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GAO reports on status of heavy polar icebreaker acquisition

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Polar Star, the Coast Guard's single active heavy polar icebreaker, is reaching the end of its useful service life

APRIL 16, 2018 — A just released GAO (Government Accountability Office) report — “Status of Coast Guard’s Heavy Polar Icebreaker Acquisition” — notes that the Coast Guard and Navy are preparing to build three heavy polar icebreakers to conduct missions in the Antarctic and Arctic.

In February 2018, goals for the ships’ shipbuilding construction schedules and performance capabilities were approved, and a maximum total cost set at $9.827 billion. In March 2018, the Coast Guard solicited proposals for design and construction.

GAO is reviewing the risks the icebreaker program faces in meeting these goals, and expects to issue another report this summer. This interim report provides an update on the shipbuilding effort.

The GAO says that the $9.827 billion maximum figure includes acquisition, operations, and maintenance costs for the three heavy polar icebreakers over their entire 30-year lifecycle.

GAO has an ongoing review that will assess the reliability of this cost estimate.

Prior to setting the program baselines, the Coast Guard revised the heavy polar icebreaker’s operational requirements to make the program more affordable, and the revisions included:

  • adjusting the range of operating temperatures;
  • reducing science and survey requirements; and
  • adding space, weight, and power reservations for Navy equipment.

With the program baselines set, the Navy released the request for proposals for the heavy polar icebreaker’s design and construction contract in March 2018.

DHS oversees the heavy polar icebreaker’s acquisition management activities while the Coast Guard and Navy share responsibilities for executing the acquisition through their integrated program office.

The GAO report provides information on (1) The status of Coast Guard’s and Navy’s efforts to acquire new heavy polar icebreakers and (2) How DHS, Coast Guard, and Navy are planning to manage and oversee that acquisition.

To conduct this review, GAO reviewed acquisition documents; DHS, Coast Guard, and Navy acquisition policies; agreements between DHS, Coast Guard, and Navy for the integrated program office; the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, and the Department of Homeland Security Acquisition Regulation; and interviewed knowledgeable Coast Guard and Navy officials.

GAO is not making recommendations in this report but will continue to examine the Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker acquisition efforts as part of its ongoing work.

Download the GAO report HERE


Polar Star, the Coast Guard’s single active heavy polar icebreaker is reaching the end of its useful service life

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