Coast Guard Project to Modernize Ships Runs Aground
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Pam Fessler reports on the building effort.
PAM FESSLER: Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings - who chairs the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee - called it one of the most troubling inspector general reports he's ever read.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: The HS's IG's report would suggest that the Coast Guard and its contractors have knowingly and willfully spent close to $1 billion - a figure that is likely to rise - to build a flawed ship, and that as a result of this decision. The United States taxpayer is likely to now have to pay for repairs on brand new vessels.
FESSLER: Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen said there was concern that slowing things down would lead to even higher costs.
THAD ALLEN: Whether you agree with it or not, the decision that was taken was that they would continue to take a look at the structural issues that were raised in the memo, and to the extent direct refitting was needed, that would be done on the first and second hulls after delivery so as not to break production and incur cost and schedule delays there.
FESSLER: Allen also took issue with some of the report's findings. He said the design flaws are a matter of debate. And he insisted that the cutters will be able to function for a full 30 years as originally planned. But the inspector general's report is only the latest bad news for the Deepwater program.
ALLEN: I'm seeing a pattern here.
FESSLER: Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor noted that in November, the Coast Guard was forced to stop using eight newly-renovated patrol boats because of cracks in the hulls and engine failures. The government spent a $100 million on the upgrades.
GENE TAYLOR: Unidentified Man: We're under...
TAYLOR: And no one is at fault.
FESSLER: Taylor and others complained that it was not clear who would pick up the cost of any mistakes, the government or the contractor. New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo warned Allen that there's growing pressure in Congress to suspend the entire program.
FRANK LOBIONDO: The Coast Guard is in too much of a dire need of the assets, but we can't sustain any more bad news.
FESSLER: Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.
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