Congress moves to increase Deepwater oversight

In separate pieces of legislation to fund the Iraq war, both the House and Senate have included provisions to tighten oversight over procurement and require competition for portions of the Coast Guard's $24 billion Integrated Deepwater Systems modernization program.

Both houses of Congress have passed Iraq war supplemental bills, and they are now scheduled for conference to reconcile the two bills.

The Deepwater provisions are different in each bill, but both bills address numerous issues related to design flaws, lax oversight and cost overruns that have been raised by the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General.

The Coast Guard awarded the original Deepwater contract in 2002 to a joint venture between Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. That contract expires in June 2007 and is being renegotiated.

Under the Senate bill, S965, the Coast Guard must use competition for future Deepwater assets from the date of enactment of the legislation, with the exception of components that already are under contract, as well as the National Security Cutter; Maritime Patrol Aircraft; Deepwater Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance System; and the HC-130J Fleet Introduction.

The Senate bill also assigns Coast Guard managers to serve as chairs of the Deepwater integrated product teams, requires third-party reviews of design changes and demands life-cycle cost estimates for future assets.

The House bill, HR1591, stipulates that for contracts entered into after May 1, 2007, for all major system procurements by the Homeland Security Department, the lead systems integrator may not have a financial interest in the development of individual systems, with several exceptions. The provision is expected to require competition in future Deepwater asset acquisition.

The House bill also requires a detailed plan for expenditure of Deepwater funds to be submitted to the House Appropriations Committee to release additional funding for the program. It also has additional requirements for technical reviews.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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