New Coast Guard acquisition chief eyes changes

Rear Adm. Rábago plans to formalize the directorate's relationships

The commander of the Coast Guard’s Acquisition Directorate is setting new priorities, and they include formalizing the unit’s relationships within the agency and with the Homeland Security and Defense departments.

“These relationships are strong and collaborative, but they are not yet institutionalized,” Rear Adm. Ronald Rábago wrote in his first blog post, dated July 23. “To make these relationships permanent, they will be clearly defined in updates to the Coast Guard’s Major Systems Acquisition Manual, Blueprint for Continuous Improvement, Human Capital Strategy and other documents to set policies, capture lessons learned and institute best practices.”

The Coast Guard formed the Acquisition Directorate two years ago to oversee $27 billion in projects, including the $24 billion Deepwater modernization program for ships, patrol boats and other assets.

Rábago became assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer June 15. He said his top goals for the next several months also include certifying acquisition employees, strengthening communication and feedback, and aligning the directorate’s role with the Coast Guard’s modernization efforts.

“While the Acquisition Directorate is relatively new, the modernization seems to be somewhat independent of the Acquisition Directorate,” said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of FedSources market research firm. Aligning the two efforts more closely as Rábago has proposed is a good idea, Bjorklund added. “The Coast Guard is small enough and tightly knit enough so I don’t think they will get out of sync.”

But there are challenges. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the Coast Guard needs additional approval from Congress before it can fully carry out its modernization plans.

“If modernization means more investment dollars from Congress, well, Congress is pretty supportive but they also are being tough,” Bjorklund said. “There is a little bit of risk there.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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