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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Deepwater lawsuit marks another twist in a troubled story

The False Claims Act lawsuit filed last week against a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Northrop Grumman Corp. joint venture is just the latest chapter in the troubled story of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater project.

A review of the headlines since the contract was awarded in 2002 to the Integrated Coast Guard Systems reads like a how-not-to of government contracting:

Coast Guard wants its money back 
Kerry bill would torpedo Deepwater program
Deepwater in trouble, watchdog says 
Senate moves to step up Deepwater oversight
Systems integrators fall from grace, but many doubt that government can run without them

All of these are from the last two and a half years, and I'm not including the two from this week: False Claims Act lawsuit filed against Deepwater contractors and Lockheed promises fight over Deepwater suit.

The headlines from the early days of the program, which was awarded in 2002, have a much different tone.

Deepwater moves full speed ahead 

That one discusses how the Coast Guard, with the support of Congress, was trying to speed up the implementation of Deepwater in order to reduce its costs.

I’m sure there are more than a few lessons in that policy decision.

Among its many issues, the Deepwater program has been credited with spelling the end of the government’s reliance on lead systems integrators. I'm not so sure. It is too early to say whether that shift will result in better projects, or even if it is realistic.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the troubles with Deepwater.

For me the obvious lesson is trying to go too far, too fast and doing too much.

Unfortunately, it is a lesson we seem to have to learn over and over.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 04, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Jun 12, 2009

It time to put the deepwater ships into cg yard for building

Fri, Jun 5, 2009

http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/newsroom/updates/nsc052909.asp lets talk about the GOOD !

Fri, Jun 5, 2009 Laura Williams Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate

Good afternoon Mr. Wakeman,

Some of the information about Deepwater and Coast Guard acquisition presented within your article is outdated, and does not reflect where the Coast Guard is today.

As the Commandant, Adm. Thad Allen, said in his State of the Coast Guard address in March, “Any discussion of our acquisition organization and its effectiveness needs to begin with where we are today and what has been accomplished in the last two and a half years. We must always learn from the past and make corrections where needed, but today we are in a new place and it needs to be recognized.”

Thanks largely to Adm. Allen’s leadership, the Coast Guard is now a completely revitalized and improved acquisition organization, working as the Lead Systems Integrator for all acquisition projects—better-equipped to oversee costs, manage schedules, and ensure delivered assets meet operational requirements. No longer does the Deepwater program operate separately from other Coast Guard oversight elements. It is one Coast Guard team working together. Acquisition leadership does not make any major decisions without coordinating with the Coast Guard sponsor (the Capabilities Directorate) and its technical authorities (including the Human Resources; Engineering and Logistics; and Command, Control, Communications and Information Systems Directorates). Everyone has a role, and with early input on every project and Coast Guard personnel working together on acquisition in concert, the Coast Guard will be better-served for years to come.

A few examples:
-Yesterday we accepted delivery of our 8th HC-144, solidifying the future of our maritime patrol aircraft capability.
-Today the Bertholf is on its first fully operational patrol with full authority to operate its unprecedented C4ISR capabilities.
-Rescue 21 is steadily assuming the watch along our coast and demonstrably improving the time and effectiveness of our emergency response.

I invite your readers to read the latest information about Coast Guard acquisition here:

Fri, Jun 5, 2009 Alabama

You say that "it" is a lesson we seem to have to learn over and over. What is "it"? By definition going too far, too fast, or doing too much is a mistake, but how do you know where the "too" starts?

Fri, Jun 5, 2009

Deepwater once held such great promise, as the suggested by the 2002 story, "Deepwater moves full speed ahead," which he like above. Sounds to me like it's time for an in-depth WT-FCW study on what went wrong. I'm sure there are many reasons/causes.

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