More money, more progress?

The Bush administration is seeking $678 million for the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System in the proposed fiscal 2005 budget, an increase of $10 million from fiscal 2004. However, some prominent lawmakers think that's not enough.

They have pushed to cut the timeframe for Deepwater in half — from its current 20-year schedule down to 10 years. In October 2003, a letter from the leaders of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee recommended spending almost $1.9 billion to meet the shorter schedule.

The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), sent the letter to Josh Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, requesting the additional funds.

Although this request was not granted, the lawmakers continue their push to have Deepwater completed sooner. Collins pointed out that funding the program over only 10 years would save approximately $4 billion in acquisition costs.

"That's significant money," Collins said. "It would cost more upfront, but in the long run to be able to save $4 billion and at the same time greatly increase the capability of the Coast Guard is a real win."

She also notes that implementing Deepwater in a 10-year timeframe would make available an additional 1 million manhours of mission time. "It makes sense any way you look at it," Collins said.

The system's team members agree and feel that with the required money available the program could meet a shorter deadline.

"I definitely think it's feasible and definitely to the greatest benefit to the Coast Guard," said Cmdr. Mike Anderson, the system's program manager. "We have a definite need for assets, and anything done to expedite that would be helpful."

Rear Adm. Patrick Stillman, Deepwater's program executive officer, would also like to see the system come together sooner, but understands the complexities involved.

"I am a realist in this undertaking," Stillman said. "What we have to do is ruthlessly execute the program to ensure that we're poised to accommodate that acceleration should it come. There's only so much that I can control or my people can control."

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