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December 01, 2006

Oops. A chicken comes home to roost for the Coast Guard.

From the NYT's Eric Lipton:


After spending $100 million to renovate eight of its workhorse cutters, the Coast Guard will announce Thursday that it is suspending the use of the Florida-based patrol boats because of chronic hull cracking and engine problems.

And here's the message traffic on a subject you *don't* want to have been the Program Manager on...

ALCOAST 567/06
COMDTNOTE 4400
SUBJ: 123 WPB SUSPENDED OPERATIONS
A. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 281630Z APR 06, NOTAL
1. CANCEL REF A.
2. DUE TO ONGOING ENGINEERING AND STRUCTURAL DAMAGE ON THE 123 FOOT
WPB FLEET, I AM SUSPENDING OPERATIONS OF THESE EIGHT CUTTERS.
3. DESPITE THE BEST EFFORTS OF THE CREWS AND THE SUPPORT COMMUNITY, THE CONTINUING DEFORMATION OF THE 123 HULLS WOULD REQUIRE EVEN MORE STRINGENT OPERATIONAL RESTRICTIONS TO SAFELY OPERATE THEM. THESE RESTRICTIONS ARE SUCH THAT 123 WPBS WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PATROL IN SEAS ABOVE 5 FEET, MAKING THEM NO LONGER OPERATIONALLY EFFECTIVE.
4. I REALIZE THIS DECISION WILL POSE SIGNIFICANT OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES TO MAKE UP THESE LOST PATROL BOAT HOURS. WE ARE AGGRESSIVELY WORKING ON BOTH LONG AND SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS TO ENSURE THE COAST GUARD CAN MEET ITS MISSION REQUIREMENTS IN THE D7 AOR.
5. I WILL MEET WITH THE 123 WPB CREWS TODAY TO THANK THEM FOR THEIR VALIANT EFFORTS AND ASSURE THEM THAT THEIR SAFETY AND WELL-BEING ARE MY TOP PRIORITIES. ADMINISTRATIVE AND PERSONNEL PROCESSES WILL BE PUT IN PLACE TO ADDRESS THEIR UNIQUE SITUATIONS AND FACILITATE THEIR CONTINUED CAREER SUCCESS.
6. ACTION: EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, SUSPEND ALL OPERATIONS OF THE 123 WPBS AND PLACE THEM IN CHARLIE STATUS. ATLANTIC AREA AND DISTRICT SEVEN PROCEED WITH PLANNING TO BEST UTILIZE THE 123 WPB CREWS IN SUPPORT OF CURRENT OPERATIONS. CG-3/4/8 AND G-D/A EXPLORE ALL AVAILABLE OPTIONS TO CLOSE THE WPB PERFORMANCE GAP.
7. POC: CAPTAIN J. X. MONAGHAN, COMDT (CG-37RCU), (202)372-2321.
8. INTERNET RELEASE AUTHORIZED.
9. ADM T. W. ALLEN, COMMANDANT, SENDS.
BT
NNNN

I can see the finger-pointing already between Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, and their subcontractor, Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, La, with everybody probably ending up pointing at the Coast Guard.

The problem? The cutters had extensive hull modifications and were equipped with upgraded electronics and a 13-foot extension to accomodate an automated rear-boat launching system. They have been a problem since they came out of the refit in 2004. The hulls developed cracks, especially when subjected to heavy seas. One can understand the concern about being in a ship whose job it is to rescue people in things like... heavy seas... being prone to developing leaks or potentially having the stern fall off (which might be overstatement on my part, admittedly). Efforts to strengthen and reinforce the hulls with steel strips and to limit their use in heavy seas did not prevent the cracks - not to mention kinda obviated their purpose.

More details from the Navy Times, if you've the interest!

H/t, Larry K, whose son is a Coastie.

Comments on Oops. A chicken comes home to roost for the Coast Guard.
LarryK briefed on December 1, 2006 03:33 PM

Actually from what I understand that is NOT an overstatement. There was considerable concern that the stern might just break off in a moderately high seas. Already there were more than leaks but in fact buckeling of plates. Not a safe situation at all. With Deepwater behind schedule and some other projects cancelled this will put a strain on the remaining 110's (6 of whch are still in the Gulf) which are all near the end of their service life. This rebuild was intended to extend that life.