Coast Guard OPC Sweepstakes Narrowed to Three Yards
Acquisition Update: U.S. Coast Guard Awards Three Contracts for Offshore Patrol Cutter Preliminary and Contract Design.
In a process that has come a long way since the early days of the Coast Guard's so-called "Deepwater" recapitalization efforts, the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday awarded three firm fixed-price contracts for preliminary and contract design (P&CD) for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) acquisition project. The contracts were awarded to Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC (Lockport, La.), Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. (Panama City, Fla.) and General Dynamics (GD), Bath Iron Works (Bath, Maine). The total value of the award is approximately $65 million.
Awarding multiple design contracts ensures that competition is continued through to a potential down-select for detailed design and construction, establishes a fixed-price environment for the remainder of the contract, and incorporates a strategy to maximize affordability. According to the U.S. Coast Guard press release, "The strategy was developed by analyzing lessons learned from other major government shipbuilding programs and through collaboration with industry on how to best design and produce the most affordable OPC." Those lessons presumably include high profile design and business failures experienced as the Coast Guard ramped up its infrastructure in the wake of 9/11 and attempted to redirect its mission mix to reflect current events. It didn't always go well.
"I thank the President, Secretary Johnson, and Congress for their continued support in recapitalizing our aging fleet of cutters. These contract awards today are an important milestone in sustaining the offshore capability needed to protect the nation’s maritime borders," said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp. "Affordability will be the central consideration as this acquisition moves closer to production." Unspoken in all of that was the careful, risk-averse course that the Coast Guard has now embarked upon for all of its major acquisition efforts. No longer will the Coast Guard turn over control of any project to contractors, invest in unproven hull forms and/or technologies or take any unnecessary chances when it comes to spending recapitalization dollars.
Why this project?
The OPC will replace the aging fleet of 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters (WMECs), which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate and are, in many respects, technologically obsolete.
How is the OPC being acquired?
The Coast Guard is using a deliberative, two-phased design-build strategy to acquire the OPC. This approach establishes stable requirements and design early on in the life of the acquisition, which helps mitigate cost and schedule risks. The first phase includes preliminary and contract design, and the second phase will include detail design and construction.The Coast Guard issued the P&CD Request for Proposal (RFP) Sept. 25, 2012. Responses were received in January 2013, and the Coast Guard conducted a thorough evaluation of proposals based on technical, management, past performance and price factors. To support the effort to acquire an affordable OPC, the Coast Guard engaged industry prior to RFP release through industry day events, one-on-one meetings and providing opportunities for potential offerors to review and comment on OPC draft technical packages, specifications and solicitation language.
The OPC will fill Coast Guard and DHS offshore mission requirements and provide capabilities between the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter and National Security Cutter, while replacing the aging 210-foot and 270-foot medium endurance cutters. The new design - when ultimately selected - will cut across several mission sets and its deployment probably recognizes that the Coast Guard wont get all the hulls it wants and will instead have to accomplish many tasks with fewer assets.