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Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Program History

The Deepwater acquisition plan includes 25 OPCs. The Coast Guard's largest acquisition program in terms of investment, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) will replace the current fleet of twenty-nine Medium Endurance Cutters (WMECs), many of which are between twenty-five and forty years old.

The OPC was redesignated the Maritime Endurance Cutter, Medium, in early 2004. The Maritime Security Cutter Medium - WMSM - cutters will have stern ramp to accommodate small boat launch and recovery in higher sea states than conventional davit systems aboard legacy cutters. The new generation of cutter boats, including the Long Range Interceptor and Short Range Prosecutor, improve a cutter crew's over-the-horizon and local force protection capabilities.

With a $20 million FY '04 appropriation from Congress, on 10 June 2004 the Coast Guard awarded an $8 million contract to begin preliminary design and final requirements of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), three years ahead of schedule. On 24 June 2004 the U.S. Coast Guard and Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) approved the immediate start of preliminary design and final requirements work on the new Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program. The action accelerated the launch date of the OPC by three years when compared to the Deepwater program's proposed schedule. Northrop Grumman Corporation's Ship Systems sector had the lead on the OPC design effort. Some of the contract will be performed by Ship Systems' joint venture partner Lockheed Martin, for co-development of engineering design and system integration. Each partner will be awarded a subcontract under this initial OPC contract, which is expected to take more than a year to complete.

As of mid-2004 it was expected that the first cutters could enter the Coast Guard fleet several years ahead of the original schedule date in 2012. The Coast Guard had planned to accelerate development and production of the Offshore Patrol Cutter to replace its fleet of medium-endurance cutters, which range between 210 and 280 feet in length. However, the service decided against accelerating the Offshore Patrol Cutter program when it realized it couldn't afford to build that ship and the 425-foot National Security Cutter at the same time.

In FY2005 Coast Guard began a maintenance effectiveness project on the 210-foot and 270-foot cutters. This project includds replacing major engineering subsystems with the goal of extending the cutters' service lives until their replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter.

The OPC project was restarted with Acquisition Decision Event (ADE) 1 in January 2008. "The OPC will be a critical Coast Guard asset in support of the National Security Strategy for projecting the nation?s humanitarian, law enforcement, and military presence. The OPC will operate in a stand-alone multi-mission mode with interoperable capabilities and will perform the Coast Guard missions defined by Section 888 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296)." In the FY2009 President's budget as submitted provided that of amounts made available under Public Laws 108-334 and 109-90 for the Offshore Patrol Cutter, $98,627,476 was rescinded.

In October 2008 the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) /Maritime Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM) Project Office is a Request for Information (RFI) [HSCG23-09-R-OPCRFI] as a means of market research regarding the state of the market for proven (e.g. in service) offshore patrol vessel (OPV) designs and related technologies. This RFI was for planning purposes only and shall not be construed as a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Unsolicited Proposal, or as an obligation or intent by the USCG to acquire any products and/or services. The USCG does not intend to award a contract on the basis of this RFI or otherwise pay for the requested information. This RFI was to assist in programmatic decisions regarding options to address the need for offshore patrol vessel capability, and the replacement of the current legacy WMEC (Medium Endurance Cutter) fleet with manageable developmental and programmatic risk.

This RFI seeks offshore patrol vessel design particulars and operational features on proven vessels as well as mature mission related technologies that are currently in operation and have the potential to meet USCG requirements. Furthermore, these vessels and/or technologies shall be capable of meeting the USCG requirements without significant development (e.g. as a parent craft design or as a variant of the parent craft in the case of vessels). Information on vessels submitted must be based on: 1) proven, currently in service vessels that are capable of being built in the United States (US); 2) In service vessel designs that are capable of being licensed for building in the US; or, 3) Variants of in service vessel designs capable of being licensed in the US. New vessel designs and unproven vessels (not in service or not a variant of in service) designs are not of interest in this request and will not be reviewed. Information submitted on mission related technologies must be based on: 1) mature (TRL7 or higher) technologies 2) intended for use on offshore patrol type vessels similar in mission to the OPC.

It is expected that the OPC missions will generally operate in deep water (beyond 50 nautical miles from shore) in extreme environmental conditions in a low threat environment. The geographic area of operation may include anywhere in the world that the Coast Guard or United States has interest (this may or may not include polar ice covered areas so designs with and without ice capability are of interest). Missions may typically entail ports and waterways security, search and rescue, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) enforcement, defense of escorted vessels and command presence in areas of distress. The vessel will generally operate for 185-210 days away from homeport. Patrols are 45-60 days in duration with inport logistics breaks approximately 2-3 days for every 14 days underway.

The Operational Requirements Document was approved by DHS in August 2010 and work continued on developing total acquisition and lifecycle cost estimates for the project. The Coast Guard has directly engaged with industry throughout the early stages of the design process, including an industry day held in Tampa, Fla., on November 4, 2010.

As of early May 2011 the Coast Guard intended to release the draft OPC specification for Industry review and comment in May 2011. The Coast Guard assisted DHS on the recently released Major Cutter Study and are using this analysis to inform final decisions on the number of OPCs needed and their capabilities in the context of overall cutter recapitalization.

As of late 2011 the Coast Guard had yet to develop revised baselines for all assets, including the Offshore Patrol Cutter the largest cost driver in the program, comprising approximately $8 billion of the $24.2 billion 2007 baseline. The National Security Cutter baseline, as revised in December 2008, reflected a total acquisition cost of $4.7 billion. However, a GAO review of more recent Coast Guard documentation demonstrated that an estimated $5.6 billion was required to complete the planned acquisition of eight National Security Cutters an approximately 19 percent growth over the approved 2008 revised estimate.

