Coast Guard's Deepwater strategy running aground, official says

The Coast Guard’s original “system of systems” vision for its $24 billion Deepwater asset acquisition program is faltering due to unrealistic budgets and “unachievable” goals, according to a federal auditor.

The Coast Guard must decide whether it will continue to pursue the approach for full data sharing between each of the boats, cutters and ships in its Deepwater fleet, John Hutton, director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office, told a House panel Oct. 4.

According to current baselines, only 127 of the 300 assets in the Deepwater program will have IT systems that enable full communication with each other as originally planned, Hutton told the House Transportation Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.


Related story:

Deepwater costs the Coast Guard $29 billion and may rise


“Uncertainties about the IT systems, which were intended to make Deepwater a system of systems, continue and are compounded as assets are designed and delivered without a clear vision for the overall program,” Hutton said.To answer those questions, GAO recommended in July 2010 that the Coast Guard complete a trade-off review of Deepwater to clarify the overall cost, schedule, quantities and mix of assets to meet meet mission needs, including a trade-off analysis in light of fiscal constraints.

“The Coast Guard’s efforts, as of July 2011, have not addressed this recommendation,” Hutton said.

A fleet analysis performed in 2009 did not examine the fiscal constraints, and a second fleet mix analysis currently has been completed and is under review by the Coast Guard. The Homeland Security Department also is performing a fleet mix and trade-off analysis that currently is under review by the White House.

Hutton reaffirmed a GAO’s report in July that total Deepwater costs could rise to $29.3 billion, up from $25 billion four years ago. Also, several factors make it difficult to estimate the true cost and schedule for the program, he added.

Adm. Robert Papp, commandant of the Coast Guard, told the subcommittee that agency officials “continue to make informed trade-offs amongst acquisition projects and within our budget as a whole” to achieve mission goals.

“Our acquisition outlook is positive. We are on the path of continuous improvement,” Papp said. “We recognize that there are significant challenges that we must overcome to continue to deliver these assets within the current fiscal environment.”

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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