Coast Guard should speed modernization: Study

Coast Guard should speed modernization: Study

A new study says the Coast Guard should speed up plans to modernize its aging fleet of ships and aircraft in order to handle its expanded post-9/11 security responsibilities.

The Coast Guard in the late 1990s launched a program known as Deepwater to replace or modernize nearly 100 vessels and more than 200 aircraft and helicopters, some of which date to 1950s designs, at an annual cost of about $500 million a year. It is the largest and most complex acquisition effort in agency history.

The study by the Rand Corp. says the Coast Guard needs to accelerate the 20-year plan, and explore new technology and operational changes, such as offshore bases and unmanned air patrols, that would put equipment to best use.

The Coast Guard has added critical national security duties to its traditional maritime responsibilities after it moved from the Transportation Security Administration to the Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

Rand, which reviewed Deepwater at the request of the Coast Guard, found that the program's contractors are capable of building the new cutters and aircraft over a 10- or 15-year period, at about the same cost as originally estimated, although annual spending would double.