April 1, 2012  

Don’t scuttle cutters

TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY for delaying, if not deleting, plans to complete the Bertholf class of national security cutters.

The Coast Guard buys a new class of big ocean-going vessels about every 40 years or so. Such ships are highly capable, they’re useful and they last a long time. This generation’s version, the Bertholf program, is mature. The costs are understood and steady. And by all accounts, the Coasties are delighted with the three vessels that are already in the water.

By omitting the final two of a planned eight ships, the DHS 2013 budget proposal shaves $1.4 billion from near-term spending. But the need for big cutters isn’t going away, and when the country returns to buy the final two ships, we’ll find that their price tags have soared.

When lawmakers asked about the omission, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano replied, vaguely, that her department was waiting to see “what the Navy is doing.” That’s just lame. The Navy has nothing to do with the Bertholfs’ envisioned roles and missions. Axing the cutters is a classic penny-wise, pound-foolish move.