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Research Questions

  1. What are the best practices and lessons learned for improving boat acquisition by reviewing the current boats acquisition program (e.g., CG-9325) and similar organizations inside and outside the U.S. Coast Guard?
  2. What are the USCG's options for the structure, funding strategy, and processes of a future, enduring boats acquisition program?

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) depends on its fleet of more than 1,600 boats to conduct its most critical operations, which span all 11 of the USCG's statutory missions. These boats must be replaced frequently, given the harsh environments and challenging operations in which they are used. To keep up with this demand in a cost-effective way, the USCG has determined that it needs an enduring Program Management Office to manage boats acquisition efforts. The RAND Corporation's Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) was asked to conduct a 90-day study to identify best practices and lessons learned for improving boats acquisition by reviewing the current boats acquisition program and similar programs inside and outside the USCG and make recommendations for the structure, funding strategy, and processes of a future enduring boats acquisition program. We review the current boats acquisition program and similar organizations inside and outside the USCG, assess possible funding and structural strategies, and make recommendations on these topics for USCG leadership.

Key Findings

  • Boats acquisition funding currently is split between Operating Expense and Acquisition, Construction, and Improvement, which helps with financial flexibility as a whole but can slow the acquisition process and adversely affect planning.
  • Stakeholders outside USCG acquisition had trouble finding points of contact in the current organizational structure.
  • USCG boats acquisition staffing has not kept pace with workforce demands.


  • The USCG should consider a mixed-funding strategy and resolve ambiguities over funding issues under Public Law 11-6.
  • One office should be the sole provider of boats for the USCG to provide increased efficiencies and reduce uncertainty among stakeholders.
  • The USCG should consider an augmented matrix structure based on boat type (instead of individual boat projects).
  • The USCG should undertake a rigorous analysis of anticipated workloads for the boats program and staff required to meet this workload.
  • The USCG should consider maintaining a balanced workforce in CG-9325 mixing civilian, contractor, and military personnel.
  • The USCG should consider establishing guidance for the prescribed acquisition process that should be followed for purchases of boats below the nonmajor ($10 million) threshold.
  • The USCG should consider development of a Boat Capital Asset Management Plan.
  • The USCG should consider standardization of the boat fleet to reduce risks and costs associated with acquisition and maintenance.
  • The USCG Boats Acquisition program should continue to develop goals from which verifiable metrics can be derived that are traceable to CG-9 guidance.
  • The USCG Boats Acquisition program should conduct predictive analysis on inventory, in coordination with CG-731, to better prepare for new projects.
  • The USCG should explore possible collaboration opportunities with external boats acquisition offices.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and conducted by the Acquisition and Development Program within the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.