Cantwell Deeply Concerned about Inspector General Finding of Fundamental Problems with Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program

As Coast Guard Subcommittee Chair, Cantwell Plans Series of Senate Oversight Hearings Beginning in Early February

WASHINGTON, DC – Monday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General’s (IG) report on the U.S. Coast Guard’s acquisition of the National Security Cutter (NSC). The stated purpose of the IG’s audit was to “determine the extent to which the NSC will meet the cost, schedule, and performance requirements contained in the Deepwater contract.” In addition to its conclusions that the NSC will not meet its contract requirements, the IG’s report raises serious questions about the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program. A joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman—the Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS)—has the Deepwater contract to design, build, and integrate the program. The statement follows:

“I am committed to doing all that is necessary to ensure this program gets back on the right track. The Coast Guard needs to upgrade its aging fleet and air assets in order to carry out its missions for the safety and security of our nation’s coastlines and waterways. I am greatly concerned by the Inspector General’s findings and the implications for the timely and successful execution of the entire Deepwater program. We have got to get to the bottom of what is happening with this program.

“I am also very disturbed by the Inspector General’s assertion that the Coast Guard and Deepwater contractors resisted cooperation with this important investigation. As I take over as chair of the Senate Coast Guard subcommittee, I want to put all parties on notice that there will be increased Congressional oversight of this program and we will do what it takes to put this critical national effort back on track.

“There will be hearings and there will be continued investigations. It is well past time for the Coast Guard and ICGS to come clean with Congress and the American public on the problems facing the Deepwater program. The men and women serving in the Coast Guard deserve nothing short of the best equipment to do their jobs protecting the American people. Congress has an obligation to ensure that equipment is delivered to the Coast Guard at the best possible value to the American taxpayer. As Subcommittee Chair, oversight of the Deepwater program is one of my top priorities.”

The Deepwater program is the Coast Guard’s $24 billion effort to modernize its aging fleet—most of which dates from the 1950s and 1960s—of approximately 90 cutters and 200 aircraft used in missions more than 50 miles off the coastline. It is the largest procurement effort in the Coast Guard’s history. Through Deepwater, the Coast Guard plans to acquire three major classes of new cutters, new small boats, new or upgraded aircraft, modernized helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), all linked by state-of-the-art command, control, and communication systems.

In addition to today’s report on the NRC, the DHS Inspector General will soon release a second report to Congress analyzing key concerns with the Coast Guard’s 123-foot cutter portions of the fleet modernization program. An additional Government Accountability Office (GAO) report focusing on some of these same issues is due out in February.

Cantwell has consistently supported the Coast Guard’s modernization efforts, but has expressed concern over contractor oversight, the sole-sourcing contracting model, specific projects including the Fast Response Cutter (FRC), and other issues in letters requesting GAO reports, as well as in questions to Coast Guard Commandant Allen at a June 15, 2006 hearing on the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2007 budget.

In reviewing the IG’s report released today on the NRC, Cantwell expressed concerns about the following areas:

  • Potential compromised performance for the Coast Guard and all of its missions—including homeland security and law enforcement;
  • Increased costs of Deepwater assets due to design deficiencies and mismanagement
  • Lack of accountability and responsibility on the part of the ICGS;
  • Fundamental questions raised by the IG report with regard to the entire Deepwater program and Coast Guard management and contractor performance, under the Lead System Integrator (LSI) contract approach;
  • Extremely troubling assertions that the Coast Guard and ICGS did not follow appropriate procedures with respect to the IG’s investigation, the acrimonious relationship between the IG and the two entities, and the number of significant discrepancies between the assertions of each; and
  • The seeming “culture of denial” within the Coast Guard Deepwater program and Coast Guard leadership with regards to their own internal experts, Congress, and the public.

The Commerce Committee Chair Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) appointed U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to chair the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard on January 24, 2007. During the 109th Congress, Cantwell served as the subcommittee’s top Democrat.