Unless the Coast Guard eliminates the seventh and eight National Security Cutters from its recapitalization program of record, it likely will have to choose from pulling funds away from other Coast Guard acquisitions, or "accept that some capabilities the Coast Guard promised will have to be deferred to later years," says the Government Accountability Office. In a report (.pdf) dated Sept. 20, the GAO says the current Coast Guard portfolio of 16 major programs has a service-estimated cost of $35.32 billion, a 41 percent increase over the $25.14 billion it anticipated spending. Even that higher number may be inaccurate, since auditors say 10 of the current baselines haven't been updated to reflect recent developments. The service's fiscal 2013 budget proposal already requested for four major acquisitions about $500 million less than their estimated cost, auditors say, naming the Maritime Patrol Aircraft Fast Response Cutter, HC-130J/H aircraft and C4ISR programs. Were the Coast Guard to eliminate the final two of eight planned NSCs from the recapitalization program of record, the future years capital investment plan for fiscals 2013-2017 transmitted in the budget proposal would nearly match total anticipated acquisition funding, the report says. If the Coast Guard were to retain them, the need for acquisition funding would exceed the capital investment plan in fiscal 2014 through 2016--in the first 2 years by more than $600 million annually. The Coast Guard budget proposal in fact did not include funding for the last two NSCs in the capital investment plan, in what increasingly appears to have been a decision made by Homeland Security Department officials without the support of the Coast Guard. In August 2011, the DHS Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation conducted a cutter fleet study that concluded that the Coast Guard could make do with 6 NSCs, the GAO report says--making that decision based on a finding that the Coast Guard needs only 3.5 NSCs to fulfill its defense mission. Auditors also say the NSC never underwent a rigorous requirement process, unlike the Offshore Patrol Cutter program--for which the Coast Guard released the final request for proposals on Sept. 25. Offshore Patrol Cutter design specification underwent rigorous cost analysis, including a drop from an acceptable speed of 25 knots to 22 knots, potentially eliminating the need for two diesel engines--and perhaps dropping the cost of each OPC by $10 million. Cost-cutting also eliminated a requirement for an integrated C4ISR system onboard the OPC--although, as a result, OPC won't be able to exchange near-real-time battle data with Defense Department assets. House lawmakers and Senate appropriators both included funding for long lead time materials for the seventh NSC in their versions of fiscal 2013 spending bills--signaling an intention to side with the Coast Guard and not DHS PA&E on the matter. NSC contractor Huntington Ingalls officially laid the keel of the fourth NSC in a Sept. 5 ceremony. Ladies and gents, this is the beginning of the end for the Coast Guard. As the Coast Guard plans to decommission 12 high endurance cutters (378's), DHS's report announces that they believe the Coast Guard only needs 3.5 to maintain its missions. The new National Security Cutter doesn't go 1,000 kts, so I guess DHS isn't aware of how much coastline and territorial seas there are. Of course there is no current plan to replace the Coast Guard 14 Reliance class cutters, which were commissioned between 1964 and 1969 and have gone through three midlife extensions. The 110' extension to 123' was killed as well, which means the little 110' that have some serious hull issues won't be touched. That leaves the 270's, each of which is unique because as they were built, 70' were cut to save costs. That Coast Guard for far to long has said "we will do what we can with what you've given us. We'll make it work." It aint working. Unfortunately DHS silences the Coast Guard, which has to in effect say "the documents speak for themselves." That's not because the CG officials don't know there are issues, it's because DHS OPA keeps them from speaking about it. Disgusting.