USCG Deepwater: Centerpiece of Coast Guard Transformation

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
By Gordon I. Peterson

Throughout the Cold War, the need to maintain strong military forces to deter war with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was a mainstay of U.S. national security policy. During today's global war on terrorism, similar linkages exist between a more capable U.S. Coast Guard, improved homeland security, and the deterrence or defeat of a terrorist attack in the maritime domain. The 9/11 Commission Report clearly describes this nexus. "Our report shows that the terrorists analyze defenses," the Commission wrote. "They plan accordingly. Defenses cannot achieve perfect safety. They make targets harder to attack successfully, and they deter attacks by making capture more likely. Just increasing the attacker's odds of failure may make the difference between a plan attempted or a plan discarded." The 9/11 Commission also noted that improved homeland security measures may also oblige would-be terrorists to develop more elaborate plans, thereby increasing the danger of exposure or defeat. "Protective measures also prepare for the attacks that may get through, containing the damage and saving lives," the report states.

Strategic Goals Beyond its critical replacement of obsolete legacy cutters and aircraft with more modern platforms and systems, the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System will directly support the service's Strategy for Maritime Homeland Security, the strategic goals of the Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. homeland defense requirements. "Key to the Coast Guard's current and future readiness-and our ability to provide necessary levels of homeland security and defense-is obtaining the right capabilities and the right capacity as we grow, modernize, and realign our force," said Adm. Thomas H. Collins, Coast Guard commandant, during a speech at the National Defense University in December. "Deepwater will deliver the increased capacity tomorrow that allows us to become as much a 'presence' organization as we are a 'response' organization." The Deepwater Program's more-capable platforms and systems also will help to close the well-documented capability gaps found in today's Coast Guard. "Deepwater will provide the means to extend our layered maritime defenses from our ports and coastlines many hundreds of miles to sea to increase maritime domain awareness," Collins said. "When Deepwater is complete, our cutters and aircraft will no longer operate as relatively independent platforms with only limited awareness of what surrounds them. Instead, they will have the benefit of receiving information from a wide array of mission-capable platforms and sensors-enabling them to share a common operating picture as part of a network-centric force operating in tandem with other cutters, boats, manned aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles." Given the pace of today's operational tempo, Deepwater's capabilities are fundamental to the Coast Guard's ability to meet its pre-9/11 missions while dramatically increasing its ability to meet expanding homeland security and homeland defense requirements. As Collins correctly emphasizes, the Coast Guard is the one organization that straddles the seam between these twin mission areas. This attribute is often under-appreciated, but it is at the heart of the Coast Guard's legal authorities, law-enforcement competencies, interagency experience, and military functions. "Improved Deepwater platforms and systems will serve as the Coast Guard's means for satisfying our responsibilities to both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense," Collins notes. Critical Enabling Platforms Deepwater's command-and-control system and product lines for surface and aviation platforms all advanced during the past year. In June, the Coast Guard awarded Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) the contract to begin production and delivery work on the lead Maritime Security Cutter, Large (WMSL, formerly known as the National Security Cutter). Fabrication of the lead ship in the class began in early September at Northrop Grumman Ingalls Operations shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., with keel-laying scheduled this spring. The Coast Guard's contract for the second WMSL was awarded to ICGS in early January. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems will lead the production effort, with Lockheed Martin responsible for the design, manufacture, and integration of the cutter's systems for C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance). Also in June, the Coast Guard awarded a contract to ICGS to begin the design and final requirements work for the Maritime Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM, formerly the Offshore Patrol Cutter). This contract advanced the original WMSM delivery date to 2009, approximately three years ahead of its original schedule. The design and final requirements for the third class of Deepwater cutters, the Maritime Patrol Coastal (WPC, formerly the Fast Response Cutter), also are expected to move forward quickly in 2005. The new cutters will possess improved capabilities for sea keeping, higher sustained transit speeds, greater endurance and range, and be able to launch and recover manned and unmanned aerial vehicles in higher sea states-all critical to more effective maritime operations at sea and close to shore. Deepwater cutters, for example, will enable the Coast Guard to implement increased security responsibilities-including greater jurisdiction over foreign-flagged vessels, screening and targeting of vessels of interest, and on-board verification through boardings and enforcement-control actions. Deepwater's total aviation solution will deliver 80 percent more flight hours than today's legacy assets, as well as improved use-of-force and vertical-insertion capabilities. The first production re-engined HH-65 helicopter incorporating Deepwater upgrades completed its test flights successfully and entered full operational service at Aviation Training Center, Mobile, Ala., in early October. Modification of the first ready-response HH-65 should be delivered in late January following testing. In order to validate a capability to open a second line for the HH-65 re-engining project within its 24-month mandate, a helicopter was inducted into an American EuroCopter (AEC) facility in Columbus, Miss., in mid-December. Similar progress was reported for the recapitalization of the Coast Guard's fixed-wing aircraft inventory. In 2003, a contract was awarded to ICGS for concept and technology development of a maritime patrol aircraft. In early 2004, EADS CASA and Lockheed Martin signed a contract to formalize EADS CASA participation in the Deepwater Program.

