective and reliable assets to achieve more effective homeland security.”
Of the world’s 42 major naval fleets, the Coast Guard has the third oldest – behind the Philippines and Mexico – with some aircraft and cutters dating back 30 and 40 years. Given a 25 percent increase in the Guard’s responsibilities post 9/11, the Senators expressed deep concern about the readiness of the fleet.
“With many aircraft and cutters dating back more than a quarter of a century and some to World War II, we believe that the Coast Guard cannot afford to wait 20 or more years to replace its deteriorating equipment,” the Senators wrote. “The daily demands on operational
Coast Guard assets are unrelenting in the post 9-11 environment. That unyielding pace is taking a serious toll on aging ships and aircraft, resulting in a surge in maintenance costs at the expense of Deepwater.”
Separate reports by the Coast Guard and the RAND Corporation, an independent, nonprofit research organization, indicate that accelerating the Deepwater program “is not only feasible, but would ensure delivery of a more robust homeland security presence and capability sooner.”
Further, the Coast Guard report concludes that speeding up the program would “provide up to one million more resource hours and save approximately $4 billion over the course of the acquisition.”
In a priorities list provided to Congress, the Coast Guard recently noted that it needs an additional $650 million in funding for the Deepwater program, plus more than $60 million for additional legacy cutter and aircraft sustainment while the service waits for new Deepwater
assets. Earlier this month, in letters to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senators Collins and Lieberman called for an additional $900 million to address the Coast Guard’s needs and support acceleration of the Deepwater program to a 10-year schedule. The Senators have consistently called for accelerating the Deepwater program.
Following is a copy of the letter:
March 15, 2005
The Honorable Joshua B. Bolten
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Director Bolten:
As you consider the Coast Guard’s new Integrated Deepwater System program baseline report which will identify revised acquisition timelines, a revised mission requirements description, and funding levels, we urge you to support accelerating this program to a 10-year schedule. The nation simply cannot afford to wait until 2024 or later for the Coast Guard to employ more effective and reliable assets to achieve more effective homeland security.
The Coast Guard’s fleet is the 40th oldest out of the world’s 42 major naval fleets, with only the Philippine and Mexican Navies having older ships. Some aircraft and cutters date back 30 and 40 years respectively, with some cutters having been commissioned during World
War II. These aging assets face declining readiness at a time when the Coast Guard is being called on to perform an approximate 25 percent increase in missions in response to the post 9/11 environment with the same amount of pre 9/11, obsolete, and out-of-date equipment.
Deepwater’s original 20-year acquisition schedule has already slipped, and the program is currently on at least a 22-year timetable. Some estimates of this faltering schedule are even more dire, drawing this acquisition out between 23 and 27 years. With many aircraft
and cutters dating back more than a quarter of a century and some to World War II, we believe that the Coast Guard cannot afford to wait 20 or more years to replace its deteriorating equipment. The daily demands on operational Coast Guard assets are unrelenting in the post 9-11 environment. That unyielding pace is taking a serious toll on aging ships and aircraft, resulting in a surge in maintenance costs at the expense
Cutters and aircraft failures are occurring at an increasing rate affecting not only the Coast Guard’s efficiency, but also putting crew members in danger in the field. There were 329 in-flight power losses on Coast Guard HH-65 search and rescue helicopters in FY 2004, more
than five times the number that occurred 2003. The 110-foot patrol boat, the workhorse of the Coast Guard’s fleet, is well beyond its recommended service life and, in FY 2004, suffered 23 hull breaches requiring emergency repairs. The largest cutters have a similarly poor
readiness record, having lost losing 358 patrol days in 2004. This amounts to the effective loss of two Cutters, or 5% of the fleet, for the entire year. The longer the Deepwater project takes to complete, the more money the Coast Guard will have to divert to maintenance of its decaying assets, and the higher the overall price tag will be in the end.
The majority of the Coast Guard’s operational assets will reach the end of their projected service life by 2008. Without an increase in funding for acquisition of new Deepwater assets, the failure rate of legacy assets and the costs to repair them eventually may surpass the
expenditures for new Deepwater assets. For example: in FY 2005, 20 per cent of the Deepwater budget ($150 of $724 million) will be spent on legacy asset sustainment; in FY 2006 fully 25 percent of the Administration’s Deepwater budget ($240 of $966 million) is for legacy asset sustainment. We understand that some of this funding is for improvements that are keeping older assets on line awaiting the arrival of new Deepwater assets. But other expenses are for repair of assets that have exceeded their service life and are simply failing.
Both the Coast Guard and an independent, nonprofit research organization, the Rand Corporation, have previously issued reports on the feasibility of accelerating completion of the Deepwater acquisition from 20 years to 10 years. These reports conclude that speeding
up this important program is not only feasible, but would ensure delivery of a more robust homeland security presence and capability sooner.
In addition, the Coast Guard report indicates that accelerating the Deepwater program would provide up to one million more resource hours and save approximately $4 billion over the course of the acquisition.
We therefore take this opportunity to urge your support for accelerating the Deepwater program. Funding Deepwater on a 10-year, versus a 22-year or longer schedule, is simply good government practice.
Susan M. Collins Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman Ranking Member