The Coast Guard, who scrambled to respond to the BP oil well explosion and oil spill, is about to lose an entire class of ships to the masters of federal spending at the Office of Management and Budget.
The Offshore Patrol Cutter, which the Coast Guard is getting ready to begin buying, appears likely to fall to the OMB ax, says one source who closely follows the Coast Guard. Worth somewhere between $300 million and $400 million through the life of the program, the OPC would replace the Famour and Reliance class cutters.
The Offshore Patrol cutter is the successor to the 270' Famous class and the 210' Reliance class Medium Endurance Cutters. It would be 300 to 399 feet and possess a range of at least 7,500 nautical miles, depending on which source you talk with.
The program is in its infancy, which may be why OMB wants to cut it before any money starts flowing. Chris Cavas at Navy Times reported that the Coasties are talking to shipbuilders about the best technical and acquisition approaches for the ship. No contracts are due to be awarded for at least another year, so from OMB's perspective this looks like the best time to save the most money. However, given the Coasties' numerous duties -- drug interdiction, rescues, anti-piracy ops, homeland security patrols, oil cleanup etc etc -- it seems a strange time to reduce the service's ability to do long-range patrols with ships that should be more efficient and more effective.