Report: Pick up Deepwater pace

The Coast Guard could complete the Integrated Deepwater System in 10 years, chopping its implementation time in half, according to recent findings.

Accelerating the massive modernization program would require additional funding upfront, but would ultimately provide $4 billion in savings, agency officials wrote in a March 11 report.

Picking up the pace "provides the Coast Guard the means to make homeland security improvements sooner," officials said. "Terrorist threats to America's homeland are significantly more complex and challenging than at any other time in our history.

Deepwater "is urgently needed to transform [the agency's] operational capabilities and performance vital to homeland security while safeguarding its multiple other missions."

The Coast Guard is one of 22 agencies that have moved to the new Homeland Security Department.

"I believe we don't have time to waste," said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who requested the report. "Congress needs to step up to the plate and fully fund this initiative and provide our nation with the maritime and homeland security protections we desperately need."

In the past lawmakers have questioned their ability to sustain Deepwater's spending needs over time. The Bush administration asked Congress for $500 million for the program for both fiscal 2003 and 2004, but agency officials have said that funding is inadequate.

The Coast Guard awarded the Deepwater contract — a landmark deal worth up to $17 billion — in June 2002 to a joint venture established by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

As the largest procurement in the Transportation Department's history, Deepwater represents a sweeping upgrade after years of neglect. The program will replace an aging fleet of cutters, aircraft, sensors and the supporting command, control, communications and surveillance systems.

Snowe plans to address the findings March 12 at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Oceans, Atmosphere and Fisheries Subcommittee hearing on the fiscal 2004 budget request for the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


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