On July 29, 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.