U.S. Coast Guard Acquisition Leaders Visit RAND

The Coast Guard today assigns nearly 100 ships and some 200 planes and helicopters to deepwater missions. Traditionally, these missions have included such varied jobs as search and rescue, icebreaking, drug interdiction, and pollution control. But as a result of September 11, the Coast Guard is now expected to perform a range of new and heightened tasks related to the war on terrorism and homeland defense. The Coast Guard has been shouldering these responsibilities with aging deepwater assets, however.

Two top policymakers in charge of the largest and most ambitious acquisition program in the United States Coast Guard's history recently visited RAND for a half-day of briefings and discussions. U.S. Coast Guard RADM Patrick Stillman and Gregory Giddens are responsible for the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System Program, an endeavor that seeks to renovate, modernize, or replace the Coast Guard's entire portfolio of ships and aircraft that operate 50 or more miles off of America's shores.

Of 39 services worldwide with similar missions, the Coast Guard's deepwater ships and aircraft rank 37th in average age. The cutters in the Coast Guard fleet, for example, have been in service an average of 28 years. Many other ships and aircraft are approaching the end of their service lives. In the mid-1990s, the Coast Guard recognized that it would need to renovate or replace a significant portion of its fleet in the coming years. But rather than seek to replace ships or aircraft with like assets, the Coast Guard turned to an acquisition approach that is unique for the federal government. It developed a mission-based acquisition approach that focuses on the tasks and responsibilities it is expected to perform rather than on procuring deepwater assets. It asked three private industry teams to suggest how it could combine ships, aircraft, sensors, communications, and logistics in innovative ways to perform its missions. The Coast Guard is expected to choose a winner among these three approaches in the third quarter of fiscal year 2002. Depending on the winning approach, deepwater renovation and replacement activities could last two decades.

RADM Stillman and Giddens received briefings on RAND's Navy-related marketing efforts, RAND's investigations into management and acquisition issues, and homeland defense.