The following is the Feb. 5, 2020 Government Accountability Office testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security on the Coast Guard icebreaker programs.
From the report
What GAO Found
ln fiscal year 2012, the Coast Guard-the primary federal maritime agency in the Arctic-assessed its capability to perform its missions in the region and identified a number of capability gaps. These gaps, which still exist today, include communications, infrastructure, maritime domain awareness, and icebreaking.
The Coast Guard has worked to mitigate these gaps with its Arctic partners, such as other federal agencies. For example, during a 2015 annual operation in the Arctic, the Coast Guard took steps to enhance maritime domain awareness by testing the Department of Defense’s communications equipment, extending communications capabilities further north than previously possible. However, in June 2016, GAO found that the Coast Guard did not systematically assess the extent to which its actions helped to mitigate these gaps. In response to GAO’s recommendation, the Coast Guard is currently developing an implementation plan and corresponding metrics for its April 2019 Arctic Strategy.
ln September 2018, GAO found that the Coast Guard faced four key risks when it established the Polar Security Cutter program in March 2018: technology, design, cost, and schedule. For example, the Coast Guard’s initial planned delivery dates of 2023, 2025, and 2026 for the three ships were not informed by a realistic assessment of shipbuilding activities. The schedule was driven, instead, by the potential gap in icebreaking capabilities once the Coast Guard’s only operating heavy polar icebreaker — the Polar Star – -reaches the end of its service life.
GAO recommended in September 2018 that the program develop a realistic schedule and determine schedule risks for the program. In response, the Coast Guard is now tracking additional schedule risks for the program and is in the process of updating its program schedule. GAO will continue to monitor the Coast Guard’s progress in addressing this recommendation and other recommendations GAO made to address key risks, such as design and cost, facing the Polar Security Cutter program.
Download the document here.