The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently completed its annual review of Coast Guard acquisition projects under the legacy Deepwater Program. The July 2011 report notes that the Coast Guard continues to strengthen its acquisition management capabilities as the lead systems integrator. However, the report asserts that the Coast Guard cannot achieve delivery of the asset and capability mixture proposed under Deepwater in accordance with the schedule created when the Coast Guard assumed responsibilities as lead systems integrator in 2007.
The Coast Guard appreciates GAO's ongoing oversight to identify areas of improvement within its acquisition programs, and is taking steps to address GAO’s recommendations while it continues improvements already underway. The projects managed by the Coast Guard’s Acquisition Directorate are critical to the recapitalization of the service’s aging and, in many cases, obsolete assets. The Coast Guard urgently needs to recapitalize its legacy fleet of vessels, aircraft and support systems—every day that goes by, maintenance and operation costs increase.
Since the establishment of the Acquisition Directorate four years ago, the Coast Guard has instituted a robust acquisition management and oversight organization that is better equipped to oversee costs, manage schedules, supervise contractor performance and ensure delivered assets meet operational requirements than the previous arrangement with Integrated Coast Guard Systems under the legacy Deepwater Program.
The Coast Guard faces many challenges as it manages a multiyear, multi-billion dollar acquisition portfolio in today’s constrained fiscal environment. While the fiscal environment may have changed, the needs of this country have not. It is necessary for the Coast Guard to stay on course and continue building new assets to allow it to carry out the missions that the American people demand.
However, “We need to become more agile in reaction to changes in funding and priorities,” explained the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Acquisition, Rear Adm. John Korn. “Our major cutters, particularly the 378-foot High Endurance Cutters, will soon reach a point where it will be infeasible to continue them in service. Continuing to invest in recapitalization programs is vital to sustaining Coast Guard capabilities for many years.”
New vessels acquired under the Acquisition Directorate’s recapitalization programs, such as the National Security Cutters (NSCs) Bertholf and Waesche, are already providing safety and security to U.S. citizens in the most demanding environments.
For example, Bertholf’s recent Alaskan patrol subjected the cutter to 20-foot seas, 60-knot winds and temperatures below freezing, testing the NSC’s operational capabilities in the most extreme sea conditions. Bertholf’s propulsion plant and enhanced endurance allowed for 24 days at sea without replenishment and provided sustained cutter presence offshore. The NSC’s large flight deck and stable seakeeping capabilities allowed it to launch and recover aircraft in all types of weather, and supported more than 20 safe and effective law enforcement boardings in seas of up to eight feet. A total of eight NSCs are planned.
“We have a great opportunity to sustain our recent momentum and complete the NSC program on a high note,” Korn said. “We need to continue to build NSCs to retain major cutter capability.”The NSC is just one example of how the Coast Guard’s newly acquired assets are providing needed capabilities to the field to execute some of the service’s toughest missions.