Recalling that in 2012 he surveyed the national security cutter Bertholf and admitted to enjoying the “new Coast Guard Cutter smell,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., announced that 30 more vessels are on the way.

“Our newest, the [fast response cutter] Charles Sexton, will be commissioned next week,” Papp said in his final State of the Coast Guard address in Washington, D.C., in late February. “They are being delivered on time and on budget. We have 10 more in production, have awarded contract for an additional six, and now have funding for six more beyond that — for a total of 30.”

Papp said the agency is now more than half way to the planned purchase of 58 FRCs. “We have also received 148 of the 170 Response Boats-Medium we’ve ordered,” he said. “They are the most capable response boats in our history.” 

Those boats, Papp noted, were delivered on time and on budget. “And after an extremely competitive bidding process, we recently selected three finalists who will now compete to produce the most affordable and capable design possible for the nation’s new offshore patrol cutters,” Papp said. 

He said the cutter production record was coming at what he described as a critical time. “Our current fleet of 50-year-old medium endurance cutters are 20 years past their design life. We sit at the intersection where the vital necessity to recapitalize our aging offshore fleet connects with the expertise, timing and competition to do so affordably.” 

To lose the opportunity would affect the USCG negatively and impact its ability to conduct its missions for the next 40 years, according to Papp. “What we need now is stable, predictable funding to ensure that we can continue to be the world’s best Coast Guard and America’s maritime governance force well into the future.”

The 24th commandant of the Coast Guard, Papp has headed up the agency since the spring of 2010. He will step down as commandant in late May. 

Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, currently Pacific Area commander, will be the new commandant. Zukunft was the Coast Guard’s point man during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response and cleanup. — Garry Boulard