This summer, Capt. Douglas Schofield assumed duties as the project manager for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), where he puts to use his more than 20 years experience at sea and in acquisition management to guide the Coast Guard’s next major shipbuilding project. The OPC will be the first major cutter developed from start to finish with the Coast Guard acting as systems integrator.
Prior to serving as the OPC project manager, Schofield completed four sea tours aboard 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, which the OPC will replace. He knows first-hand the missions the new cutters will carry out. While serving as executive officer of the 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba, the cutter and crew received two consecutive operational readiness awards and seized two-and-a-half tons of cocaine aboard a coastal freighter in the western Caribbean.
Schofield is also well aware of the issues that are currently taxing the Coast Guard’s legacy cutter fleet. Earlier this year, Schofield was underway on his final patrol as commanding officer of the 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Thetis. While at sea, they experienced trouble with the ship’s controllable pitch propeller system causing the cutter to return to port for emergency repairs, curtailing training and operational missions.
“The trouble with an aging fleet is that we’re starting to encounter problems we haven’t seen in the past,” Schofield said. “The Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP) does an outstanding job of upgrading the ship’s major systems to meet current and future demands, but it can’t do everything. The parts for these big, expensive, and now frequently obsolete systems are often not available, leading to problems maintaining the fleet. I spent most of my last patrol troubleshooting mechanical failures; as a matter of fact, my change of command was held at a northern Florida shipyard with the cutter drydocked in the background while the controllable pitch propeller system was overhauled.
Schofield was involved with the OPC shipbuilding project at its earliest phases, serving as the program manager’s representative at the Project Resident Office (PRO) Gulf Coast, Pascagoula, Miss., where he assisted the restart of the project, which included developing new requirements and extensive market analysis. He then became the executive officer of PRO Gulf Coast, where he headed the government’s bridge trials and safety team during the extensive at-sea testing and trials of the first National Security Cutter, Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf.
A native of Lancaster, Pa., Schofield graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1991, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in marine engineering and naval architecture. He also holds Master of Science degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering, mechanical engineering, and engineering and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
Schofield’s education as an engineer, his previous acquisition and project management experience, and at-sea tours commanding the vessels that the OPC will replace, have prepared him to lead the Coast Guard in its largest ever acquisition.
The Thetis going into drydock during his final patrol was a serendipitous transition to his new job.
“It’s like someone was foreseeing my OPC job, saying ‘get us new ships,’” Schofield said. “We need new ships, there is no doubt. These ships are critical to carry out the important offshore missions that keep us safe here at home.”