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Coast Guard Issues Call for Icebreaker Procurement Industry Day

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea

The Coast Guard will be hosting an industry day in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area sometime in March with shipbuilders and designers for its “Polar Class Icebreaker Replacement Program.”

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told attendees at the Surface Navy Association symposium 2016 in Arlington, Va., the announcement was posted on Wednesday.

At a later date, the Coast Guard will schedule one-on-one meetings on the icebreaker program, the announcement said.

The Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaking cutter USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) and a second medium icebreaking cutter. By contrast, Russia has 41 icebreakers and four under construction.

When asked following his address where was the money coming from, Zukunft, without going into detail, said it would be contained in the service’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request that is expected to be sent to Congress next month.

“Trust me I’m working it,” he said. “We want to have a dialogue with industry” about what the Coast Guard expects in the heavy icebreaker.

In his address, Zukunft said that the service views this heavy icebreaker as everything from a floating command post to a vessel capable of operating unmanned systems in an Arctic environment.

The Coast Guard “wants to lock requirements now” for a vessel that will be operating for 40 years. To prepare the way for this buy, he said that the service has hired a number of acquisition professionals.

He said several times in the address the replacement icebreaker program was of strategic importance to the United States, as is the Navy’s Ohio class ballistic missile submarine replacement program. “I do not advocate going after Navy shipbuilding budget” to pay for the icebreaker.

The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense for organizational and budgeting purposes.

The commandant, in answer to another question, said the ninth National Security Cutter “does not come at the expense of the Offshore Patrol Cutter” program. But he added, “At some point we’ll have to rework the numbers,” taking into account maintenance and personnel of both programs. “Doing janitorial work is a hard sell.” He added the service will keep “a close eye on life-cycle costs.”

The Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) are to replace the 50-year-old Medium Endurance Cutters still in the service inventory.

“That [National Security Cutter] program is moving along” with the sixth, seventh and eight vessels in various states of construction. “I think it is a prudent investment.”

To pay for the expanded acquisition program, he said the Coast Guard “flatlined the operating budget.”

  • Mauvais Garcon

    To pay for the expanded acquisition program, he said the Coast Guard “flatlined the operating budget.”…..And therein lies the rub. The Coast Guard has always had more and more piled on it while the budget has been kept at minimum levels. If our national leadership wants these missions performed, they need to provide the USCG with more than starvation rationing. Build three fewer F-35s (assuming they can ever be made to work) that would help a lot.

  • Jim, A TRUE patriot

    Welcome to America, the third world power. I was on the USCGC Burton Island back when we actually HAD an Icebreaker Force. Sadly, we don’t anymore. Government shortsightedness and money wasting.

    • PolicyWonk

      When it comes to icebreakers, we are very nearly 3rd world.

      When it comes to defense spending, however, we outspend the top 9 largest nations defense expenditures combined. Granted, the US taxpayers get by far the lousiest deal for defense dollar spent in the western world.

      The DoD would benefit tremendously from a MAJOR reorganization of our acquisition system (as in total extirpation, and replacement with a system similar to that used by the British). Failing, that, in return for fully restored defense spending, the DoD should be made to agree to have the entire acquisition system put under receivership.

  • PolicyWonk

    The USCG always gets the short end of the funding stick, despite being the most visible of all the services (they are seen in practically all waterways around the nation – unlike the navy). We’ve known about the problems in the arctic for ages, but we’ve been dragging our feet. The USCG ought to consider the possibility of purchasing or licensing a heavy icebreaker design from one of our allies (and modify them for our purposes) to save money.

    I don’t think the US has built an icebreaker in 20 years…

    • Secundius

      @ PolicyWonk.

      USCG. Icebreaker, “Healy” was Built in 1996 and Launched in 1997. And USCG. Icebreaker, “Mackinaw” was Built in 2004 and Launched in 2005…

      • PolicyWonk

        Thank you, sir.

        That seems to bring our total of icebreakers in commission to a whopping 3…

        • Secundius

          @ PolicyWonk.

          Actually 13, not 3.
          1 x Healy class
          2 x Polar class
          1 x Mackinaw class
          9 x Bay class…

          • PolicyWonk

            All in commission?

          • Secundius

            @ PolicyWonk.

            ONE Polar class Icebreaker is Laid-Up (Inactive List) ALL other’s ACTIVE…

  • John B. Morgen

    Finland has built many ice breakers for other nation-states; including the Soviet Union/Russia, besides for their own fleet. Maybe, the Coast Guard should ask for construction bids from the Finns?

    • Secundius

      @ John B. Morgen.

      GREAT CHOICE! The WW2 “Wind” class Icebreakers, that were Loaned Out to the Soviets in WW2. Leaned Heavily on Swedish Icebreaker Innovations at the Time, such as Diesel-Electric Propulsion…

      • John B. Morgen

        The Coast Guard should buy some ice breakers from Europe, since they have a very long history of building and operating ice breakers; furthermore, the Europeans are well advanced in ice breaker designs.

    • John King

      The Finns already offered to build 3 icebreakers for $1 billion. No details though.

      • John B. Morgen

        The Coast Guard should accept the Finns’ offer because Finland has a very longed history building outstanding ice breakers for European nation-states; including, the Soviet Union/Russia. One $ billion USDs is not that bad…..

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        We need 6 icebreakers. 3 available at all times plus the odd trip to Antarctic

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    I think homeland security should foot the bill, out of there 41 billion dollar budget. the Coast Guard request almost 10 billion that includes 6 FRC, and multi-mission cutter small boats. I think they could give the Coast Guard another 4 billion from TSA, why do they need 7 billion dollars. and the EPA budget is over 8 billion, why?

  • old guy

    Why not buy them from the RUSSIANS? Great technology. Low cost.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    I favor the Finnish designs. Simple etc.

    • Secundius

      @ Sailboater.

      Agreed, and the BEST Diesel Engines on the Planet too. Wartsila-Sulzer…

  • Bull Jones

    Miserable hacks in D.C. wrecking yet another critical part of America.

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  • brad james

    Canada’s coast guard has had success with converted offshore oil rig supply vessels with heavy icebreaking capabilities cheaper too