Coast Guard: Altering its profile

Steve LeSueur

While the Coast Guard has always been important to the cities and towns along U.S. coastlines, the agency commanded relatively little attention on the national scene. But this changed dramatically following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Coast Guard's transfer into the Homeland Security Department.

At about the same time, the Coast Guard embarked on its Integrated Deepwater Project, a massive $17 billion program to develop and build an integrated system of ships, aircraft, sensors and communication systems. Prime contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. head up the project in a joint venture. Suddenly, the Coast Guard carries the heft of a military service.

"The Coast Guard has never entered into a program even close to this magnitude," said Frank Lanza, chairman and chief executive officer of L-3 Communications Corp., a subcontractor on the program.

And not unlike the military services, the Coast Guard is already lining up supporters on Capitol Hill to accelerate funding for the project. Coast Guard officials say its aging fleet is in worse shape than expected, and they can shave $4 billion off the Deepwater price tag if they speed up the program.

Staff Writer Patience Wait talked to Rear Adm. Patrick Stillman, who is leading the project for the Coast Guard, as well as to the companies working on Deepwater to find out why the agency needs more money, and what it will be used for.

Her story is on the cover.

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