The time has come for the U.S. Coast Guard to officially drop the Deepwater name from any reference to our acquisition portfolio. The active period of performance for the last line item under the Integrated Coast Guard Systems contract ends in January, and there will be no further work initiated.
The Coast Guard has long since taken over as the lead systems integrator for all acquisition projects, including those which started under the Deepwater umbrella. The Coast Guard, as a whole, has greatly improved our acquisition governance processes and exponentially increased the number of certified acquisition professionals across many disciplines and directorates.
This year, the Government Accountability Office retired Deepwater from the title of its annual audit. The new title is “Management and Oversight of Coast Guard Recapitalization.”
Deepwater was an innovative idea and in line with conventional wisdom at the time. Moreover, the Coast Guard found ourselves in a position where all our surface assets were in need of recapitalization at nearly the same time, and we needed to elucidate the urgency of this problem. Deepwater was the solution.
However, due to some well-publicized problems in execution, the Deepwater title now has negative connotations. In the end, the general consensus is that we ceded too much responsibility to the contractor, including some functions that should have been reserved for government employees. However, there is a great deal of good that has emerged from this endeavor. We have learned many hard lessons, fostered systems thinking, built our acquisition expertise and are collectively smarter as a service. Chances are good that you, the reader, have one or more acquisition certifications.
So why should we care that Deepwater has ended? In short, the collection of acquisitions formerly known as Deepwater was not inclusive of all service acquisition needs and, more importantly, had an artificial end date associated with it. This end date implied that the Coast Guard would be recapitalized, no further Acquisition Construction and Improvement funding would be needed, and all would be well. Of course, we would continue to need an adequate annual stream of funding to avoid getting into the familiar position of outdated assets and infrastructure that mandated the exceptional creativity of a program like Deepwater.
Before shoveling the last spade of dirt on Deepwater, let’s take stock of our current acquisition projects with a genesis in Deepwater. Depending on how progress is measured, we are probably somewhere between 25 to 50 percent complete. Much of the planning investment and upfront work has been completed across all projects. The Offshore Patrol Cutter, the last major shipbuilding project, is nearly through the analyze/select phase of the acquisition process and is a beehive of activity.
We have delivered about 50 percent of our planned aviation acquisitions and upgrades. Six HC-130Js are in service, with funding in hand for two more. Additionally, 12 HC-144As have been delivered with three more on order. The MH-60T and MH-65 series helicopters are nearly halfway through their periodic upgrade segments at the Aviation Logistics Center. The HC-130Hs have upgraded surface search radars, center wing boxes have been purchased and the avionics upgrade segment is well underway.
Three National Security Cutters have been delivered, with two more under construction, and 12 Fast Response Cutters are being built as I write this article. Delivery of FRC #1, the Bernard C. Webber, is imminent. The 110-foot patrol boats and 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutters have completed the Mission Effectiveness Project at the Coast Guard Yard, and approximately half of the shipyard availabilities for the 270-foot MEC class have been completed.
Our Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and small boat projects are also making progress on a regular basis. A total of 126 Response Boats-Medium have been ordered, with 77 delivered. We have awarded contracts for the 7-meter Over-the-Horizon cutter boat and will evaluate four contenders in February. We received proposals for the 11-meter Long Range Interceptor cutter boat. Rescue 21 is nearly complete in the continental U.S. with island sites in progress. The Nationwide Automatic Identification System, Interagency Operation Centers and C4 Common Operational Picture are making regular progress and providing real value to overall maritime domain awareness.
The operational successes of our new assets have been well documented. The significant developmental work invested over the last several years has removed the majority of risks from our current acquisition projects. The one significant risk across the board is having the cash flow to finish funding them as efficiently as possible. The business case to do so is compelling given the operational needs and the maturity of the projects.
Failure to finish out these investments will create capability gaps in the future as other recapitalization needs become inexorably more urgent.
Deepwater is officially dead – long live Coast Guard recapitalization.