The initial contracts between Lockheed Martin and EADS CASA are for the procurement of three CN-235-300M medium-range surveillance maritime patrol aircraft. Delivery is scheduled for 2007 following configuration for Coast Guard missions. The contract also includes an option for spare parts and integrated logistic support, as well as an option for five additional aircraft. A successful Preliminary Design Review was completed in December. Deepwater's Eagle Eye tilt-rotor, vertical takeoff-and landing unmanned aerial vehicle (VUAV) successfully completed its Preliminary Design Review last March and is on track for its Critical Design Review early in 2005. Deepwater's C4ISR system, a fundamental building block to improve global Maritime Domain Awareness, will provide the Coast Guard with a network-centric system focused on information needs of operators and decision makers alike. It is being designed to ensure seamless interoperability with Coast Guard units, the Navy, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. Coast Guard officials describe Deepwater's C4ISR as a true force multiplier in the fullest sense. The system will provide for earlier awareness of potential terrorist threats by the gathering and fusing of terrorism-related information, analysis, coordination, and response-all critical to detecting, deterring, and defeating terrorist attacks.

Closing Performance Gaps Conceived in the late 1990s to modernize a rapidly deteriorating legacy inventory of cutters and aircraft, the Integrated Deepwater System was designed to satisfy the Coast Guard's mission demands that existed at the end of the 20th century-a period when the international terrorist threat was not perceived as a clear and present danger to U.S. national security. Since 9/11, of course, the United States faces a broader range of dangerous and pervasive threats characterized by a wider range of adversaries, a global profusion of technology and weaponry, and the very real maritime asymmetric threat of terrorist attacks within U.S. ports or emanating from the sea. Last summer, the Coast Guard completed a comprehensive assessment of its post-9/11 operational capability and capacity gaps in the new national-security environment. This "performance-gap analysis" documented a compelling need to revise Deepwater's Implementation Plan so that is more fully aligned with the Department of Homeland Security's goals and policies aimed at implementing a layered, defense-in-depth strategy using 21st-century technologies. The revised Deepwater plan incorporates new post-9/11 requirements for improved capabilities in Deepwater's planned modernization and recapitalization of surface and air platforms, as well as the program's system for C4ISR and integrated logistics. These urgently needed adjustments will close today's capability gaps, improve homeland-security capabilities on surface and air platforms, enhance intelligence fusion, provide a common operating picture, and enable improved levels of maritime domain awareness sooner. Needed revisions to the Deepwater Program are incorporated in the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2006 budget that President Bush will forward to Congress in early February. Revising the Deepwater Implementation Plan to acquire improved capabilities is fundamental to the Coast Guard's ability to serve as the nation's "shield of freedom." Coast Guard officials say that the revised Deepwater Program will deliver required levels of operational excellence and, in the process, provide for higher levels of security to the nation and added safety for its citizens. "Deepwater is our transformational centerpiece," said Collins recently.

Retired Navy Captain Gordon I. Peterson is a technical director for the Anteon Corporation's Center for Strategic Studies and Operations.

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