Maritime 911 upgrade awarded

The Transportation Department today awarded General Dynamics Corp. a $611 million contract to modernize the Coast Guard's maritime 911 system used to help boaters in distress. Modernization of the National Distress and Response System will help save lives, Norman Mineta, Transportation Secretary, said in a statement. "Simply put, this new system will be the maritime equivalent of a 911 system, enhancing maritime safety by helping to minimize the time that search and rescue teams spend looking for people in distress," he said.

General Dynamics beat out Lockheed Martin and Science Applications International Corp. for the contract. In September 2000 the three firms won contracts in that totaled nearly $25 million for first phase of the program -- to develop, design and demonstrate an integrated National Distress and Response System. General Dynamics has been selected to carry out the second phase -- to update the 30-year-old communications and data systems the Coast Guard uses to receive emergency calls from boaters and to share information among its own facilities.

Among the enhancements General Dynamics will provide:

* An increase in channel capacity.

* The ability to pinpoint a distressed vessel within 2 degrees.

* Digital selective calling capabilities.

* The ability to record communications for instant playback.

* Interoperability with other federal and state communications systems.

The $611 million contract has a six-year base and three add-ons for a total of 19 years, running to 2020, according to General Dynamics.

Deployment for U.S. coastal waters is scheduled for completion by September 2005. The General Dynamics team includes Motorola Inc., CACI International Inc., Fuentez Systems Concepts Inc., BAE Systems, Integrated Defense Solutions Inc., Communications Services Inc., L&E Associates and American Nucleonics. The Coast Guard was able to award the contract despite the freeze on new IT spending imposed by the Office of Management and Budget. Coast Guard officials spent several weeks convincing OMB that this was a "critical mission" and deserved to be exempt from the freeze, according to a Coast Guard spokesman.

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