The U.S. Coast Guard faces its huge responsibility for maritime security with an aging fleet and inadequate workforce, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin concluded in a December report.
“The Coast Guard faces significant management challenges,” Ervin, whose term has expired, said. “The most daunting challenges include restoring the Coast Guard’s readiness to perform its legacy missions; implementing the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA); maintaining and replacing the Coast Guard’s deepwater fleet assets; and developing adequate infrastructure needed to support the Coast Guard’s multiple missions.”
The agency’s heavier workload is a significant barrier. “This complex work requires experienced and trained personnel. However, the Coast Guard has in recent years suffered from declining experience levels among its personnel,” the report said.
Increased security demands also “will tax the Coast Guard’s infrastructure including its aging cutter and aircraft fleet.”
The Coast Guard’s aircraft, cutters and small boats “are aging and becoming more difficult and expensive to maintain,” the report noted.
In 2002, the Coast Guard awarded a $17 billion contract to replace or modernize by 2022 all assets used in missions more than 50 miles offshore, including 90 cutters. But more immediate needs may disrupt plans for the Integrated Deepwater System program and increase costs.
“For example, the Coast Guard must diligently monitor the schedule and costs for maintaining, renovating, or upgrading its coastal patrol boats and medium- and high-endurance cutters. Revisiting these decisions may be prudent, considering the adverse impact deteriorated fleet conditions are having on Coast Guard mission performance,” the report said.
Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Carter said: “The Coast Guard agrees with the inspector general’s report as it relates to readiness issues, and we stand ready to work with the Department of Homeland Security to address these issues. We’ve made deepwater a priority for the Coast Guard and getting the funding in place to replace our aging fleet.”
Accelerating the $17 billion, 20-year plan is “still in the proposal stage,” Carter said.
“We have cutters that could draw Social Security operating in harsh environments,’’ he said, crediting “incredibly dedicated personnel.” — Dale K. DuPont