The USCG in a “Death Spiral”

2012-09-23 We have written about the challenges facing the nation’s 911 force.

We have argued that the USCG is facing a downslope in its capabilities due to the inability of the procurement system, the Congress and the Administration to buy replacement assets.

As an AOL Defense piece put it: “Shaping the Coasties Strategic Decline: One Platform Cut at A Time.”

The alternative is simply to spend more on the so-called legacy assets.  But over time, those assets not only consume significantly more money but themselves run out of shelf life.

So which missions do you want the USCG NOT to do?

This is a question the Administration and the Congress needs to answer.

Dwindling assets, reduced capabilities require robust replacement or significant reduction in outreach and missions.

Put differently, when the phone rings and no one answers, or they answer and can’t get to the emergency the nation suffers.

We are at that point. A point of no return.

A recent piece in Homeland Security Today underscored the continued downward cycle.

Coast Guard boats are breaking down at a high rate, raising serious concerns about whether the fleet can fulfill Coast Guard missions or last long enough for replacement boats.

The agency’s Medium Endurance Cutters, for example, have been operating free of major breakdowns only 65 percent of the time from 2005 through 2011, short of the Coast Guard target of 72 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Coast Guard has spent a lot of time and money sustaining the medium endurance cutter fleet through its Mission Effectiveness Project but it has no guarantees that the ships will last another five, ten or 15 years, said Stephen Caldwell, GAO homeland security director, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Coast Guard subcommittee Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has not yet begun design of the replacement for the medium endurance cutters known as the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The rapid decline of the legacy medium endurance cutter fleet and the construction of replacement OPC boats leaves a growing gap in operational capacity, Caldwell warned.

The biggest gap in capacity will be about ten to 12 years out, he continued. OPCs will begin to come into service at a rate of about two per year, far behind the decommissioning rate of the failing medium endurance cutters.

Cutting through Inside the Beltway speak, which emergencies does the Administration NOT want the USCG to respond to?

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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