Coast Guard's Deepwater strategy running aground, official says

The Coast Guard’s original “system of systems” vision for its $24 billion Deepwater asset acquisition program is faltering due to unrealistic budgets and “unachievable” goals, according to a federal auditor.

The Coast Guard must decide whether it will continue to pursue the approach for full data sharing between each of the boats, cutters and ships in its Deepwater fleet, John Hutton, director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office, told a House panel Oct. 4.

According to current baselines, only 127 of the 300 assets in the Deepwater program will have IT systems that enable full communication with each other as originally planned, Hutton told the House Transportation Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Related story:

Deepwater costs the Coast Guard $29 billion and may rise

“Uncertainties about the IT systems, which were intended to make Deepwater a system of systems, continue and are compounded as assets are designed and delivered without a clear vision for the overall program,” Hutton said.To answer those questions, GAO recommended in July 2010 that the Coast Guard complete a trade-off review of Deepwater to clarify the overall cost, schedule, quantities and mix of assets to meet meet mission needs, including a trade-off analysis in light of fiscal constraints.

“The Coast Guard’s efforts, as of July 2011, have not addressed this recommendation,” Hutton said.

A fleet analysis performed in 2009 did not examine the fiscal constraints, and a second fleet mix analysis currently has been completed and is under review by the Coast Guard. The Homeland Security Department also is performing a fleet mix and trade-off analysis that currently is under review by the White House.

Hutton reaffirmed a GAO’s report in July that total Deepwater costs could rise to $29.3 billion, up from $25 billion four years ago. Also, several factors make it difficult to estimate the true cost and schedule for the program, he added.

Adm. Robert Papp, commandant of the Coast Guard, told the subcommittee that agency officials “continue to make informed trade-offs amongst acquisition projects and within our budget as a whole” to achieve mission goals.

“Our acquisition outlook is positive. We are on the path of continuous improvement,” Papp said. “We recognize that there are significant challenges that we must overcome to continue to deliver these assets within the current fiscal environment.”

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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Reader comments

Thu, Oct 6, 2011 Hampton Brown Fairfax

It's going to be a rude awakening for Adm. Robert Papp and his gang when they are told funding will not be forthcoming to support this robust program. Sadly the Coast Guard blew it! For many years this proud brown water service was viewed by the host agency as a lost leader. It was always underfunded and undermanned. Since it's adoption into DHS, it has spent money like a drunken sailor!

Thu, Oct 6, 2011 Clem Munno

Deepwater has the same problem that most major systems do. They hire "rookies" who never saw a major system let alone managed one and think that they can overcome their shortcomings by being "innovative". The only problem is that their innovation is generally ideas that were tested and proven wrong twenty years before and they just were not around to learn that. Find yourself someone who has successfully managed major programs and they will get the program completed and working while saving billions. If you want to help these young, inexperienced people make them work on one or two major systems under the tutelage of these experienced managers. Success is just around the cornor if you will wise up.

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 Michael DeKort

From the Commandant’s statement at the hearing 10/4/2007 - "For the past five years, we have served as the Systems Integrator for all of our acquisition programs. In that capacity, we have identified gaps and inefficiencies in management and oversight. Accordingly, we have made significant changes to both the foundation of our acquisition enterprise and the processes we use to govern each life cycle step." Really - for the past 5 years - since 2006 - the Coast Guard has been the systems integrator and not ICGS? I thought that the ICGS contract didn't end until 2010? How are you not misleading congress here? How much more can you let ICGS off the hook? If you have identified and are fixing the gaps why aren't you thwarting us from pursuing the $9B false guaranty and fraudulent inducement of the entire Deepwater contract issues we found in discovery? How is giving Bollinger $180M more after you finally admit they committed fraud relevant to the 123s, and filing a lawsuit against them for fraud, identifying and filling gaps when no one has been held accountable and there has been no refund? Wouldn't filling the gap be debarring them until that happens? They rigged the 123 designs in 2000 and KNEW the hulls would be weak. That put people’s lives literally in danger. It was not a mistake according to the new DOJ lawsuit. They purposefully rigged the design and calculations to allow them to save money by using thinner plating. What does it take to be debarred or at least have NEW work withheld until someone is held accountable – actual loss of life? Again you are teaching industry that you will not only enable their behavior at the drop of a hat but reward it.

Wed, Oct 5, 2011

They have ALWAYS bought systems that dont do what the users need them to do. The USCG is so top heavy that the unneeded flag officers have no connection or concern for the small percentage of the service who actually do the work. The whole organization needs a bottom up review.

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