The Status of Coast Guard Cutter Acquisition Programs
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript
Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
February 3, 2016
The Subcommittee is meeting today to discuss the Status of Coast Guard Cutter Acquisition Programs.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report on January 12th entitled National Security Cutter: Enhanced Oversight Needed to Ensure Problems Discovered during Testing and Operations Are Addressed. It raises concerns with the timing of testing during production, the guidance available to guide production, testing and oversight of corrected actions, and the additional costs to address the deficiencies and operational issues.
An important discussion I would like to have today is how we ensure the end assets operate as intended and are what the taxpayers paid for. What lessons have we learned during the National Security Cutter and Fast Response Cutter acquisition programs that can be applied to the Offshore Patrol Cutter program to minimize, if not eliminate, the same issues.
As I have said before, the Coast Guard is operating tens, and in some cases, hundreds of hours short of its operational targets, which puts our nation at risk. Assets are not available for the Service to secure our ports, protect our environment, and ensure the safety of our waterways. We heard in 2014 the lack of available assets resulted in historic lows in drug interdiction rates. The lack of assets must have affected other mission areas as well. The fact that the new assets may not be performing as intended is a problem that could continue to impact mission capabilities.
We have also previously discussed issues with the President’s annual budget requests and the Capital Investment Plans, both of which have not supported the infrastructure needs of the Coast Guard. According to the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2016-2020 Capital Investment Plan, annual funding for acquisitions will be roughly $1 billion less than the GAO and Coast Guard officials have testified is needed on an annual basis to keep the current acquisition program on schedule and on budget. The Capital Investment Plan is nothing more than a roadmap to additional acquisition delays, increased costs for taxpayers, and ongoing mission performance failures.
The President’s budget requests have followed the poorly designed roadmap provided in the Capital Investment Plan. The fiscal year 2016 request cut funding needed to acquire critically needed replacement assets by 17 percent. The budget request also failed to guarantee the funding needed to begin detailed design for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). Failure to move into detailed design on the OPC by the end of fiscal year 2016 could result in significantly higher costs and substantial acquisition delays. Moving this, and other, acquisitions further to the right will only further degrade Coast Guard mission performance.
As we move into reviewing the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, it would be a welcome change to see the President’s budget support funding for the Coast Guard’s acquisition programs.
Another component of the recapitalization is the Coast Guard’s Mission Needs Statement, used to inform the evolution of the Coast Guard’s Capital Investment Plan. Up until last month, the Coast Guard was working on a Mission Needs Statement from 2004. On January 8th the Coast Guard released a new Mission Needs Statement, as required by this Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and our Senate counterparts.
The Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 required an updated Mission Needs Statement to include information on current and projected gaps in Coast Guard mission capabilities and how major acquisition programs would address those gaps. However, the January 8th document states: “…this document does not seek to identify a material solution to meet future mission needs, but rather to identify the enduring, high-level capabilities required for the Coast Guard to execute its broad statutory authorities effectively and efficiently.”
While having an updated Mission Needs Statement is better than working off one developed over a decade ago, if it does not provide information on what assets are needed to perform certain missions, does it properly inform the evolution of the Capital Investment Plan and subsequently the President’s budget request for Coast Guard assets?
I look forward to discussing all of the issues before us today, including any lessons learned from the National Security Cutter and Fast Response Cutter acquisition programs so they can be applied to the Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition program. In the end, the American public deserves assets that perform as intended and expected. We do not need missions to be continually compromised due to the limitations of old and new vessels.
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