The Coast Guard is in the process of developing a solicitation to procure the remainder of its planned Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), which are currently being built by Bollinger Shipyards but will be reopened for competition, Commandant Adm. Bob Papp told a House panel on March 12.
Papp told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee that the service is doing an extensive scrub of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the FRC to find all the savings it can for the last run of patrol boats. A Coast Guard spokesman told Defense Daily on Tuesday that as of now the service doesn’t have an expected date for releasing the RFP.
The Coast Guard’s plan from the get-go has been to recompete the FRC program, which is based on a Dutch parent craft design, the Damen Stan 4708 patrol vessel, toward the end of its contract with Bollinger. The contract was awarded in 2008.
The Coast Guard’s potential $1.5 billion contract with Bollinger calls for the purchase of up to 36 FRCs from the shipbuilder, although based on options that have been exercised that number stands at 32 vessels. It’s unclear whether Congress will provide additional funding in the FY ’15 budget to allow the Coast Guard to purchase the remaining four FRCs available under the original contract with Bollinger.
The next competition will be to build out the FRC fleet at the required 58 patrol vessels. Papp said the Coast Guard has purchased the design rights for the remaining FRCs.
So far Bollinger has delivered eight 154-foot FRCs and has 16 more on contract with the Coast Guard. Congress has provided funding for 30 of the vessels. The service is seeking funding for two more FRCs in its FY ’15 request.
Papp said that that Coast Guard is only requesting funds for two more FRCs in FY ’15 because that is all it can afford in the top line budget it was given by the Obama administration. The result is that the timeline for ultimately completing the program will be delayed, he said.
So far all of the FRCs have been delivered on schedule and on-budget, Papp said.
The FRC’s will replace the Coast Guard’s fleet of 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. The FY ’15 request includes the decommissioning of eight Island-class cutters, which Papp supports given the greater operational capacity the service gets with the FRCs and because it frees up funding within his acquisition account.
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee, and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), the ranking member, both decried proposed cuts to the Coast Guard’s acquisition account in the FY ’15 request. Price said the request doesn’t address the Coast Guard’s needs.
Papp said later in the hearing that he’s concerned that overall cuts the past few years to the Coast Guard’s budget, including harm done from sequestration, will eventually impair the proficiencies that have been gained by individual service members since he became commandant four years ago.