Coast Guard modernization program still faces challenges (4/22/09) —

The Coast Guard received praise Wednesday from the Government Accountability Office and a House subcommittee for gaining greater control over its once-chaotic acquisition process, but its top officer voiced concern over the deteriorating conditions of his oldest cutters and the difficulty in rebuilding its acquisition management workforce.

Adm. Thad Allen cited improvements in the National Security Cutter program and rapid progress in obtaining two of its smaller patrol craft and new patrol aircraft. But, Allen continued, “we face tremendous fiscal challenges,” need changes in U.S. or international law to help them deal with human smuggling and improvements in the nation’s maritime security process to meet emerging threats, such as terrorists coming by sea. The Coast Guard commandant told the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that his greatest concern was the poor condition of his large cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and are frequently out of service for repairs. “Time is a merciless thief that steals our readiness. … New acquisitions cannot come on line quick enough.”