COAST GUARD'S BOTCHED MODERNIZATION PROGRAM HURTS NATIONAL SECURITY, SAYS THE CONGRESSMAN WHO OVERSEES THE MARITIME FORCE -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
"Deepwater" Program's Direction by Contractors Working on the Plan was Like Asking "the Fox to Develop the Security Plan For the Henhouse" says Ex-Coast Guard Officer
The country is less secure and the U.S. Coast Guard is in worse shape now than when it began its $24 billion "Deepwater" refurbishment plan years ago, says the chairman of the congressional committee overseeing the maritime force. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) tells Steve Kroft the plan -- managed by contractors who also worked on the contracts -- is a "mess" that undermines the Coast Guard's crucial role in homeland security. Kroft's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, May 20 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"[The Coast Guard] says they're not [in worse shape] but I think they are," says Cummings. "Here it goes to the national security of this country...particularly after 9/11...It pains me, it really does," he says of the plan that is supposed to make the Coast Guard a better defender against terrorism.
One of the weaknesses caused by Deepwater is the loss of eight patrol boats due to a botched lengthening process. "When I went to see these ships that were supposed to be extended from 110 feet to 123 feet...I knew something was wrong," says Cummings. "What you see is a lot of buckling in the floor," he says. Although Cummings offered to show 60 MINUTES the problem boats, the Coast Guard refused to allow the broadcast to accompany or speak with members of Congress at its Baltimore yard. After a cost of nearly $100 million, the boats will be decommissioned.
Other Deepwater problems range from radios for small boats that weren't waterproof and failed under testing in a rainstorm to serious questions about the structural design of what will be the Coast Guard's largest ships, National Security Cutters. Already $800 million has been spent on the 418-ft. ships, despite the fact that engineers see design flaws they believe could cause premature metal fatigue and even structural failure. Flaws aside, one has been christened and another is being built. Part of the money spent, $38 million, was wasted on a since-rejected composite hull design that the former head of the Coast Guard's Engineering and Logistics Center says was so heavy, it needed four engines instead of two to propel.
Could the composite idea be a contractor's desire to utilize a shipyard it re-fitted to construct composite hulls? "One can sure make that inference," says retired Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Jarvis, the former head of Engineering and Logistics. This question of conflict of interest is at the center of what Jarvis believes was fundamentally wrong with the way the Coast Guard handled Deepwater. Too big to handle itself, the program was given to a joint venture of defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumann to manage, which then "contracted" the job out, mostly to its own companies.
"People say that this is like the fox watching the henhouse and it's worse than that," says Jarvis. "It's where the government asked the fox to develop the security system for the henhouse, then told them 'By the way, we'll give you the security code to the system and we'll tell you when we're on vacation.' It was...that bad," he tells Kroft. To watch this clip, click on the link: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=2822975n
Both the Coast Guard and Integrated Coast Guard Systems, the joint venture of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, declined to be interviewed for this story.