The following is the March 30, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report
The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 65 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard increased the POR figure for FRCs from 64 to 65 in August 2022. Six of the 65 FRCs in the POR are for use by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf.
NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Congress has fully funded the procurement of 11 NSCs—three more than the 8 in the Coast Guard’s POR—including the 10th and 11th in FY2018, which (like the 9th NSC) were not requested by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2024 budget requests $17.1 million in procurement funding for the NSC program for post-delivery activities for the 10th and 11th NSCs, class-wide activities that include test and evaluation, and program close-out support. Nine NSCs have entered service; the 9th was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021. The 10th is scheduled for delivery in 2023.
OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC program and the Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. (The PSC program is covered in another CRS report.) The Coast Guard’s FY2020 budget submission estimated the total acquisition cost of the 25 ships at $10.270 billion, or an average of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The first four OPCs are being built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL. The Coast Guard held a full and open competition for a new contract to build the next 11 OPCs (numbers 5 through 15). On June 30, 2022, the Coast Guard announced that it had awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract to Austal USA of Mobile, AL, to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The initial award is valued at $208.3 million and supports detail design and procurement of LLTM for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2024 budget requests $579.0 million in procurement funding for the construction of the sixth OPC, the procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the seventh OPC, and other program costs.
FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. The Coast Guard’s FY2020 budget submission estimated the total acquisition cost of the 58 cutters intended for domestic use at $3.748.1 billion, or an average of about $65 million per cutter. A total of 65 FRCs have been procured through FY2023. As of March 30, 2023, 50 FRCs have been commissioned into service. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2024 budget requests $20.0 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for procuring any additional FRCs. The Coast Guard’s FY2024 Unfunded Priorities List (UPL) includes, as one of its items, an unfunded priority for procuring four more FRCs (which would be the 66th through 69th in the program) for a combined procurement cost of $400.0 million, or an average of $100 million per cutter, to provide increased Coast Guard presence and engagement with allied and partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
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