Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress Page: 6 of 48
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Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress
transferred to the Coast Guard.8 The Coast Guard's 49 110-foot Island (WPB- 1301) class patrol
boats entered service between 1986 and 1992.9
Many of these 90 ships are manpower-intensive and increasingly expensive to maintain, and have
features that in some cases are not optimal for performing their assigned missions. Some of them
have already been removed from Coast Guard service: eight of the Island-class patrol boats were
removed from service in 2007 following an unsuccessful effort to modernize and lengthen them
to 123 feet; the one-of-a-kind cutter that originally entered service with the Navy in 1944 was
decommissioned in 2011; and the Hamilton-class cutters are being decommissioned as new NSCs
enter service. A July 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report discusses the
generally poor physical condition and declining operational capacity of the Coast Guard's older
high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and 110-foot patrol craft.10
Missions of NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs
NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs, like the ships they are intended to replace, are to be multimission ships
for routinely performing 7 of the Coast Guard's 11 statutory missions, including
* search and rescue (SAR);
* drug interdiction;
* migrant interdiction;
* ports, waterways, and coastal security (PWCS);
* protection of living marine resources;
* other/general law enforcement; and
* defense readiness oprtin.
Smaller Coast Guard patrol craft and boats contribute to the performance of some of these seven
missions close to shore. NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs perform them both close to shore and in the
deepwater environment, which generally refers to waters more than 50 miles from shore.
National Security Cuffers (Figure 1)-also known as Legend (WMSL-750)12 class cuffers
because they are being named for legendary Coast Guard personnel13-are the Coast Guard's
8 The two one-of-a-kind cutters are the Acushnet (WMEC-167), which originally entered service with the Navy in
1944, and the Alex Haley (WMEC-39), which originally entered service with the Navy in 1971. The Acushnet served in
the Navy from until 1946, when it was transferred to the Coast Guard. The ship was about 214 feet long and had a
displacement of about 1,700 tons. The Alex Haley served in the Navy until 1996. It was transferred to the Coast Guard
in 1997, converted into a cutter, and reentered service with the Coast Guard in 1999. It is 282 feet long and has a full
load displacement of about 2,900 tons.
9 Island-class boats are 110 feet long and have a full load displacement of about 135 to 170 tons.
10 Government Accountability O ffice, Coast Guard[:]Legacy Vessels' Declining Conditions Reinforce Need for More
Realistic Operational Targets, GAO-12-741, July 2012, 71 pp.
" The four statutory Coast Guard missions that are not to be routinely performed by NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs are
marine safety, aids to navigation, marine environmental protection, and ice operations. These missions are performed
primarily by other Coast Guard ships. The Coast Guard states, however, that "while [NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs] will not
routinely conduct [the] Aids to Navigation, Marine Safety, or Marine Environmental Protection missions, they may
periodically be called upon to support these missions (i.e., validate the position of an Aid to Navigation, transport
personnel or serve as a Command and Control platform for a Marine Safety or Marine Environmental Response
mission, etc.)." (Source: Coast Guard information paper provided to CRS on June 1, 2012.)
Congressional Research Service 2
Congressional Research Service
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O'Rourke, Ronald. Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, report, July 6, 2018; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1228585/m1/6/: accessed March 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.