The Coast Guard is seeking $457 million for its Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program in fiscal year 2020, including funding for construction of the third medium-endurance cutter and long-lead purchase for the fourth and fifth ships.
If Congress fully funds the OPC request, the program will transition to construction of two ships annually beginning in FY ’21 by shipbuilding Eastern Shipbuilding, which is in line with the current schedule. The Coast Guard eventually plans to acquire 25 360-foot OPCs to replace its aging fleet of 210-foot and 270-foot medium endurance cutters.
Eastern Shipbuilding in January began cutting steel for the first OPC, the ARGUS (WMSM-915), and delivery of the ship is planned for 2021. The company last September received a $219 million contract to build the ARGUS and $39.5 million to procure long-lead time materials for the second ship, the Chase.
Congress appropriated $400 million for the OPC in FY ’19, which will be used to build Chase and purchase long-lead materials for the third ship. Other key milestones planned in FY ’19 by the Coast Guard for the OPC include continue developmental test and evaluation and obtaining a decision by Department of Homeland Security acquisition authorities for approval to begin low-rate initial production.
In FY ’20, in addition to awarding the construction contract for the third OPC and long-lead material contracts for the fourth and fifth vessels, the Coast Guard plans to conduct the second phase of developmental test and evaluation and to conduct an operational assessment.
DHS on Monday released detailed budget requests for all of its agencies and components in FY ’20. Last Monday, the White House released its broad budget requests for all departments and agencies but provided few program details. The discretionary budget request for DHS is $51.7 billion.
The overall procurement request for the Coast Guard is $1.2 billion, a figure that was included in the Office of Management and Budget documents last week, and is well short of the $2 billion minimum the Coast Guard says it needs annually in its acquisition account to maintain pace with its modernization plans.
The request also includes $140 million for two Fast Response Cutters (FRC), which are being built by Bollinger Shipyards. If the two 157-foot patrol craft are funded, that would bring to 54 the number of FRCs that Congress has funded out of planned buy of 58 ships.
Congress funded four FRCs in FY ’19 at a cost of $240 million and six FRCs in FY ’18 for $340 million.
Only $35 million is being requested for the new Polar Security Cutter (PSC), a heavy icebreaker that will eventually replace the Polar Star, which will undergo a service life extension program (SLEP) effort to hopefully keep it operational into the mid-2020s when a second PSC comes on line. Congress provided $750 million for the PSC in FY ’19 to go with $300 million funded for the program in the Navy’s budget to ensure that there is funding to complete the first ship and begin procurement activities for a second vessel.
Later in FY ’19, the Coast Guard plans to award a contract for the detail design and construction of the PSC and acquire long-lead materials. The Coast Guard’s budget materials say that the planned key milestone events in FY ’20 included continuing with detail design activities and preparation to begin construction of the first PSC.
The FY ’20 request also includes $18.5 million to continue SLEP activities on the Polar Star, leading to a production award and the purchase of long-lead materials.
The Coast Guard is also seeking $199.6 million for recapitalization and sustainment efforts on its fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. The largest pieces of the request include $103.2 million to support the ongoing missionization and cockpit modernization of HC-27J aircraft and $50 million for improvements to the HC-65 helicopter fleet, including better avionics and a service-life extension.