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Cablegate: One Size Does Not Fit All: Enduring Friendship

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DE RUEHSJ #0596/01 1932230
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 112230Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9938
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUWDQAC/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAN JOSE 000596

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, INL/LP, AND PM; OSD FOR POLICY;
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MASS MCAP PINS SNAR CS
SUBJECT: ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: ENDURING FRIENDSHIP
BOATS ARE NOT THE BEST SOLUTION FOR COSTA RICA

REF: A. 07 SAN JOSE 2074
B. SAN JOSE 586
C. SAN JOSE 530
D. SAN JOSE 400
E. SAN JOSE 63

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Post appreciates Department's and other
agency's hard work to secure Merida Initiative funding for
Costa Rica. However, we do not/not recommend the purchase of
Enduring Friendship (EF) vessels for Costa Rica. We
understand there is a short deadline to develop the spending
plan required by Congress, but a hasty decision that appears
expedient in the short run may not prove effective over the
longer run. We therefore ask that our views be given serious
consideration during inter-agency review of the Merida
package for Central America. Our reasons are as follows:

-- A U.S. Coast Guard survey in March 2008 reported that EF
vessels were not an appropriate platform to conduct primary
Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) missions, such as
counternarcotics operations;

-- Our Office of Defense Representative (ODR), has
consistently reported the difficulties experienced by other
countries' EF boats in the region, especially their fairly
sophisticated, maintenance-intensive nature. Moreover, some
of the regional maritime services experiencing problems with
EF boats are more capable than Costa Rica's. If these other
users are having problems, we expect that the SNGC would as
well; and

-- Our ODR's own survey of current SNGC capabilities, which
highlight the challenges of keeping high-maintenance boats
such as EF in service.

2. (SBU) ACTION REQUESTS: Post understands that Merida
Initiative maritime interdiction assistance is likely to come
from FMF funding, since INCLE Merida funds were cut.

-- Please advise if INCLE funding for refurbishing existing
SNGC vessels, as we have requested since 2007 (Ref A), is now
completely out of the question.

-- Please also advise why FMF funding could not be used for
the refurbishment and acquisition package Post originally
suggested for Merida, and which has been included, up to this
point, in Merida planning.

Post very strongly believes that the challenges presented by
operating and maintaining EF boats would hobble USG maritime
counternarcotics efforts in Costa Rica. In our view, one
size does not fit all. We strongly urge that other options
be carefully considered (e.g., SPE-LE boats, Ref B), before
the USG presents the GOCR (and this Post) with what appears
to be an Enduring Friendship fait accompli. We invite other
embassies in the region to comment on their experiences with
EF boats. END SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUESTS.

==========================
USCG SURVEY AND POST INPUT
==========================

3. (SBU) From March 24-28, a U.S. Coast Guard Maritime
Assessment team conducted a survey of the SNGC. The
assessment focused on Maritime Law Enforcement, SNGC
operations, engineering and preventative maintenance,
training, and legal authorities. Although not yet issued,
the draft report highlights problems with EF boats for Costa
Rica as follows:

BEGIN QUOTE: These high speed, high performance (Enduring
Friendship) boats require extensive maintenance hours, both
electronically and mechanically. They also require a
significant amount of technical coxswain training for high
speed maneuvering. Moreover, they do not provide an
appropriate platform to conduct the primary SNGC missions.
END QUOTE.

4. (SBU) One of the practical considerations for interceptor
boats is the ability to safely board vessels without causing
damage to either the boarding vessel or the vessel being
boarded. EF boats have rigid hulls that increase the

SAN JOSE 00000596 002 OF 003


likelihood of damage in high seas during boarding operations.
Options, such as U.S. Coast Guard Safe boats, negate that
possibility with foam-filled hulls that are similar to
inflatables but without the risk of being punctured and
losing air. This soft "fender" capability greatly reduces
the risk of damage.

5. (SBU Post acknowledges that Safe boats may also be
maintenance intensive, and we would certainly welcome
suggestions for other craft that are more basic and simpler
to operate and maintain, but we firmly believe that this type
of soft-sided vessel would be an overall better fit for the
SNGC than EF units. They would provide the interceptor
capability while maximizing safety factors for all involved
in boarding operations. We understand that one option under
consideration is to modify EF boats, by retrofitting rubber
side rails, to minimize boarding damage. We believe that
such modifications, even if seemingly cost-effective and
potentially available quickly, would not make the EF boats
significantly less maintenance-intensive or easier to operate
for the SNGC.

6. (SBU) Post's ODR office reports that some other regional
navies or coast guards have had maintenance problems with EF
boats, including the Dominican Republic and Panama. We
understand that all the Panamanian EF boats are inoperable at
the moment, for example, due to maintenance problems. If so,
we urge that these problems be taken into account before
supplying EF boats for all users in the region. If other, in
some cases more capable, users have difficulties operating EF
boats, we expect the same would happen in Costa Rica. We
welcome input from posts with EF assets: have these boats
been a prudent and effective acquisition for your host
nations?

7. (SBU) Given these reasons, we strongly believe that
Enduring Friendship boats are not/not the best choice for
Costa Rica. We therefore do not/not recommend their
purchase, but strongly urge that other options be considered
(such as USCG Safe boats or similar).

===============================
REVIEW OF SECURITY REQUIREMENTS
===============================

8. (SBU) We stand by our earlier recommendations (Ref A) of
what the SNGC needs most, based on GOCR input and our own
2007 assessment:

A) FY2008 MERIDA INITIATIVE SUPPLEMENTAL ($1.975 million
total): Refit and refurbish the inoperable SNGC 65-foot
patrol boat in Limon ($900K); modernize all electronics on
two 82-foot patrol boats ($175K); buy two new interceptors
($600K); refit four existing 25-foot Eduardono-type "go-fast"
patrol boats ($300K). This would leave the SNGC with two new
and seven improved maritime assets for CN operations.

Although we understand that Congressional and funding
realities require adjustment to these plans, the most
generous alternative under discussion in the inter-agency
process now would provide just two EF boats (and supporting
equipment) to the SNGC, with none of the refurbishment
support for the older boats, and at a higher cost. We do not
understand how such a "trade down" from nine new/improved
assets to just two (at a higher cost) serves GOCR, USG (or US
taxpayer) interests.

B) FY 2009 MERIDA INITIATIVE REQUEST ($2.035 million total):
Refit and refurbish the two 82-foot patrol boats that would
have received the electronics package in FY08 ($1.6M); buy
one new interceptor ($300K); install FLIR on three air
surveillance aircraft ($135K).

C) FY2010 MERIDA INITIATIVE REQUEST ($2.8 million total):
Refit inoperable SNGC 105-foot patrol boat ($2.5M); buy one
new interceptor ($300K). We would modify the FY09 and FY10
requests based on the final decision for FY08. If INCLE
funding for boat refurbishment is out of the question for
Merida FY08, then we strongly urge that these requirements be
factored into Merida FY09.

=======

SAN JOSE 00000596 003 OF 003


COMMENT
=======

9. (SBU) As per Refs. B-C, Costa Rica's Ministry of Public
Security has consistently told us of their most important
priorities, which are mainly fixing the SNGC and receiving
police professionalization training and new police equipment.
The GOCR has supported the goals of the Merida Initiative as
well, especially with their valued input at the January
SICA-based Merida input meeting in El Salvador (Ref E). We
should respond by providing what the SNGC needs and what it
can use, not an off-the-shelf package that is inappropriate
for the SNGC's capabilities. This would be like giving a
15-year a Ferrari.
CIANCHETTE

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