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Report: CG may need fewer big cutters

Mar. 5, 2008 - 11:50AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 5, 2008 - 11:50AM  |  
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An internal Coast Guard report has reaffirmed many of the lifesaving service's choices about which vessels and aircraft it plans to buy, and what's more, the report suggests that if officials buy an especially capable new variety of ship, they might not need to buy as many new national security cutters as they initially planned. But the report seemed to reinforce worries about the Coast Guard's ability to manage the command and communications systems aboard its new assets.

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An internal Coast Guard report has reaffirmed many of the lifesaving service's choices about which vessels and aircraft it plans to buy, and what's more, the report suggests that if officials buy an especially capable new variety of ship, they might not need to buy as many new national security cutters as they initially planned. But the report seemed to reinforce worries about the Coast Guard's ability to manage the command and communications systems aboard its new assets.

Navy Times on Wednesday obtained the executive summary of the Coast Guard's Deepwater "Alternatives Analysis," ordered last year by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen in response to criticism of alleged mismanagement and waste in the Deepwater recapitalization portfolio.

The analysis reaffirms the Coast Guard's commitment to its new, 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters, the first of which, the Bertholf, is scheduled to join the fleet later this year. But the report, dated Feb. 14, does not mention the Feb. 24 announcement by two Coast Guard officials that there were "issues" with the command and communication systems aboard the Bertholf, which involved "some risk" to its delivery schedule.

It does mention specifically the risk of "connectivity problems" among Coast Guard assets and between it and other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department, caused by the "multiple command and control systems" on Deepwater platforms.

The report does acknowledges other early "issues" for the Bertholf and the next ship in the class, the Waesche — including cost bumps and questions about hull strength — but concludes "no other candidate could meet the speed, sea-keeping and endurance" the Coast Guard needed.

Still, the analysis recommends that if the Coast Guard can incorporate the features it needs into its cheaper, not-yet-designed Offshore Patrol Cutters, it should build more of those and two fewer national security cutters, to save money.

The report also recommends that the Coast Guard adapt the Navy's Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle as the UAV paired with its new top-tier cutters. Service officials canceled the Coast Guard's own UAV, the vertical takeoff-and-landing Eagle Eye, last year.

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