New chief to update policies for Coast Guard's acquisition directorate

Plans to institutionalize relationships with other agencies

The new chief of the Coast Guard’s acquisition directorate intends to strengthen and update the policies that govern the unit’s relationships within the agency and with the Homeland Security and Defense departments within the next several months, according to his first blog posting since assuming his new position.

Rear Adm. Ronald Rábago, who became assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer June 15, said his first priorities in the new job include institutionalizing relationships, certifiying acquisition personnel, aligning acquisition with modernization, and improving communication and feedback.

The Coast Guard formed the acquisition directorate two years ago. It has a portfolio of $27 billion in projects, including the $24 billion Deepwater asset modernization program, which is an effort to replace major ships, aircraft and other assets with new hardware.

The acquisition directorate has relationships with technical authorities, sponsors, the Homeland Security and Defense departments, Rábago wrote in a July 23 blog entry.

“These relationships are strong and collaborative, but they are not yet institutionalized,” Rábago wrote. “To make these relationships permanent, they will be clearly defined in updates to the Coast Guard’s Major Systems Acquisition Manual, CG-9s Blueprint for Continuous Improvement, CG-9s Human Capital Strategy and other documents to set policies, capture lessons learned and institute best practices.”

Rábago also said he would work to promote certification of the Coast Guard acquisition workforce to ensure a common lexicon and a common, transparent, documented process for acquisitions. The Coast Guard has already made a significant investment in Acquisition Directorate CG-9s workforce, he said, and has earned DHS certifications for its acquisition professionals.

Coast Guard acquisition must continue to work on aligning its activities with Coast Guard modernization efforts, which will include effective communication and feedback, he added.

The acquisition directorate “is still a young organization and must continue to define, streamline and codify roles and responsibilities not only for acquisition, but to ensure alignment with Coast Guard modernization efforts,” wrote Rábago.

Rábago replaced Rear Adm. Gary Blore, who is assuming command of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Northwest District.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee on July 8 passed legislation for the Coast Guard that authorizes funding for fiscal 2010 and 2011 and provides new authorities for the Coast Guard to work with international maritime officials and organizations. It also includes several acquisition-related measures, including a ban on lead systems integrators after Sept. 11, 2011.

The Coast Guard took on the role of lead systems integrator for Deepwater in 2007, after six years in which a prime contractor filled that role. The acquisition program has experienced several setbacks, including the Coast Guard’s rejection in 2007 of eight modified patrol boats produced under Deepwater that were judged to be structurally unsound.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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