Coast Guard takes over Deepwater

STATEMENT BY ADM. THAD ALLEN on the converted 123-foot patrol boats and changes to the Deepwater acquisition program

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The Coast Guard will take over the role of lead systems integrator for the $24 billion Deepwater acquisition program to enhance management and oversight, Coast Guard Commander Admiral Thad Allen said today.

The lead systems integrator role since 2002 has been held by a joint venture of federal contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The multiyear acquisition program seeks to modernize Coast Guard vessels and systems.

Allen, who took command of the Coast Guard a year ago, said the massive Deepwater program has relied too much on federal contractors.

“We’ve relied too much on contractors to do the work of government as a result of tightening budgets, a dearth of contracting expertise in the federal government, and a loss of focus on critical governmental roles and responsibilities in the management and oversight of acquisition programs,” Allen said at a news conference.

“Both industry and government have failed to accurately predict and control costs. We must improve,” he said.

Under the new strategy, the Coast Guard will assume the lead role as systems integrator for all Deepwater assets, as well as other major acquisitions, Allen said. Allen did not provide a schedule for the change, but said he was adding Coast Guard staff members as part of the service's fiscal 2008 budget request.

Other steps to improve Deepwater announced by Allen include:
  • The Coast Guard will permanently decommission the eight 123-foot patrol boats converted under the Deepwater program because of  extensive structural problems.
  • The service will take charge of managing life cycle logistics functions in the Deepwater program under an improved logistics architecture with the new mission-support organization.
  • The Coast Guard will expand the role of the American Bureau of Shipping, or other third-parties as appropriate, to evaluate whether Deepwater assets are properly designed and constructed.
  • The service will work collaboratively with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to resolve issues regarding the national security cutters.
  • The Coast Guard may continue some Deepwater asset production with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Allen plans to meet quarterly with industry until all Deepwater program issues are fully adjudicated and resolved. The next meeting is to be held within a month.

Allen said he met with Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Officer Robert Stevens and Northrop Grumman CEO Ronald Sugar in January to review Deepwater, and some improvements have been made since then. Allen said the three executives reached agreement on the actions announced today.

Allen said he also is making far-reaching changes to acquisition at the Coast Guard. By the end of 2010, there will be a new mission support organization in the service that will provide “seamless support,” he said.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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