Coast Guard taps General Dynamics to modernize maritime 911 system

The Coast Guard has awarded a 19-year, $611 million contract to General Dynamics Corp. to modernize the system it uses to monitor distress calls from vessels, Guard officials announced Sept. 24.

Through the Rescue 21 project, the Guard will upgrade its 30-year-old short-range analog communications network, the National Distress and Response System.

Rescue 21 will improve the agency's ability to detect rescue calls from boaters, pinpoint their locations and coordinate rescues along the nation's 95,000 miles of coastline, Hewitt said.

General Dynamics bested Lockheed Martin Corp. and Science Applications International Corp. The contract has a six-year base period and three follow-on optional terms?two four-year periods and a five-year period.

General Dynamics' Rescue 21 team will include American Nucleonics of Westlake Village, Calif.; CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va.; Communication Services Inc. of Mesa, Ariz.; Fuentze Systems Concepts Inc. of Charleston, S.C.; Integrated Defense Solutions Inc. of Austin, Texas; L&E Associates of Oxon Hill, Md., and Motorola Inc.

Coast Guard officials had been concerned that the buy might be held up because of an Office of Management and Budget directive ordering a halt of infrastructure projects at agencies slated to become part of the proposed Homeland Security Department.

But Hewitt said the Homeland Security IT Investment Review Group, which is looking to consolidate IT projects at proposed homeland security agencies, decided the Guard's Rescue 21 was mission-critical and gave the agency the OK to proceed.

The Guard expects to complete the rollout of Rescue 21 by Sept. 30, 2006. General Dynamics next year will start deploying it in Atlantic City, N.J., and some parts of Maryland. The next deployments will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., Mobile, Ala., and along the Washington state coast.

"Simply put, this new system will be the maritime equivalent of a 911 system, enhancing maritime safety, by helping to minimize the time that search-and-rescue teams spend looking for people in distress," Transportation secretary Norman Mineta said. "And that means saving more lives."

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