Hot Water for Deepwater

What Congress giveth, Congress may taketh away, and the fiscal 2009 bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) orders that the Coast Guard lose its acquisition authority on major projects

The move might not affect just the Coast Guard and parent company DHS but also budget rival DoD and specifically the Navy.

The change is based on the GAO recommendation from its investigation into the Semper Paradis Posse and its Deepwater Cutter Do-Over fiasco. 

Congress had granted the Coast Guard the buying-power-in-question in 2003, mainly to manage the $24 billion Integrated Deepwater Systems program. Deepwater, which targets asset capability improvement across the Coast Guard, made a number of happy, seagoing vessels longer, unseaworthy hulks and launched them on a one-way cruise to the scrapyard. “Disastrous” is the word that comes to mind, eclipsing the Navy’s missteps with the littoral combat ship and DDG 1000 programs. It might even top the Air Force faux pas of late. But the Deepwater errors, as costly as they have been, are not a trend by the Revenue Cutter Service of old, thus this move by lawmakers is noteworthy.

The Coast Guard’s ties to the Navy are well-known (we’re not talking their contract management exchange program), and the demarcation between the services’ missions has blurred. In a recent draft of the Navy’s operational concept, the Boys in Blue cite the number of Coast Guard ice breakers and cutters it will need to carry out its mission. Homeland defense plus power projection plus sea control and some humanitarian gigs equal two services whose futures are closely intertwined.

Lawmakers have made their displeasure clear, but does anyone want DHS handling programs that could impact DoD? Working together is important; risking dollars that are soon to be in short supply is cause for concern.

This is another one to watch over the next year.

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