The Coast Guard established the LSSU in 2006 as a field activity of the service’s Surface Acquisition Program. The LSSU’s primary role is to manage the work of the Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP), an initiative to modernize select cutters at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Md. The Surface Acquisition Program is managed by the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9), at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
So far, the MEP has refurbished 17 of the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats, 14 of the 210-foot Reliance-class Medium Endurance Cutters (WMECs) and 13 of the 270-foot Famous-class WMECs. The project improves the mission readiness and sustainability of these cutters by reducing the frequency of major system and equipment failures and by increasing their operational availability. With the 110-foot and 210-foot cutters now finished, the project is focusing on the 270-foot Famous-class WMECs, the last of which is scheduled for completion in 2014.
A key aspect of the MEP’s success has been the oversight provided by the LSSU, said Cmdr. Christopher Webb, the LSSU commanding officer.
“Our role here is unique,” Webb said. “We’re primarily naval engineers, yet we’re part of the Acquisition Directorate’s program management organization. So you have a real technical engineering expertise combined with the structure of an acquisition program. At the same time, we’re improving mission readiness of the cutter for the operational commander.”
The LSSU is already planning for the next phase in modernizing the Coast Guard’s legacy vessels, the In-Service Vessel Sustainment (ISVS) project. This new effort will begin with the planned Service Life Extension Project (SLEP) of the 140-foot Bay-class Icebreaking Tug class. Members of the LSSU have also begun planning, including the initiation of integrated project teams, for work on the 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders, which is scheduled to begin in 2015.
“We’re really looking forward to the 140s and the 225s because we’re actually engaged and working with the product line as a separate project from the ongoing MEP,” Webb said. “With formal technical evaluation teams, we’re participating in the source selection effort for the equipment as well as all the long lead contracting efforts that are ongoing with the Surface Forces Logistics Center.”
A Day in the Life
When a ship arrives at the yard to begin its MEP availability, custody of the vessel is transferred to the LSSU with a “tag-out log”―a list of specifications detailing any equipment that is not operating properly. Once the ship is lifted out of the water, it is thoroughly inspected, including ultrasonic thickness measurements to gauge the soundness of the steel hull and determine if any areas need to be cut away and replaced.
According to Chief Petty Officer Justin Price, a machinery technician, the findings of this inspection lead to a report that will define additional work outside of the original specifications.“Things never happen the way they are planned. So it’s part of LSSU’s job to bring these two things―planned and unplanned work―together and make order out of the two,” Price said.
Scheduling and accommodations also come into play when dealing with the different cutter crews that rotate through the yard during a ship’s MEP, said Lt. Patrick Burnett, the LSSU’s section chief for ISVS.
“Every two weeks the cutter sends a new group of people to watch over the ship,” Burnett said. “Multiply that by having up to four vessels here at any one time. All of these crew members have to be housed. It all has to be planned well in advance to rotate the crews in and out.”
At the end of a MEP availability, the LSSU also helps to organize input from technical representatives and all the logistical steps, including restocking food stores and refueling, necessary to get to “sail away”―the return of the cutter to operational service.
A ‘Game-Changer’ for Acquisition
Considering all the aspects of the complex programs it manages, the LSSU has become a “game-changer” for the way the Coast Guard manages its acquisition-funded sustainment availabilities, according to Kenneth King, the MEP project manager at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“The LSSU takes care of the crucial day-to-day inspections, extensive coordination of the schedule and oversight of the various contracts. Additionally, this unit provides a vital service to the operational commander by having LSSU personnel monitor work on the boats and cutters, which allows for multi-crewing on other cutters, thus preserving operational underway hours,” King said.
Looking ahead, a top priority for the LSSU is to ensure ISVS program success by planning well into the future. The more planning that can be done to standardize the program’s operating procedures, the more it will improve the unit’s overall efficiency, King noted.
“I’m convinced the success of the MEP is overwhelmingly due to the outstanding job done by the men and women who constitute the LSSU,” he said. “As the project manager, I just couldn’t imagine trying to manage the future ISVS projects without having the LSSU in place at the Coast Guard Yard.”
To learn more about the Mission Effectiveness Project, please visit: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/MEP/default.asp