The leadership of a House committee that oversees Coast Guard policies on Monday asked congressional auditors to review the service’s top two acquisition programs in light of schedule delays and cost overruns.
The programs in question are the $12 billion offshore patrol cutter (OPC), which will replace the Coast Guard’s fleet of medium-endurance cutters, and the $2.5 billion polar security cutter (PSC), which will ultimately replace the service’s lone heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star.
In separate letters dated Aug. 16, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the ranking member, ask Comptroller General Gene Dodaro to review management of the two phases of the OPC program, including steps to manage the phases within revised cost and schedule commitments, and the status of the legacy medium endurance cutter program and what will be required to keep the cutters operating to minimize a gap until the new OPCs begin to be delivered.
The first phase of the OPC program is a contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group for ships one through four and the second phase is a follow-on competition for hulls five through 25. The Coast Guard decided to recompete the OPC program sooner rather than later after Eastern Shipbuilding’s facilities in Florida were hammered by major storms in 2018, forcing the company to seek relief in its contract.
In their letter to Dodaro, chief of the Government Accountability Office, DeFazio and Graves say the contractor relief led to an estimated $300 million to $400 million increase in the procurement costs of the first four vessels and delayed their delivery between eight and 13 months.
“Given the significant budgetary commitment that the Congress, DHS, and Coast Guard have made for the OPC program to date, continued oversight is necessary to ensure the OPC program does not continue to experience cost growth or additional schedule delays,” the congressmen write.
The first OPC is scheduled to be delivered in late 2022.
Regarding the program for three PSCs, DeFazio and Graves highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to delays in the start of construction of the first ship by prime contractor VT Halter Marine. Delays in the program mean the Coast Guard has to continue to rely on the aging Polar Star, which is undergoing an incremental service life extension program to keep the ship operating for another six or so years.
DeFazio and Graves want GAO to review the status of the PSC program, the service life extension program for the Polar Star, and the Coast Guard’s efforts to examine other alternatives to its icebreaking needs.
“Given the schedule delays and potential for cost growth, continued oversight of the PSC program is critical,” DeFazio and Graves say.
Delivery of the first PSC is currently slated for the third quarter of fiscal year 2024 and the next two ships are scheduled to be delivered one and two years later respectively.