By Chief Petty Officer Sarah Foster-Snell
Amidst the hammering, bright lights and the frequent clatter of tools and equipment buzzing all about, workers at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Md. are working diligently to keep the Coast Guard’s operational work horses—medium endurance cutters and patrol boats— running until replaced by new Deepwater surface assets.
The Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP) is the key to keeping these legacy assets running. There is no time wasted as cutters are selected and directed to detach from the fleet, taken to the Coast Guard Yard, worked on and returned to the fleet on schedule. MEP’s intent is to maintain effective missions for the legacy 270 and 210-foot medium endurance cutters and 110-foot patrol boats until they are replaced by the Offshore Patrol Cutter and the Fast Response Cutter.
“The purpose of the MEP is not necessarily to improve capabilities on the legacy cutters, but more to reduce the cost to maintain and operate the vessels by reducing the number of causalities experienced by the aging fleet,” explained Lt. Seth Pennington, Patrol Boat Program Manager at the Cutter Forces Program Division.
To oversee he completion of all MEP work, the Legacy Sustainment Support Unit (LSSU) was established last summer at the Coast Guard Yard, headed by Cmdr. Doug Subocz as the commanding officer and Lt. Cmdr. Greg Rothrock as the executive officer. Project funding provided to date for the 110-foot sustainment project is $59.2 million and $47.7 million for medium endurance cutters.
Age, obsolete technology, expansion of Coast Guard missions post 9-11, increased patrol hours, wear and tear and back-logged maintenance have taken a toll on operational performance and readiness of all legacy assets. MEP’s major systems refurbishments will involve replacing, but not limited to: Null plating, tanks, piping, electrical wiring, and renewing decks, living quarters and engineering systems. It also replaces equipment most troublesome to maintain, such as refrigeration units, air conditioning, evaporators, boat davits, etc., to help improve operational readiness and quality of life onboard.
While an asset undergoes its major refurbishment, which is 12 months for 110-foot cutters, six months for 210-foot cutters, and two six-month periods (one drydock and one dockside) for 270-foot cutters, it leaves one to wonder what impacts there are to operational missions with one or two fewer cutters in a Coast Guard Sector or District.
“As far as how the repairs will affect the mission there shouldn't be much of a dramatic difference. The largest difference is the cutters will be expected to experience less casualties which translates to less lost patrol time and less cost in emergency repairs,” said Lt. Marcus Ivery, Medium Endurance Cutters Program Manager.
Ken King, MEP Program Manager at the Coast Guard Legacy Asset Sustainment Project Division (G-ASL), defines MEP as combining a number of complex Coast Guard processes into one centrally managed program.
“We're following the Coast Guard Major Systems Acquisition Manual and we're also following the engineering change process managed by the Engineering Logistics Command Platform Division,” said King. “But more importantly, we're working with the operational commanders to rotate crews via multi-crewing to optimize patrol hours during the extended MEP availabilities.”
In King’s opinion, the decision to employ the Coast Guard Yard for this work was the correct one and he praised workers for their high-quality work, adherence to schedule, and staying on budget.
“The convergence, integration and teamwork of all these offices/processes across three cutter classes continue to be truly amazing, and unlike any other initiative the Coast Guard has ever had,” said King. “Everyone is pleased with the results.”
As one of the Deepwater Program’s 15 major projects, MEP continues to be a program success thanks to the excellent collaboration between the Coast Guard Yard, LSSU, Deepwater and the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate. Operators are now getting their cutters back from the Yard with a new lease on life to execute core missions more efficiently and effectively.