The Deepwater contractors convinced the Coast Guard to "modernize" the 110 fleet. After working on eight patrol boats -- work that included adding 13 feet -- the Service discovered the project only made things worse for the cutters.
As noted in yesterday's New York Times:
After spending $100 million to renovate eight of its workhorse cutters, the Coast Guard will announce Thursday that it is suspending the use of the Florida-based patrol boats because of chronic hull cracking and engine problems.I'd say this isn't a setback; this is a failure of the contract.
The decision is a setback for the Coast Guard and its $24 billion modernization program, called Deepwater, which is replacing or rebuilding most of its large cutters, airplanes and helicopters.
The eight cutters, which had extensive hull repairs and were equipped with upgraded electronics and a 13-foot extension to make room for an automated rear-boat launch, have been a source of trouble for the Coast Guard since they came out of the repair yard in 2004.
The hulls developed cracks, but efforts to stabilize the boats with steel strips and to limit their use in heavy seas did not prevent the cracks.
“These are never decisions that are easy to do, never decisions that you want to make,” said Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commandant, in an interview on Wednesday, as he prepared to fly to Key West, Fla., where the cutters are based, to notify crews.
The ships, which average about 17 years old, respond to emergency calls and patrol the waters.
The Coast Guard has about 250 cutters and nearly 200 aircraft around the country. It is considering doubling up crews on some cutters or bringing in other agency ships, like buoy tenders, to help provide coverage in the waters around southern Florida.
And, I'd say this is an indication that Admiral Allen isn't going to just sit idly by; he'll take the drastic actions that are necessary to keep the Service afloat.
And, speaking of drastic action, on the 21st, Allen signed a memorandum outlining the future organization of the Coast Guard. As noted elsewhere on Musings, the plan includes creation of a Coast Guard Operational Forces Command and a Systems Command. It also includes a Readiness three-star; that one caught the Muse by surprise.
More to follow on this reorganization in the days to come.
Note: On 13 December, I edited this post by changing out the photograph; I had originally linked to a Coast Guard photograph; the photograph has since been taken offline, so I have uploaded another official CG photo; this is the CGC Matagorda, the first 110-foot cutter to make the transformation to 123 feet. Other than this change, the post remains the same.