House Unanimously Passes Coast Guard Acquisition Reform Bill

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, joined his colleagues in unanimously passing H.R. 1665, the Coast Guard Acquisition Reform Act of 2009—legislation that Congressman Cummings introduced to build on the Coast Guard’s acquisition reform efforts and ensure accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars.

“As families across our nation continue to lose their jobs, their homes, their savings, and their dreams, it is more critical than ever to ensure that their tax dollars are being used in the most effective and efficient way possible,” Congressman Cummings said. “The Coast Guard Acquisition Reform Act takes lessons learned from previous misuse of taxpayer funds to institutionalize the processes and procedures that will help the Coast Guard meet the standards that must accompany the expenditure of every single tax dollar.”

The consequences stemming from the Coast Guard’s lack of a standardized acquisition process became clear in the failures of early procurements under the Service’s Deepwater program, a multi-billion dollar program through which the Coast Guard will replace or rehabilitate its cutters and aircraft. Because the Coast Guard had no proven process to guide the formulation of asset requirements, designs, and acquisition strategies and was unable to hold its contractors accountable for their performance, the program wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

In response to the criticisms of the Service’s acquisition management capacities, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen created a new Acquisition Directorate and a “Blueprint for Acquisition Reform.” While the Coast Guard has taken these positive steps to restructure its acquisition management systems, there are still challenges remaining in the implementation of these new systems. H.R. 1665 would address these challenges by strengthening specific acquisition processes. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Prohibit the Coast Guard from using a private sector lead systems integrator
  • Require the appointment of a Chief Acquisition Officer who must be a Level III Program Manager with at least 10 years of professional experience in acquisition management
  • Require the development of independent life-cycle cost estimates and testing and evaluation plans for the largest acquisition programs.

“While I applaud the measures that Admiral Allen has taken to establish the management systems necessary to improve the Coast Guard’s acquisition process, even the best systems in the world are of no use if they aren’t followed,” Congressman Cummings said. “This legislation helps to ensure that the Coast Guard establishes an effective and efficient acquisition process that will be implemented long after the current leadership has left.”

As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Congressman Cummings has made a priority of ensuring that the Coast Guard can effectively manage its acquisition efforts and that it is fully accountable for its use of taxpayer resources. Since 2007, Chairman Cummings has convened four hearings focused on acquisition efforts.

Congressman Cummings Press Release

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  1. Michael DeKort says:

    While this legislation is a great step forward it unfortunately comes up significantly short. There are clauses in the legislation that permit the Coast Guard to avoid using the measures should they deem it necessary – specifically for the Deepwater project. This in effect allows the LSI’s to continue. As this legislation was originally created due to the Deepwater issues these escape clauses render much of the legislation’s intentions mute. Additionally the Coast Guard has stated they will not be free of the LSI’s until 2011. that is plenty of time for the rest of the NSCs and the new OPCs contracts to be let. They total more than ½ of the entire DW budget. Since the LSI’s will still be around they will have a great deal to say about who wins that work. Maybe themselves?

    Also, with regard to Rep Cummings concern about “every single tax dollar”. The Coast Guard is still owed a $100 million refund from the contractors. Not only have the contractor’s refused to pay the refund but they have formally blamed the Coast Guard for the 123 problems, due to their supposed abuse of the boats, and they have suggested they will seek legal recourse against the Coast Guard for canceling the program. The contractor’s have and are continuing to run roughshod over the government entities who are supposed to protect us from this kind of thing. As for thee refund recovery there is currently an FCA case in the federal court system that is trying to recover these funds and hold the contractor’s available. The contractor’s have submitted motions to dismiss. If they prevail the outcomes I mentioned above will most likely come to fruition.

  2. Michael DeKort says:

    Within the next few months we will be fighting the motions to dismiss from Lockheed, Northrop and ICGS. If we lose this round the case is over. That means there will be no refund and the contractors will not be held accountable for the Deepwater problem. (In addition to that Northrop has signaled that the companies actually intend to seek damages from the Coast Guard for stopping the program.

    Text from Northrop motion to dismiss the Bollinger suit states the following: “Presumably, Lockheed Martin could seek compensation from the Coast Guard under the CDA for C4ISR equipment and information delivery delays, if any, caused by the government. As the prime contractor, ICGS, not NGSS or Bollinger, could best determine whether Lockheed Martin or NGSS could assert a CDA claim against the government for delays experienced in delivering equipment or information to Bollinger. ICGS could also sponsor such a claim against the Coast Guard on behalf of Lockheed Martin.”)

    Additionally one of the tactics Northrop is using is to blame the Coast Guard for the 123 problems. They state that the Coast Guard abused these boats, did not operate nor not maintain them properly.

    From the motion: “The Coast Guard decision to decommission vessels does not lead to the inescapable conclusion that the defendants committed fraud. To the contrary, there is strong evidence suggesting that the 123 structural issues were attributable to the Coast Guard’s operation of the vessels beyond their performance parameters and failure to maintain the structural integrity of the vessels, not any nonconformance with contract requirements. This is an open call for assistance. We are asking for the Coast Guard and even contractor personnel who read these blogs to get involved. We feel there should actually be very little trouble winning this motion but given the importance and finality of the event we believe it is prudent to not take anything for granted. If there was ever a time to act to ensure the refund is paid and the contractors are held responsible this may be the last opportunity. I am requesting the Commandant and the new chief of acquisitions to make a public and service wide call for the men and women who serve in the Coast Guard to assist in our efforts. The money would not only pay for the 123 debacle but maybe fund important efforts like new icebreakers.

  3. In the article there is mention of Congressman Cummings stating the following: “This legislation helps to ensure that the Coast Guard establishes an effective and efficient acquisition process that will be implemented long after the current leadership has left.”

    Is he telegraphing that he expects the current leadership to be stepping down in the near future or something?


  4. cgnews says:

    The Commandant of the Coast Guard is appointed to a four year term by the President of the United States. Admiral Allen, became the Commandant in 2006 so his term will be up next year.