GAO: Deepwater needs more staff to stay afloat

GAO's report on Deepwater (.pdf)

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Despite recent changes, the Coast Guard’s $24 billion Deepwater program remains vulnerable to failures because of uncertainty about whether enough trained employees are performing oversight, according to a new 82-page report from the Government Accountability Office.

"While the Coast Guard plans to assume more direct responsibility for Deepwater management, until it has sufficient staff with the requisite skills and abilities to execute new and expanding responsibilities, the Deepwater program will remain at risk in terms of getting what is needed, on time and at a fair price," the report states.

GAO said it has raised numerous concerns since Deepwater was started in 2002, primarily about the Coast Guard’s ability to manage the program. The concerns focus on implementation of program management, lack of contractor accountability and weak cost controls.

The Coast Guard has addressed some of the problems since 2004, but has been hindered by a lack of adequate procurement staff and by undefined roles between the service and the contractor regarding maintenance and logistics support, GAO said.

The Coast Guard recently announced its plan to assume the role of lead systems integrator, while continuing to use the contractor, Integrated Coast Guard Systems, to perform some functions, the report states. The contractor is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

The Coast Guard also realigned integrated product teams, increased use of third-party reviews and reaffirmed the role of its chief engineer as technical authority for acquisitions.

Although there has been progress with some Deepwater assets, questions remain about whether the Coast Guard can manage acquisition of all Deepwater assets, the report states.

Deepwater assets facing management challenges include the 123-foot patrol boats, vertical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fast response and national security cutters, GAO said. For example, the vertical UAVs were due to be completed in 2006, but have been delayed.

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

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