Coast Guard:

Better Process Needed to Justify Closing Search and Rescue Stations

RCED-90-98: Published: Mar 6, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 21, 1990.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO assessed the Coast Guard's process and criteria for closing search and rescue stations.

GAO found that the Coast Guard: (1) developed a list of 34 candidate stations for closure or reduction, basing its recommendations on past studies; (2) did not complete or maintain information on alternative sources of search and rescue assistance; (3) used misleading data in assessing stations' effectiveness in saving lives; and (4) used incorrect information on stations' ability to maintain a 2-hour response time. GAO noted that the Coast Guard's decisions regarding station closures and reductions have historically been politically sensitive and difficult to defend.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A unit change guide was completed in late 1993. This guide will be used to justify establishment, consolidation, or closure of units. In a 1994 report (GAO/RCED-94-147), GAO reported that the new process was much improved and provided the ability to reassess the need for stations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should improve the process used in deciding on search and rescue station closure and reductions by establishing formal instructions which identify the criteria to be applied in making closure decisions, direct decisionmakers to apply selection criteria consistently to all stations under consideration for closure, and require complete documentation on the basis of the selections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Coast Guard revised criteria were implemented in late 1993. These criteria require that all pertinent information be considered when determining whether stations should be closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should improve the criteria used in the selection process by adding, at a minimum, to the criteria a measurement of the impact that closures and reductions have on saving lives and carrying out other Coast Guard missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Efforts were made to ensure that the SAR station database contains the most complete and accurate data available. These efforts included establishing a computerized facility database that will include information on station history case load and current staffing and resource levels. This information is now being used.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should require that complete, current, and accurate data be made available and used in the application of the criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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