July 21, 2005

US lawmakers call Coast Guard upgrade plan flawed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Coast Guard's $24 billion plan
to modernize its fleet in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks is wasteful and poorly executed, U.S. lawmakers said on

The cost is up from a previously estimated $19 billion and
spends too much on keeping existing ships in service, said Rep.
Harold Rogers, chairman of the House Homeland Security
Appropriations Subcommittee.

"You simply brought the most expensive, all-inclusive
Cadillac Seville, and with our limited funds we'll have to fit
you into something more appropriate," the Kentucky Republican
told a hearing on the Coast Guard request.

The Coast Guard wants the $24 billion through 2027,
including $966 million for fiscal 2006 beginning Oct. 1, to
begin building and deploying technologically superior platforms
for its fleet before aging models become naturally obsolete.
Keeping aging models in service until retired is very

Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, the Coast Guard's Deepwater
Program Executive Director, testified that only a quarter of
the service's 110-foot patrol boats -- used in deep water --
are "mission capable."

Commandant Adm. Thomas Collins said that the agency's
ability to patrol coastal waters would be greatly improved with
the delivery of Fast Response Cutters to replace existing
patrol boats, and upgraded planes and helicopters.

Collins said the first Fast Response Cutters should be
built by late 2007.

The prime contractor and system integrator for Deepwater,
the largest acquisition program in the Coast Guard's history,
is ICGS, a joint venture between Northrop Grumman Corp. and
Lockheed Martin Corp.

Lawmakers said the Coast Guard's poor communication of its
planning for the project had hurt its case.

Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the full
House Appropriation Committee, said a report from the Coast
Guard on Deepwater's needs was originally due in February.
"It's more than a little late," he said.

The Coast Guard's contract with ICGS, up for renewal in
2007, was also criticized.

A US Government Accountability Office report in 2004 said
"The Coast Guard has neither measured the extent of competition
among suppliers of Deepwater assets nor held the system
integrator (ICGS) accountable for taking such steps to achieve

The current contract "is just loaded with potential for
trouble," said Minnesota Rep. Martin Sabo, the subcommittee's
top Democrat.