Coast Guard floats Deepwater ideas

State-of-the-market commercial off-the-shelf technology could be the key

to winning a 20-year, $9.8 billion project to acquire more ships, aircraft,

communications and sensors that will give the Coast Guard capabilities it

should already have.

Rather than replacing its Deepwater assets one-for-one, the Coast Guard

is giving three potential contractor teams the freedom to design a cutting-edge

system that will enable the agency to carry out its diverse mission of law

enforcement, maritime activities and national defense.

The teams will be led by Avondale Industries Inc., Lockheed Martin Government

Electronic Systems and Science Applications International Corp.

The Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater project does not specify hardware

or components but rather asks vendors to come up with the best combination

of technology and assets, whether owned or leased, to meet the Coast Guard's

performance goals, said Adm. James Loy, the Coast Guard commandant. Loy

spoke Wednesday at a seminar in Washington, D.C., sponsored by DFI International

Inc., a consulting firm. The options offered could include satellites and

unmanned aerial vehicles, he said in an interview.

Loy recognized that the approach means cutting jobs but was cautious not

to repeat a past 4,000-person reduction that "went too far." He noted the

need to "take advantage of technology and the ability to look down the road

at where technology can replace people."

Congress has scrutinized the Deepwater project, which is expected to be

awarded to a single team in January 2002. A March 15 General Accounting

Office report questioned the Coast Guard's plans to request $350 million

for fiscal 2002 before the planning phase of the project is complete and

before it has developed and proven the effectiveness of new technologies,

such as new software used in communications equipment.

But Capt. Richard Kelly, the sponsor's representative for Deepwater, said

the contract specifies that the technology should be nondevelopmental. Because

implementation of Deepwater could take 20 years, the Coast Guard wants the

flexibility to integrate technologies that may be developed for other services.

The Coast Guard's existing ships and planes are "blind, deaf and dumb,"

Kelly said. Without electro-optical and infrared equipment, the agency is

operating with limited capabilities and the ships and aircraft often fail

to detect and identify vessels, he said.

"We want to see so we have the ability to detect what's out there and identify

it to use our ships more effectively," Kelly said. The ships and aircraft

have no capability to share data that would provide everyone with the same

situational awareness, he said.

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