Coast Guard acquisition officials stated that up to $1.9 billion per year was needed to support the approved Deepwater baselines, but these officials expected Deepwater funding levels to be closer to $1.2 billion annually over the next several years. Furthermore, the 2012-2016 capital investment plan demonstrates that the Coast Guard needed over $2 billion in funding for Deepwater in fiscal year 2015a greater than 65 percent increase over the expected funding amount of $1.2 billion per year

In addition to the Coast Guards analysis, in 2011 DHSs Program Analysis & Evaluation office began a study to gain insight into the Deepwater surface program of record. DHSs Program Analysis & Evaluation office conducted a study, at the request of the Office of Management and Budget, to gain insight into alternatives to the Deepwater surface program of record. Office of Management and Budget officials recommended DHS conduct this study because DHS was in a position to provide an objective evaluation of the program and could ensure that the analysis of the trade-offs of requirements in a cost constrained environment would align with the Departments investment priorities. The analysis was based on a current estimate of surface asset acquisition costs, which serves as a cap to guide surface asset trade-offs.

A DHS official involved in the study stated that the analysis examined performance trade-offs between the National Security Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter, a modernized 270 cutter, and the Navys Littoral Combat Ship. The cutter study was provided to the Office of Management and Budget in July 2011. The Office of Management and Budget used the results to inform decisions about the fiscal year 2013 budget. From a broader perspective, it is unclear how, or whether, DHS and the Coast Guard would reconcile and use these studies to make trade-off decisions regarding the Deepwater Program that balance effectiveness with affordability.

Key decisions remained in acquiring the Offshore Patrol Cutter, even though DHS approved the requirements document for this asset in October 2010. For example, as of July 2011, the Coast Guard had yet to determine which information technology system will be used for the cutter, whether it will have a facility for processing classified information, and whether it will have air search capabilities.

On 15 March 2012 the Coast Guard released the red-lined draft OPC System Specification, the draft Statements of Work, draft Contract Data Requirements List (CDRL), draft Schedule A, Draft Schedule C and draft DD-254 for Industry review and commen. The red-lined draft System Specification contains all of the changes that the Coast Guard incorporated as a result of industry comment. This document was automatically distributed to those companies and individuals that received the draft OPC specification released in May 2011.

The draft specification requires the OPC to be classed by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) to the ABS Rules for Building and Classing Naval Vessels, January 2010 (a.k.a. the Naval Vessel Rules or NVR). The draft specification invokes NVR as a first tier reference and tailors it through an Addendum. This NVR Tailoring Addendum contains OPC specific tailoring to the Naval Vessel Rules 2010. As such, it is impossible to understand the OPC specification, and complete cutter requirements, without access to NVR.

The NVR contains sensitive information relating to critical technology which must be protected from release to unauthorized non US entities and parties not having a valid need to know. NVR is marked as "Distribution Statement D". Violators of these laws are subject to severe criminal penalties. In addition, NVR is governed by the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which means it contains technical data whose export is restricted by the Arms Export Control Act (Title 22, USC Sect 2751 et seq.) or the Export Administration Act of 1970, as amended (Title 50 USC App 2401, et seq.). Violators of these export laws are subject to severe criminal penalties.

The service anticipated the release of a draft request for proposals in the summer of 2012 and said it will release a final RFP by 30 September 2012, with contracts for the ships expected to be awarded in 2015.

The 2007 Deepwater baseline had projected that the Final Asset Delivery Date for the OPC would be the year 2021, while the Fiscal Years 2012-2016 Capital Investment Plan projected a Final Asset Delivery Date of 2031, a delay of a full decade. Delays in fielding new Deepwater assets increase the stress on the Coast Guards aging fleet. For example, to keep the legacy cutters in service longer than expected requires costly maintenance and the understanding that these aging cutters will not be able to fully perform all types of missions.

2002 Baseline 2004 MNS2005 baseline 2008 Status
25 ships25 ships25 ships25 ships
total cost$3.8 billion$5.0 billion$7.1 billioncost is uncertain because of new design; however, 2007 expenditure plan shows cost increase to $8.1 billion
cost per ship FY2002$: $151.3M FY2002$: $200M
Delta: $48.7M
$282.2 million$323.9 million per ship
first asset delivery201520122010re-competing asset with new design will delay first asset delivery until fiscal year 2015
final asset delivery 2021
C3IDeepwater Interoperability Full Spectrum DHS/DoD Interoperability  
Speed22kt 27kt   
AviationStd. Flt Deck Extended/Enhanced Flight Deck  
EWThreat Receiver S/SCIF, Electronic Surveillance w/SEI  
Armament30MM Gun 57MM Gun with Gun Fire Control System  
CBNREN/a Chemical, Biological, Radiological Detection & Defense (CBR D&D)  
Design-Build approach:
  • 12 yards competing will be downselected
  • Phase 1: 3 yards complete preliminary & contract design
  • Phase 2: down-select to 1 yard for detailed design and construction
  • 9 ships in first flight
  • Re-compete 2 additional flights of 8 ships Phase 1 Timeline:
  • Draft SOW and CDRLs: Feb 2012
  • Draft RFP issued: June 2012
  • Final RFP issued: September 2012
  • Contract award: March 2013 (est.)
  • Phase 2 Award in 2015



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