Review of Recent GAO Reports on Icebreaker Acquisition and the Need for a National Maritime Strategy
2253 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
(Remarks as Prepared)
Today the Subcommittee will hear testimony on two recent reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO conducts reviews and audits to provide information for Congress to perform its oversight functions in order to improve the performance and accountability of the federal government. Today, we review reports that discuss the Coast Guard’s icebreaker acquisition program and the need for the Department of Transportation to release the National Maritime Strategy.
The Coast Guard is in the process of procuring the first new heavy icebreakers in over 40 years. Icebreakers are essential for Coast Guard operations in the Arctic and Antarctic and are critical to maintaining U.S. interests in these regions.
The three heavy polar icebreakers the Coast Guard says it needs are estimated to cost approximately $9.8 billion throughout their lifecycle. In such an important and costly acquisition program, Congressional oversight is needed to ensure the program is on-time and on-budget.
However, GAO found that the estimates for the cost, schedule, and performance baselines for the icebreaker acquisition program do not follow standard best practices. The National Academy of Science study expressed similar concerns last year.
The Subcommittee is particularly interested to learn if the Coast Guard intends to wisely complete design of the first polar icebreaker before beginning construction or to imprudently start construction while design work is ongoing. This Subcommittee has been a strong supporter of the icebreaker acquisition program and we will continue to conduct oversight to ensure that the program is a success.
The second GAO report focuses on the need for the Department of Transportation to release the National Maritime Strategy. Congress required this strategy to be completed by 2015, but three years after that deadline, the Secretary still has not released it. The fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act extended the deadline to February, 2020, for the Secretary to submit the strategy.
This strategy is critical to addressing the challenges facing the U.S. flag fleet, including a potential shortage of U.S. mariners and the decreasing number of U.S. flag vessels. As a maritime nation, the U.S. needs to address these challenges now. I can assure you I understand firsthand the importance of having sufficient maritime assets to get U.S. forces and their supplies where they need to be.
I thank the witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing their testimony on these issues.