MAY 18, 2012—U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) recently voiced his concern about the sustainability of the U.S. Coast Guard’s acquisition program and its ability to maintain its fleet of ships and aircraft in light of an inadequate budget.
“The Coast Guard’s acquisition programs have suffered through some dark days,” says LoBiondo, “and this Subcommittee has been vigilant to ensure the Service has the capability, capacity, and motivation to reform its acquisition process. I applaud the improvements made by both Admiral Papp and his predecessor, Admiral Thad Allen. They both made acquisitions reform a priority and focused on the end result: building new assets in a timely and cost-effective manner."
LoBiondo, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, made his comments in a statement at recently held subcommittee hearing to examine the status and sustainability of the U.S. Coast Guard’s acquisition program and plans for recapitalizing its aging vessels, aircraft, and communication systems.
Continues LoBiondo, “However, I fear that for every two steps forward, we may still be taking one step back. I’m very concerned about the recent discovery that Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, the third and newest National Security Cutter, is in need of an emergency dry dock to fix leaky hull plating. I know there is an investigation into what caused this steel to fail, but it is extremely troubling to see the newest ship in the fleet, and the most expensive cutter in Coast Guard history needing emergency repairs.
“I am also upset to hear there is a shortage of spares for the maritime patrol aircraft. Due to poor planning and budgetary shortsightedness, the brand new fleet of MPAs will face flight hour restrictions for the foreseeable future, further exacerbating the MPA patrol hour gap.
“The failure to adequately budget for critical spares points to larger problems with the budget request and the sustainability of the Capital Improvement Plan. The Administration’s decision to cut the Service’s acquisition budget by 19 percent over the current year has left it scrambling to reprioritize limited funding, forcing the termination of critical acquisition programs, and the reduction in vital capabilities for certain assets. Trying to squeeze a $2.5 billion annual need into $1.2 billion annual program is not going to work. Tradeoffs will undermine the Service’s mission effectiveness and costs will increase in the out years.
“I also continue to be concerned with the findings by the GAO and others which question the Service’s assertions that new assets are providing increased capability. For instance, after 10 years and nearly $4 billion appropriated by Congress, the National Security Cutter and the C4ISR program still have not met promised capability. The three National Security Cutters operating today still lack enhanced small boats, extended aerial surveillance capability, or a crewing plan to increase patrol days. And the C4ISR program has failed to deliver a common operating picture across all assets. I look forward to hearing from the Admiral how these acquisitions are a good investment for the taxpayer, and how we are going to get the results we were promised.
“Finally, while it important to focus on how the Coast Guard intends to recapitalize its assets, we must not forget that the Service faces a half a billion dollar backlog in shore side infrastructure. The Administration’s decision to slash shore side infrastructure funding by 86 percent and zero out funds to rehabilitate service member housing is extremely disappointing. We ask a lot of the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. Failing to provide them and their families with adequate housing is just unacceptable. Admiral, I hope you will be able to tell me when we can expect to receive the complete housing survey report and what the Coast Guard is doing to ensure our service members have the resources and support they need.”