Coast Guard acquisition forecast may be unrealistic, says GAO

The Coast Guard acquisition unit might be setting itself up for disappointment because of its unrealistic forecast of a jump in available procurement dollars, a GAO official testified.

The Coast Guard’s projected capital investment budgets for fiscal 2012 to 2016 might be unrealistic and are likely to need revising, a Government Accountability Office executive testified at a congressional hearing.

For example, the Coast Guard is planning to request $2.35 billion from Congress in fiscal 2015 to pay for construction of major Deepwater assets. However, that is about 50 percent more than the $1.54 billion maximum annual acquisitions funding that the agency has received in recent years from that account.

“Projected funding levels in the Coast Guard’s fiscal years 2012-2016 capital investment plan are significantly higher than budgets previously appropriated or requested and therefore may be unrealistic,” John Hutton, director of acquisition and sourcing management at GAO, told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee on April 13. “This is particularly true given the rapidly building fiscal pressures facing the nation.”

While the Coast Guard continues to make improvements in acquisitions, including reducing vacancies at the procurement office from 20 percent in April 2010 to 13 percent in November 2010, some shortfalls in staffing persist, along with other problems, Hutton said.

“Most of the Coast Guard’s 17 major acquisition programs continue to experience challenges in program execution, schedule and resources,” he said. "Furthermore, the Coast Guard’s unrealistic budget planning exacerbates these challenges."

GAO also released a report on the Coast Guard's acquisition management on April 13.