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Highlights

Over the last several years, the Coast Guard has experienced what it considers to be serious reliability and safety problems with its workhorse HH-65 helicopter used for key missions, such as search and rescue, migrant and drug interdiction, and homeland security. Annually, the HH-65 contributes to saving 375 lives and assists on 2,065 drug interdiction cases, according to the Coast Guard. An increasing trend in the number and seriousness of safety-related HH-65 incidents in recent months, highlighted by some the Coast Guard deemed to be serious life-threatening incidents, prompted a Coast Guard decision in January 2004 to replace the existing engine and the associated engine control system in this helicopter with a different engine, which it believes will improve safety and reliability and substantially reduce incidents. In light of the Coast Guard's decision to replace the existing engine, and as part of our already ongoing work on the safety and reliability of the HH-65 helicopter, we determined (1) whether the Coast Guard's decision to replace the existing HH-65 helicopter engine was fact- and risk-based; (2) the management and efficiency implications, if any, of the Coast Guard's approach for addressing the safety and reliability issues with the existing HH-65 engine and acquiring the replacement engine; and (3) the extent to which the replacement decision aligns with the Coast Guard's long-term helicopter needs under its Deepwater program.

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