Steaming into Deepwater

Nowadays in Washington, much complaining is heard from officials in federal agencies who feel they lost autonomy and authority when they were merged into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2003.

But one agency that gained in the process was the US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard entered DHS with longstanding traditions, organizations and programs. Its new antiterrorist mission fit much better with DHS than with the Department of Transportation,where it was previously housed, and its commandant, Adm. James Loy,became the deputy secretary of homeland security. Today, the CoastGuard is a big fish in the DHS pond, and Deepwater—officially, the Integrated Deepwater System (IDS)—is the Coast Guard’s biggest program.
Deepwater is a massive, $17 billion, 20-yearacquisition program that commenced on June 25, 2002, with a contract award to Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS), an Arlington, Va.-basedjoint venture consisting of Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., andNorthrop Grumman of Los Angeles, Calif. Since the majority of CoastGuard assets will reach the end of their planned service life by 2008,a sweeping repair, replacement and upgrade effort was necessary.
Once it’s complete, the Coast Guard will havethree new cutter classes, all of its aircraft will have been replacedwith new manned and unmanned vehicles, its command, control,communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance andreconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities will have been vastly upgraded andall this equipment will be supported with improved logistics.
The fiscal 2005 Homeland SecurityAppropriations Act (PL 108-334) provided nearly $724 million for theDeepwater program, available through Sept. 30, 2009.
The need for this massive recapitalizationeffort was demonstrated over the past year by the rapid failure of theCoast Guard’s HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, which experienced a total of172 power losses in fiscal 2004, compared to 55 in the previous threeyears combined.
Among other functions, the aircraft providesearch and rescue, fisheries patrols and maritime security. MargaretMitchell-Jones, communications director for ICGS, told HSToday that,while re-engining the HH-65 is a significant part of Deepwater, it doesnot dominate the program’s aviation in 2005.
“There are some avionics upgrades also goingon the H-60s, the Seahawks,” Mitchell-Jones said. “In the helicopterrealm, those are really the only two birds that fly.”
Battling over the birds
Getting new engines into the Dolphins hasbeen fraught with controversy, charges and countercharges. Given thestate of the Dolphin fleet, Congress and the Coast Guard wanted thework done quickly—within two years.
Of the $724 million appropriated forDeepwater by Congress, $99 million was dedicated to re-engining theDolphins. Congressional conferees anticipated the establishment of anew baseline by reports that will make up the fiscal 2006 budget.
Congressional appropriators also ordered theCoast Guard to reallocate $4 million in fiscal 2003 funds dedicated tothe development of a new fuel control system and $5.7 million formaintenance of the Dolphins’ 38 Honeywell LTS-101-850 engines. However,Coast Guard officers decided to completely replace those enginesinstead.
“The conferees believe that taking immediateand definitive action to return the HH-65 fleet to safe and reliableoperations is the Coast Guard’s highest aviation priority,” noted theHouse report accompanying the final homeland security spending bill.
 The law directed the commandant of the CoastGuard to engage a second re-engining facility to speed the work if hebelieved the service could not complete the project within 24 monthswith one facility. In December, Adm. Thomas Collins, the commandant,determined the second facility was required.
The Coast Guard’s only re-engining facilityfor the HH-65 Dolphin is the Aircraft Repair and Supply Center (ARSC)in Elizabeth City, NC. And so, on Dec. 15, the Coast Guard set up atest case at a second installation, the American Eurocopter facility inColumbus, Miss. The Coast Guard and ICGS transferred a single HH-65helicopter to the facility for a re-engining test.
The second facility was chosen by ICGS, whichcame under fire from both DHS’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG)and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for missing projectedcosts and deadlines. In a September 2004 report, the OIG said the CoastGuard was making a mistake by allowing ICGS to run the project.
“ICGS’ latest proposal does not meet theCoast Guard’s desire to have 84 operational aircraft completed by July2006,” the OIG report said. “Instead, ICGS proposes to have 84 of the95 re-engined aircraft completed by June 2007—11 months beyond theCommandant’s 24-month deadline.”
The extension of the project’s completiondate would subject Coast Guard aircrews to significant risks due to the“unprecedented rate” of power losses occurring in the Dolphins, the OIGsaid.
In addition, he stated, the Coast Guard wasmistaken in diverting to the re-engining effort $200 million in fundsfrom projects to repair and upgrade other assets, including the JayhawkHH-60 helicopters and HC-130 Hercules airplanes, as well as other HH-65projects. The result would be “cannibalization and the grounding of keyaviation assets as early as FY 2007,” the report said.
The OIG endorsed an idea found in a May 18memo from former Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Operations RearAdm. David Belz, who recommended that the Coast Guard run there-engining project directly, instead of ICGS.
“Given the air crew safety, delivery delays,high cost and operational risks associated with the HH-65 re-enginingproject, the Coast Guard should implement the recommendation of itssenior aviation leadership to re-assert control of the HH-65re-engining project and execute the HH-65 re-engining as a governmentperformed project at ARSC,” the report said.
But Collins defended the Coast Guard’sstrategy in response to the inspector general, criticizing the office’suse of outdated figures and ignoring other benefits of picking ICGS forthe project.
“The decision to use ICGS to re-engine theHH-65 helicopter was the right decision when it was made and is theright decision today,” Collins wrote in a Sept. 14 letter. “Yourrecommendation was based on dated and preliminary cost information.
“Further, there are additional benefits ofthe chosen approach that must be considered. For a marginal increase inproject cost, the Coast Guard receives extensive, expert projectmanagement services to ensure timely delivery, as well as significantlegal and performance risk mitigation, along with critical linkage tothe Integrated Deepwater System,” he concluded.
