Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Malfeasance!

It's been some time now, since I was in the Coast Guard, but I still look back fondly and have somewhat possessive feelings about the service. I'm an interested party, and a proud veteran.

Which is why the ongoing tragic saga of Deepwater saddens me so. The latest is that the Coast Guard is suing the contractors, since some of the modified boats had to be decommissioned due to structural and system problems. This is on top of the many other Deepwater issues - cost overruns, structural and system problems rumored with the new National Security Cutter, Congressional inquiries. Just read this and the related articles at the Times and you'll get the picture.

It is particularly distressing for me to watch this happen, since I enlisted in the Coast Guard in the early, halcyon days of Deepwater. As a budding naval architect, we were told that was our future in the fleet. "Yeah, our ships are old now, but we're revolutionizing the industry. It's a system of systems, and you are going to be on the front lines." We were all so interested in how it would turn out - it was terribly exciting, in a nerdy engineering way.

And watch as the steel finally gets bent, and the cutters slide down the ways, and it is so clearly a flawed creation. The task was too large, too ambitious, perhaps. But it was large and ambitious out of necessity. The current Queen of the Fleet, wearing the gold numbers of the oldest cutter in commission, is Acushnet, commissioned into the Coast Guard in 1946, after two years of Navy service. The fleet is old, and must be replaced almost wholesale.

And now the Coast Guard has announced they have the situation in hand; they've stood up and entire new Acquisitions Directorate, and they will manage Deepwater, and we are on course. I have my doubts... acquisitions is a challenge on normal defense programs. For a unique program like Deepwater, run by a service with little institutional expertise in acquisitions (since they haven't bought much in decades), it could be catastrophic.

The Coast Guard has proven its value to the nation again and again. It is a critical service, in war and peace. And to carry out its core missions for the next generation, it must recapitalize. News like what we've heard over the past few months creates in me grave concerns about the future of my beloved service.

1 comment:

imispgh said...

Understandable examples of what would have or can
still happen

Every ship would be outfitted with equipment installed
on the outside of the boat that would not survive bad
weather. This equipment was part of the critical
communication and navigation systems

Every one of the SRP (Zodiac boats) would have had
radios that were not weather proof. These radios were
the primary means of comm for the small open air
boats.

Every ship in the fleet would compromise national
security by leaking classified information.
Information easily picked up by those even moderately
adept at eavesdropping. Not only would the CG be
compromised but every government organization that
used them - like the NSA, CIA, FBI, DEA etc.

Keep in mind that Lockheed was aware of each and every
one of these issues in 2003. They delivered 8 123s
with the problems and if the hulls had not cracked all
49 would be in the same shape. Additionally due to
contractual electronic system commonality requirements
(system of systems) every other ship ever built or
modified with the C4iSR systems would have the same
problem. In most cases the Cg allowed LM to get away
with this because they abdicated their oversight
responsibility.

Counter to what most have said is the root cause of
the problem (bad contracts, lack of oversight etc)
this was a human problem. While the contract had weak
areas and there could have been more oversight - the
contractual information was clear and specific enough
to know what to do and there were plenty of people in
oversight roles who simply didn't do their jobs.
After 9-11 this type of reckless behavior should be
dealt with harshly. While the recent bills introduced
to stop the lead integrator process are very helpful
we still do not have enough of a deterant. Especially
given the fact that all of the problems have not been
exposed or fixed to this day. People in leadership
positions need to be held accountable and all of the
facts need to see the light of day. Every bit of this
was easily avoidable. Most of the equipment is
purchased off the shelf and we knew about all of the
C4ISR problems before any of the boats were delivered.
This is a willful act, it is fraud and it is- in a
time we are at war - at least borderline treasonous.

Michael DeKort
imispgh@yahoo.com

THE MIND IS NOT A VESSEL TO BE FILLED BUT A FIRE TO BE KINDLED