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February 14, 2010

Allen presses case for USCG fleet renewal

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen delivered his fourth and final State of the Coast Guard address at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Friday.

In his annual address, the Commanant discussed the Coast Guard's response to the earthquake in Haiti, the operational character of the service and the challenges it faces in the future. He also summarized facets of the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2011 budget proposal and spoke about the need to replace aging vessels, aircraft and shore facilities to enable its men and women to continue delivering superior services to the Nation into the future while adapting to the maritime challenges of the 21st century.

Admiral Allen noted that the budget request currently before Congress "does reduce personnel in the Coast Guard by 773; but most importantly, allows us to remove cutters and aircraft from service that are aging and in need of replacement."

"Some of these are being replaced, and some are being laid up to allow us to maintain our existing fleet," he continued. "The good news is the budget contains nearly $1.4 billion to allow us to continue replacing aging assets; assets like our high endurance cutters."

"We can expect constrained budget for the foreseeable future, as the President indicated at the State of the Union address," said Admiral Allen. "We are prepared to support these budgets and manage operations, as I noted earlier. We would ask that consideration be given to creating multi-year estimates that allow us to plan our acquisitions against our predictable funding strength. We have gone to extraordinary lengths to restructure and build an acquisition organization to meet oversight requirements and program management standards. As improved as we are, our acquisition baselines lack credibility when they are not supported by a five year capital investment plan provided to Congress in a timely manner, or overtaken and rendered effective by annual adjustments that change basic business plans. To our Congressional partners, we are working to change that. So to sum up, we understand and support the budget, and we are prepared to execute."

CUTTER READINESS

On the issue of cutter readiness. Admiral Allen said that "the current condition of our high endurance cutters is of serious concern to me. Following the extensive repairs required to bring Gallatin and Dallas back into productive service over the last 18 months, we continue to experience increasing casualties to other high endurance cutters that are indicative of overall declining readiness."

He said that the "tension between current support levels and the need to bring new cutters online" was critical in the decision to decommission high endurance cutters supported in the budget".

Pointing to recent experience and support of Haiti response, relief and recovery operations, Admiral Allen noted that the Coast Guard operates one of the oldest fleets in the world.

"No amount of maintenance can outpace the ravages of age," he said. "Here's what happened behind the scenes. Of the 12 major cutters assigned to Haiti relief operations, 10, or 83 percent, suffered severe emissions affecting casualties. Two were forced to return to port for emergency repairs, and one proceeded to an emergency dry dock. We also had to divert air resources away from evacuation efforts to deliver repair parts. This process was coordinated flawlessly through our new logistics structure, including the creation of a forward deployed logistics structure at Guantanamo Bay. The response was a triumph for our new mission support organization, but underscored the condition of our fleet."

You can access a transcript of the address, including the Q&A session HERE


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