Optimism
Coast Guard officers were optimistic about the chances for success at the second facility.
“If [the initial work at the second facility]turns out to be successful, and they evaluate it, there’s a realprobability that we would start having more kits and things deliveredthere so they can start retrofitting our 65s and get everything up andrunning within that two-year time expectancy,” Chief Jeff Murphy, aCoast Guard spokesman, told HSToday.
Murphy said it was difficult to predict whenthe Coast Guard would complete the evaluation of the viability of thesecond facility, announced Dec. 23.
“My understanding is that it’s at least100-plus days to get the aircraft refitted and re-engined, at least atthe current Coast Guard location. Looking at that same timeframe, theywould have to see what the quality is, see if they accept it back intofleet, and they could make that determination pretty quickly afterthat,” Murphy said.
Mitchell-Jones reminded HSTodaythat the HH-65 helicopters didn’t become part of the Deepwater programuntil January 2004. ICGS has worked on re-engining two of thehelicopters to date.
“One has been complete and delivered. Thesecond one is nearing completion and ready to be delivered and thereare five or six more that are being worked at the Coast Guard facilityin Elizabeth City,” Mitchell-Jones said. “That’s to bring a hell of alot more power to these helicopters because they account for almost 50percent of the Coast Guard’s aviation hours, flight hours, with theHH-65,” she said.
In addition to helicopters, three types offixed-wing aircraft are included under the Deepwater umbrella. Designof those aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles for Coast Guard cutterswill continue in 2005, Mitchell-Jones added. ICGS will continuedevelopment of fixed-wing aircraft slated for introduction in futureyears.
National security cutter
As for cutters, the Coast Guard’s basic shiptype, the year 2005 will be significant for the Maritime SecurityCutter Large, designated the WMSL and formerly known as the NationalSecurity Cutter. Construction on the second one began this year. Inaddition, ICGS is continuing development of two other series of cutters.
“The way the Deepwater contract was bid andsupported was that this is a contract where the industry team pitchedcapabilities to the Coast Guard, and in those capabilities was a mix ofcutters, aircraft and systems to support those. It’s not a straight onefor one replacement of old Coast Guard cutters,” Mitchell-Jones said.
On Jan. 5, the Coast Guard announced acontract for ICGS to begin construction of the second WMSL, funding theeffort with $144 million.
“Right now, the Coast Guard has 12 378-footcutters, and the Maritime Security Cutter Large is a 425-foot cutter,so it’s going to be bigger still,” Mitchell-Jones said. “The originalplan that was proposed to Deepwater that was accepted in 2002 was foreight of these to be built.”
Detailed design of the cutters began afterthe contract award. The first cutter is scheduled for delivery in 2007,and the January contract award signals the beginning of construction onthe second, scheduled for completion in 2008.
“The first one will have its keel-laying inApril in Pascagoula, Miss. That’s a huge step and it really startstaking shape at that point for our first in class,” said Murphy.
WMSL has a draft of 21 feet and a speed of 29knots. It is outfitted with 57mm and .50 caliber guns and dualhelicopter hanger capability to house both helicopters and unmannedaerial vehicles.
Mitchell-Jones described the cutter as “anocean-going command center vessel” that provides mobile command andcontrol to support homeland security missions and the Navy, asrequired.
“For example,’ she noted, “this cutter couldbe used as a command center for tsunami relief. It can be used in anyport that might have suffered a terrorist attack and take onboard asurge capacity to deliver to a location to help support environmentalcleanup. It’s the crown jewel of the Deepwaterocean fleet. It will bethe largest multi-mission cutter in the Coast Guard fleet and havestate-of-the-art communications and be fully interoperable with allagencies of defense, all of the homeland security agencies, all of theNavy, Air Force, Marine, and the intel community, which is new for theCoast Guard.”
Two other cutters are also in development at ICGS, and progress should be made on both this year.
The Maritime Security Cutter Medium (WMSM), a340 footer, will be completely interoperable with the WMSL although notnecessarily intended for overseas deployment.The medium cutter issmaller and less expensive, and requires fewer crewmembers to operate,although it can certainly share crewing with the larger cutters. TheWMSM can also receive and deploy all Coast Guard helicopters.
The smallest vessel, a fast-response cutterdesignated as the WPC, is a “beefed-up patrol boat,” according toMitchell-Jones. “It will be somewhere between 130 and 150 feet long,and it’s in the earliest stages of design of the three craft, which iswhy we don’t know exactly how long it is. However, it is in a situationwhere the Coast Guard is just now finalizing requirements.”
The Coast Guard looked to the Navy for a newhull concept for the ships. The WMSL will be the first Coast Guardvessel to use a composite hull, which is made of a material developedto reduce the magnetic signature of the ships, making them moredifficult to detect with sensors, in contrast to the traditional steelor aluminum.
“It reduces signatures and it is stealthy. Itis very strong, able to withstand blasts and able to withstandcollisions, in some respects better than steel,” Mitchell-Jones said.“It’s very lightweight and requires less maintenance, two veryimportant things that all seagoing services are concerned about.”
Hull design isn’t the only thing the CoastGuard is taking from the Navy. It is also looking to that service forconcepts in net-centric operations—a way of operating that makesgreater use of C4ISR to increase operational tempo and effectiveness.
“It’s a new approach,” Murphy told HSToday. “It seems the best fit for our service and to meet today’s mission for the Coast Guard.” HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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