Senators seek revised Deepwater time frame

U.S. Coast Guard

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Two members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee urged the Bush administration to increase funds in the fiscal 2005 budget to accelerate the U.S. Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System.

The committee's chairwoman, Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), signed a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten in which they recommended almost $1.9 billion to trim the Deepwater program's projected schedule from 20 years to 10.

In fiscal 2004, the Deepwater program was approved for $668 million in funding.

Deepwater is the Coast Guard's multibillion-dollar plan to replace and upgrade its existing fleet and assets. The performance-based acquisition program is designed to replace ships and planes and transition the Coast Guard systems to more capable platforms for command, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

In the letter, Collins and Lieberman stated, "The nation simply cannot afford to wait another 20 years for the Coast Guard to employ more effective and reliable assets in the name of better homeland security."

"We need to ensure that the Coast Guard has the tools it needs both to defend our ports and waterways and maintain a keen focus on its critical traditional missions — search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and protection of fisheries and the environment," Collins and Lieberman said.

According to the senators, the Coast Guard could gain almost 1 million extra mission hours if the program were accelerated to a 10-year schedule.

"These are not only additional hours, but more capable hours spent using technologically advanced assets within Deepwater's fully interoperable systems approach," they wrote.

In March, the Coast Guard issued a report to Congress on the feasibility of accelerating Deepwater. That report estimated that speeding up the program would save $4 billion in acquisition costs during the life of the project.

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