Coast Guard:

Better Information Needed Before Deciding on Facility Closings

RCED-89-48: Published: Nov 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 6, 1988.

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Kenneth M. Mead
(202) 512-2834


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implications of the Coast Guard's plans to eliminate or reduce facilities in response to reductions in its requested fiscal year 1988 appropriations to determine the: (1) factors the Coast Guard used in selecting the New York and New Orleans vessel traffic service (VTS) facilities for closure; (2) safety value of the two VTS facilities; and (3) estimated personnel cost savings from closing the two VTS facilities and decommissioning two icebreaker vessels.

GAO found that: (1) the Coast Guard used selection factors primarily to reduce its operating expenses and gave little consideration to VTS effectiveness in enhancing safety; (2) the Coast Guard considered for closure only those VTS facilities with voluntary traffic participation that would not require legislative changes to close them, low user participation rates, and low potential for local resistance; and (3) an additional advantage in selecting the New Orleans site was avoiding over $16 million for required equipment upgrades. GAO also found that the Coast Guard: (1) did not maintain required cost-effectiveness and safety information; (2) did not consider accident prevention information, total VTS activity levels, or the complexity of traffic in VTS areas; and (3) could not clearly demonstrate VTS safety value, since it did not have complete and current management information regarding VTS program effectiveness. In addition, GAO found that: (1) the estimated annual savings from the New York and New Orleans VTS facility closures totalled $1,341,000 and $1,980,000, respectively; (2) $2.4 million of the total savings represented personnel cost savings, while the remainder was attributable to the elimination of operations and maintenance costs; (3) the Coast Guard estimated annual savings from decommissioning two icebreaker vessels at about $14.2 million, $9.3 million in personnel cost savings, and the remainder in fuel and maintenance costs, but could not provide documentation for the figures; and (4) the Coast Guard needed four icebreakers to meet future need and estimated the costs of two new vessels at about $250 million each, with annual operating costs of $7.4 million.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress implemented the recommendation that the Coast Guard develop and maintain more current and complete information regarding the effectiveness of VTS systems, and use the information in deciding where VTS would be most beneficial. Subsequently, the Coast Guard revised its requirements for reporting quarterly information from VTS units that demonstrates the current value of each VTS.

    Recommendation: To improve management control within the VTS program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, to develop and maintain VTS cost-effectiveness information that demonstrates the current and potential value of each VTS facility, including New York and New Orleans, and to use such information in deciding where such facilities would be most beneficial.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO was informed by the Department of Transportation that the Coast Guard will use billet cost information contained in its Standard Personnel Cost Report when making future decisions regarding facility reductions and closing and decommissioning of vessels. An accomplishment report is in process.

    Recommendation: To improve the Coast Guard's personnel cost estimates for making decisions regarding facility reductions and closings and decommissionings of vessels, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, to use billet cost information contained in the Coast Guard's Standard Personnel Cost Report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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