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March 24, 2009

Cummings still focused on USCG acquisition reform

The Coast Guard is still having to sort out some of the things that went wrong with its massive Deepwater acquisition program before it took control back into its own hands.

Thus, at a hearing today of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Transportation, Rear Admiral Gary Blore, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition, could report many successes with the crucial National Security Cutter program, but apparently achieving the desired 30-year fatigue life for the first two ships remains a problem that has not yet been completely resolved.

In 2007, he said in his prepared statement, the Coast Guard arranged to work with the Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division to provide independent third party analysis of fatigue design solutions developed by Coast Guard naval engineers. Carderock reached two main conclusions in its final report. First, Carderock determined that design fatigue enhancements for the hulls of NSCs three through eight will achieve the desired 30-year fatigue life, while also recommending monitoring of localized stress in several structural details. Second, the report identifies major improvements with fatigue life after completing identified modifications to hulls one and two, but Carderock recommends more data be gathered for "several areas which are still modeling a less-than 30-year fatigue life."

Today's hearing was held as Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, continues to keep up the pressure for reform of the Coast Guard's acquisition process. Yesterday he introduced bipartisan Coast Guard Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, H.R. 1665. The cosponsors are Congressmen James L. Oberstar and John L. Mica, Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Among other things, the bill requires the Coast Guard to appoint a Chief Acquisitions Officer and bar the use of lead systems integrators. You can access the bill details HERE.

You can access the material related to today's hearing by the Coast Guard committee (including Admiral Blore's testimony) HERE.

After the hearing, Chairman Cummings issued this statement:

"The first hearing I convened during my tenure as the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation two years ago examined the mismanagement of the Coast Guard's $24 billion Deepwater program intended to modernize the service's surface and air assets. As confirmed at this morning's hearing, the Coast Guard has taken significant steps since 2007 to improve the oversight and management of its acquisition programs and to position itself to effectively manage contractors and protect taxpayers' investments in Coast Guard assets.

"I was very pleased to learn of the agreement signed today by the Coast Guard and the Integrated Coast Guard Systems team to formally remove any option for additional award term periods or the renewal of current contract award terms beyond January 24, 2011. As the Commandant promised last April, the Coast Guard is assuming the lead systems integration function, which is appropriately placed with the federal government.

"Admiral Blore also confirmed this morning that the costs of the Deepwater acquisition series as currently projected will exceed the $24 billion figure contained in the last Deepwater acquisition program baseline. I applaud the Coast Guard's movement toward the management of the individual procurements of the Deepwater series on an asset-by-asset basis and trust that this process will enable the Coast Guard to more effectively manage costs to avoid additional overruns.

"It is clear that the Coast Guard is moving miles ahead in improving its management of the acquisition process, and the bipartisan Coast Guard Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, H.R. 1665, that I introduced yesterday with my colleagues Congressmen James L. Oberstar and John L. Mica, Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, will build upon this foundation and institutionalize best practices into the Coast Guard's acquisition directorate."


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