The Coast Guard’s newest and most technologically advanced cutter, CGC Bertholf, was granted Authority to Operate (ATO) for its C4ISR systems, clearing the way for the lead ship in the new class of National Security Cutters (NSC) to join the fleet in fully operational status.
ATO is another in a long series of accomplishments including final acceptance, which occurred on May 8. Final acceptance marked the completion of Bertholf’s acquisition warranty period and the cutter’s transition from an acquisition project to the operations and sustainment phase of her service life.
Previously, Bertholf completed mission systems and weapons testing, follow-on manpower training and analysis, and verification of her command, control, communications and sensor capabilities, demonstrating the cutter’s readiness to begin operational patrols.
A key factor in granting Bertholf’s ATO was the successful completion this spring of a rigorous, two-year TEMPEST inspection and testing process. TEMPEST is a U.S. government term referring to the prevention and detection of compromising emanations (CE) from information technology systems. TEMPEST inspection and testing ensures systems processing classified information have been correctly installed and shielded, thereby reducing the risk of CE from a facility, ship or aircraft.
“Being certified with the Authority to Operate was the last major step before deeming the cutter fully ready for Coast Guard operation,” said Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition. “With this Authority to Operate on classified networks, Bertholf is now approved to communicate using classified systems with other Coast Guard, Department of Defense and partner agency assets.”
In addition to clearing the way for Bertholf’s ATO, the completion of TEMPEST inspection and testing demonstrates the productive synergy between the Coast Guard’s acquisition community, technical authorities, operational force managers, and partner agencies. In the effort, the Acquisition Directorate worked closely with the Assistant Commandant for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology (CG-6), with the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), and with industry to complete TEMPEST inspections and tests in two phases.
Underway this summer, Bertholf’s sophisticated C4ISR suite will share data with other Coast Guard assets and with those of partner law enforcement and national security agencies, including the Navy. The NSCs and other modern Coast Guard assets will contribute information to the Common Operating Picture (COP), which is a collaborative visualization of a shared operating space. Through the COP, Bertholf will help the Coast Guard accomplish its missions amid the heavily trafficked sea lanes around the United States, as well as provide information to help tactical and strategic-level commanders make decisions.
“The command, control, and communication capabilities that are certified aboard Bertholf provide the crew with access to multiple networks and frequencies to enable this cutter to operate effectively in an information-rich environment,” said Captain Drew Rambo, Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Cyber Security & Telecommunications. “We are excited to get this capability into the hands of Coast Guard operators to help them execute their missions effectively.”
Future upgrades planned for Bertholf include installation of a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) in FY2010, improved stern doors planned for FY2010 and structural fatigue life enhancements scheduled for FY2013. Any future improvements potentially affecting the cutter’s Information Assurance posture, such as the SCIF installation, will require additional TEMPEST testing and recertification.
For more information on the National Security Cutter, please visit the project’s website at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/NSC.