The U.S. Coast Guard’s Deepwater Force Modernization Plan

Can It Be Accelerated? Will It Meet Changing Security Needs?

by John Birkler, Brien Alkire, Robert W. Button, Gordon T. Lee, Raj Raman, John F. Schank, Carl W. Stephens

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Abstract

In November 2002, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) commissioned RAND to assess its Deepwater program, an effort the USCG is undertaking to slowly, but steadily replace or modernize nearly 100 aging cutters and more than 200 aircraft. Known more formally as the Integrated Deepwater System program, this endeavor aims to equip the USCG with state-of-the-art cutters, aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned air vehicles at an annual cost of about $500 million in fiscal year 1998 dollars, and to be completed in approximately 20 years. All of its activities will be orchestrated through an integrated command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) system and an Integrated Logistics System (ILS). The program is the largest and most complex acquisition effort in USCG history. Although the new systems being acquired under Deepwater would be substantially more capable than the legacy systems being retired, the USCG was directed to maintain the status quo in terms of overall capability, so that fewer new assets would be needed. RAND's research is intended to help USCG decisionmakers evaluate whether the Deepwater program-which was conceived and put in motion before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and before the USCG's subsequent transfer into the newly created Department of Homeland Security-remains valid for the new missions and evolving responsibilities that the USCG has been asked to shoulder. RAND was asked to evaluate whether the current Deepwater acquisition plan will provide the USCG with an adequate number and array of cutters, aircraft, and other assets to meet changing operational demands. RAND's assessment involved two parallel evaluations: (1) An exploration of issues connected with speeding up, compressing, or otherwise accelerating the pace at which the USCG can acquire surface and air assets that it will operate in the deepwater environment, defined as territory 50 or more nautical miles from shore. As part of this examination, RAND was asked to look at the implications for the force structure, cost, performance, and industrial base of commissioning all replacement assets, decommissioning all outmoded or old-technology (so-called legacy) assets, and completing all modernization tasks earlier than the year 2022. (2) A determination of whether the original Deepwater plan would provide the USCG with a force structure to meet mission demands. RAND was asked to evaluate the force structure that the original Deepwater acquisition plan would provide and define the boundaries of a force structure that would be large and flexible enough and with the capabilities to fulfill the USCG's traditional and emerging responsibilities. Our main conclusion is that the Deepwater program will not provide the USCG with adequate assets and capabilities to fulfill the demands of traditional missions and emerging responsibilities. The study recommends that the USCG meet its mission demands by accelerating and expanding the acquisition of planned Deepwater assets and simultaneously identifying and exploring new platform options, emerging technologies, and operational concepts that could leverage those assets. Such a two-pronged strategy may satisfy demand more quickly and at less cost than just expanding the original Deepwater plan. This report should be of special interest both to the USCG and to uniformed and civilian decisionmakers involved in homeland security and homeland defense. It was prepared for the Program Executive Officer, Integrated Deepwater System, USCG.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Coast Guard. The research was conducted in the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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