Stillman: 'This is...the way to do business'

U.S. Coast Guard

Rear Adm. Patrick Stillman, executive officer for the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System program, extolled the virtues of performance-based acquisitions at a conference last week.

"Make no mistake about it, this is absolutely the right way to do business," Stillman said, speaking at the Performance-Based Acquisitions conference in McLean, Va. He stressed that federal government and industry partners must have an open business relationship to succeed. "Success is not guaranteed, but it's right where it should be — in the hands of the practitioners."

As the man behind Deepwater, Stillman is responsible for overseeing the Coast Guard's multibillion-dollar effort to upgrade its fleet and transition to newer, more capable platforms. Scheduled to last 20 years, the Deepwater program will renew a fleet of more than 90 cutters and 200 airplanes.

Coast Guard officials are moving away from the old one-for-one approach for replacing ships and aircraft. Instead, they are replacing obsolete vessels with a state-of-the-art, interoperable system.

To update their fleet, Coast Guard officials are employing an acquisition strategy that delivers an entire system of integrated platforms based on performance-based requirements.

With this performance-based approach, payment is contingent on vendors meeting specific service targets. Stillman pointed to several keys to making the venture successful, including:

* Visualizing long-term and short-term objectives.

* Organizational support, known as top cover.

* Maintaining a trusting relationship among partners that allows for the sharing and support of an overall vision.

Stillman warned that government agencies shouldn't repeat mistakes and instead should promote a forward-looking vision while ruthlessly executing present objectives.

"If you don't have an eye on the result, you're going to fail," he said. "You must look at the outcome rather than the habits of the past."

Government and industry partners must "work together, labor together and suffer together" to provide the best value for the public, Stillman said.

"We're taking a network-centric approach to give the public a more efficient Coast Guard in the future," he said.

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