Coast Guard Acquisition Chief: ‘Affordability is King’ for Offshore Patrol Cutter
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Coast Guard is pleased with the contract for its new Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and is stressing affordability and sustainability in that and new icebreaker programs.
“Affordability is king,” said Rear Adm. Joseph M. Vojvodich, assistant commandant for Acquisition, speaking March 16 at a Navy League Special Topic Breakfast. “We had some very difficult conversations” during the selection process and took in 1,800 comments, of which 1,000 influenced the selection process.
“We were able to generate a fixed-price environment,” Vojvodich said. “We liked the certainty it provided.”
The OPC is the Coast Guard’s highest procurement priority and “supports one of [Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft’s] strategic initiatives — the Western Hemisphere.”
Vojvodich also said the service is seeking as much commonality with Navy systems as possible for the OPC, and is working with the Navy’s Program Executive Office-Integrated Warfare Systems to maximize commonality.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group is under contract to build nine OPCs initially — of 25 planned — to begin replacing the service’s 13 Famous-class and 14 Reliance-class medium endurance cutters.
Regarding the Coast Guard’s plans to procure three heavy and three medium icebreakers, Vojvodich said the Coast Guard has formed an integrated program office of five officials and has commissioned five studies from the defense industry to “kick-start that knowledge base.” He expects a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued “probably next fiscal year.”
Vojvodich said the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter (NSC) “has been a game-changer,” noting that the first three NCSs in service have captured a total of 100 metric tons of cocaine worth $3 billion.
He also praised the service’s Fast Response Cutter, of which 22 of 58 have been delivered by Bollinger Shipyard. One recently set a record for a single drug bust — 4.6 tons valued at $135 million.
He also said the service’s inland river fleet, which maintains navigation aids on 1,200 miles of waterways with some of its vessels more than 70 years old, needs recapitalization.
The Coast Guard has to recapitalize its small boats on an ongoing basis, since their service lives are much shorter than that of cutters. The admiral said the service believes it can squeeze another 20 years out of its 47-foot Motor Life Boats if they rebuild the boats. He said an RFP will be issued by the end of 2017. Procurement of the Response Boat–Medium has been completed, but the manufacturer maintains a hot production line for Foreign Military Sales that could resume production for the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard has received its 10th C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Lockheed Martin and will deliver it to L-3 Systems in Waco, Texas, for missionization into the HC-130J, where three are going through that process. The service plans to acquire a total of 22 HC-130Js. The first six were missionized by the service.
The Coast Guard also has been working to activate the fleet of 14 C-27Js donated by the Air Force. Of the 13 that were in storage, 11 C-27s have been reactivated. Five are now stationed in Sacramento, Calif. One has been missionized with the Minotaur mission station system for the HC-27J configuration and will fly later in March for testing. Vojvodich said an RFP will be issued in 2017 to build 34 Minotaur mission stations.
The acquisition chief said the Coast Guard is working toward fielding a small unmanned aerial system for over-the-horizon “detection and identification” to “extend the umbrella from the National Security Cutter.” An RFP is expected to be issued by the end of 2017.