Coast Guard:

Adequacy of the Justification for Heritage Patrol Boats

RCED-91-188: Published: Jul 12, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Coast Guard's proposed acquisition of Heritage class patrol boats, focusing on the Coast Guard's: (1) justification for the number and type of patrol boats needed to complete its missions; (2) evaluation of alternatives to the Heritage design; and (3) support for production schedules and cost estimates for the Heritage boat.

GAO found that: (1) the Coast Guard did not adequately justify its project to acquire Heritage vessels, the acquisition had fallen behind schedule, and the vessels were not available when needed; (2) the Coast Guard did not closely adhere to federal guidance for acquiring major systems and could not support its decision for the patrol boat fleet size and composition; (3) the Coast Guard did not complete competitive demonstrations of alternative designs before it selected the Heritage class patrol boat as its preferred fleet replacement; (4) the Coast Guard underestimated the time needed to design, develop, and produce a Heritage prototype, causing the date for acquiring the boats to slip from fiscal year (FY) 1990, as originally planned, to FY 1996; (5) as a result of such delays, the Coast Guard estimated that it might experience a shortfall of as many as 16 boats; (6) the current cost estimates of $13 million for the Heritage prototype nearly doubled since the initial estimate of $7.7 million; and (7) the Coast Guard is currently reevaluating the appropriate size and composition of the fleet, assessing the costs of renovating ports, and considering acquiring smaller, less expensive boats in place of some Heritage boats.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard cancelled the patrol boat acquisition. No funding was provided.

    Matter: In view of the problems experienced since the inception of the patrol boat replacement acquisition, Congress may wish to consider making funding contingent upon the timely completion of the Coast Guard's ongoing studies and an adequate justification of the agency's patrol boat needs and acquisition strategy.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard cancelled its planned patrol boat acquisition, resulting in a savings of $329 million in fiscal years 1994 and 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to ensure that the ongoing patrol boat replacement project closely adheres to the A-109 guidance to minimize the inherent risks of acquiring major systems. Specifically, the Commandant should ensure that the ongoing reevaluations: (1) accurately identify and justify the capabilities required to carry out patrol boat missions; (2) justify the identified fleet size and composition; (3) evaluate suitable, cost-effective alternatives; and (4) include accurate and up-to-date cost and schedule estimates for fleet replacements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard cancelled its patrol boat acquisition, resulting in a savings of $329 million in fiscal years 1994 and 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to ensure that the ongoing patrol boat replacement project closely adheres to the A-109 guidance to minimize the inherent risks of acquiring major systems. Specifically, the Commandant should keep Congress informed regarding the progress of the reevaluations, providing results as they become available, including current estimates of the cost and time required to provide the fleet replacements and explanations of any significant deviations from prior estimates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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