There is a vast, aging Coast Guard infrastructure along the shore that includes piers, docks, and other facilities. The Coast Guard estimated that its backlog of construction and improvement projects would take $1.7 billion and 395 years to address. That doesn't include the Coast Guard's maintenance backlog, which would bring the total cost to at least $2.6 billion.
While the Coast Guard has a culture of “making do” with the resources it has, these backlogs pose financial, safety, and mission performance risks.
We made 6 recommendations to help the Coast Guard better manage its resources to address shore infrastructure challenges.
The Coast Guard "makes do" with this temporary boat maintenance facility at Base Alameda in California.
A small boat on a trailer in front of a canvas structure
What GAO Found
About 45 percent of the Coast Guard's shore infrastructure is beyond its service life, and its current backlogs of maintenance and recapitalization projects, as of 2018, will cost at least $2.6 billion to address, according to Coast Guard information. The deferred maintenance backlog included more than 5,600 projects, with an estimated cost of $900 million. The recapitalization and new construction backlog had 125 projects, with an estimated cost of at least $1.77 billion as of 2018 (see figure). GAO's analysis of Coast Guard data found that as of November 2018 there were hundreds of recapitalization projects without cost estimates—the majority of recapitalization projects. Coast Guard officials told GAO that these projects are in the preliminary stages of development.
Value of Coast Guard's Backlog of Recapitalization and New Construction Projects, Fiscal Years 2012-2018
Note: The arrows are intended to characterize the uncertain costs due to the lack of Coast Guard cost estimates associated with those projects.
The Coast Guard's process for managing its shore infrastructure did not fully meet 6 of 9 leading practices that GAO previously identified. Of the nine leading practices, the Coast Guard met three, partially met three, and did not meet three. For example, the Coast Guard generally has not employed models for predicting the outcome of maintenance investments and optimizing among competing investments, as called for in leading practices. In one instance, the Coast Guard used a model to optimize maintenance for its aviation pavement and, according to Coast Guard officials, found that it could save nearly $14 million by accelerating investment in this area (e.g., paving runways) sooner rather than deferring such maintenance. Coast Guard officials told us that such modeling could be applied within and across all of its shore infrastructure asset types, but the Coast Guard did not implement the results of this model and does not require their use. Without requiring the use of such models, the Coast Guard could be missing opportunities to achieve cost savings and better manage its maintenance backlogs.
Why GAO Did This Study
The Coast Guard, within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), owns or leases more than 20,000 shore facilities, such as piers, docks, boat stations, air stations, and housing units, at more than 2,700 locations. In June 2017, the Coast Guard testified to Congress that it had a $1.6 billion recapitalization backlog for its shore infrastructure, which had a replacement value of about $20 billion.
GAO was asked to review the Coast Guard's management of its shore infrastructure. This report examines: (1) what is known about the condition and costs of managing the Coast Guard's shore infrastructure, and (2) the extent to which the Coast Guard's process for managing its shore infrastructure meets leading practices.
To answer these questions, GAO reviewed relevant laws and Coast Guard annual reports on its shore infrastructure, analyzed Coast Guard data, and interviewed Coast Guard officials. GAO also compared Coast Guard policies and procedures, and actions taken during fiscal years 2012 through 2018 to manage its shore infrastructure, against the leading practices that GAO previously identified for managing public sector maintenance backlogs.
GAO is making six recommendations, which DHS agreed to implement, including that the Coast Guard align its management of its shore infrastructure backlogs with leading practices by requiring the use of models for predicting the outcome of, and optimizing among, competing investments for maintenance projects.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|United States Coast Guard||1. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should direct the program managers to develop a plan with milestones and time frames for standardizing Coast Guard's facility condition assessments. (Recommendation 1)|
|United States Coast Guard||2. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should direct program managers to establish shore infrastructure performance goals, measures, and baselines to track the effectiveness of maintenance and repair investments and provide feedback on progress made. (Recommendation 2)|
|United States Coast Guard||3. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should work with Congress to develop and implement a process to routinely align Coast Guard's shore infrastructure portfolio with mission needs, including by disposing of all unneeded assets. (Recommendation 3)|
|United States Coast Guard||4. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should establish guidance for planning boards to document inputs, deliberations, and project prioritization decisions for infrastructure maintenance projects. (Recommendation 4)|
|United States Coast Guard||
Priority Rec.5. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should employ models for its asset lines for predicting the outcome of investments, analyzing trade-offs, and optimizing decisions among competing investments. (Recommendation 5)
|United States Coast Guard||6. The Commandant of the Coast Guard should include supporting details about competing project alternatives and report trade-offs in Congressional budget requests and related reports. (Recommendation 6)|