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.”