December 30, 2004

Report points to problems facing DHS

Clark Kent Ervin is no longer Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. His recess appointment to the job expired when the Senate adjourned December 8 and he left the department.

Before going, however, Ervin signed off on a report on Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security.

Port Security Grant problems

Among other things, the report quotes a 9/11 Commission recommendation that federal homeland security assistance "should not remain a program for general revenue sharing. It should supplement state and local resources based on the risks or vulnerabilities that merit additional support."

Apparently, Port Security Grant funding has not met this standard. It seems that a draft report on the program finds that "DHS grant making for this sector of national infrastructure was not well coordinated with the IAIP [Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection] Office of Infrastructure Protection, did not account for infrastructure protection priorities in the application review process, and resulted in funding of projects with low scores in the review process. Also, the DHS does not have a strong grant evaluation process in place by which to address post-award administration issues, including measuring progress in accomplishing DHS ' grant objectives."

Challenges facing Coast Guard

The report indicates that the Coast Guard faces a considerable number of management challenges.

The most daunting include restoring the Coast Guard's readiness to perform its legacy missions;implementing the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA); maintaining and replacing deepwater fleet assets; and developing adequate infrastructure needed to support the Coast Guard's multiple missions.

Legacy missions

The report says there are three major barriers to improving and sustaining Coast Guard readiness to perform its legacy missions:

  • the lack of a comprehensive and fully defined performance management system impedes the Coast Guard's ability to gauge its performance, allocate resources effectively,and target areas for improved performance
  • workload demands on the Coast Guard will continue to increase as it implements MTSA. This complex work requires experienced and trained personnel; however,the Coast Guard has in recent years suffered from declining experience levels among its personnel
  • sustaining a high operating tempo due to growing homeland security demands, such as added port, waterway,and coastal security patrols,will tax the Coast Guard's infrastructure including its aging cutter and aircraft fleet

Implementing MTSA

MTSA regulations affect approximately 9,200 vessels,3,200 port facilities,and 40 offshore terminals. Owners and operators of vessels, facilities,and terminals were required to develop port security plans consistent with Area Maritime Security Plans. Vessel and facility plans were reviewed and approved by the Coast Guard,and implemented by July 1,2004. The Coast Guard, working through Captains of the Port, is working to develop and implement 43 Area Maritime Security Plans covering the Nation's 361 seaports. These plans are to be implemented in concert with the national security and homeland defense strategies and plans. The Coast Guard must ensure that these plans are effectively implemented,including its key and unique role of ensuring the MTSA regulations are enforced. In addition, the Coast Guard must identify,target,track,board,inspect,and escort high interest vessels that may pose a substantial risk to U.S.ports due to the composition of the vessel's crew,passengers,or cargo. The Coast Guard has instituted strict reporting requirements for all vessels arriving at U.S.seaports, mandating most commercial vessels to provide a 96-hour Advance Notice of Arrival. Certain vessels operating on U.S.navigable waters must also be equipped with and operate an Automatic Identification System (AIS), which includes a position indicating transponder. The Coast Guard has also developed a sophisticated decision-making system for targeting high interest vessels, cargoes,and crews. The Coast Guard faces a major management challenge to validate and fully implement these targeting procedures.

Maintaining and Replacing Deepwater Assets

The report notes that, according to the Coast Guard, the greatest threat to its ability to safely and effectively perform its assigned missions continues to be the operational capability of its legacy aircraft,cutter,and small boat fleet. These assets are aging and are becoming more difficult and expensive to maintain.

As an example,the rate of in-flight loss of power mishaps involving the HH65 helicopter far exceeds FAA and U.S.Navy safety standards,requiring the immediate re-engining of the entire HH65 fleet. The Coast Guard estimates that sustaining its deteriorating legacy assets will escalate to $140 million in fiscal year 2005,further challenging the Coast Guard to rethink plans and schedules for maintaining or replacing legacy assets.

Revisiting maintenance, upgrade, and replacement decisions for legacy assets may disrupt the Deepwater contractor's plans and schedules and, therefore,could greatly increase future program costs. For example, the Coast Guard must diligently monitor the schedule and costs for maintaining,renovating,or upgrading its coastal patrol boats and medium and high endurance cutters. Revisiting these decisions may be prudent, considering the adverse impact deteriorated fleet conditions are having on Coast Guard mission performance. In 2003,the Coast Guard experienced 676 unscheduled maintenance days for its cutters--a 41% increase over 2002. This was the equivalent of losing the services of over three and a half cutters. These lost cutter days include the coastal patrol boats that are suffering from accelerated hull corrosion and breached hull casualties.

Infrastructure in Support of Coast Guard Missions

The Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction,and Improvement (AC&I) budget requests during FY(s) 2003-2005 did not include adequate funding for the re-capitalization of critical infrastructure.For example,the Coast Guard requested only $5.5 million for shore side infrastructure during FY 2004. This infrastructure must be planned,designed,funded,and constructed in time to support properly the Deepwater boats,cutters,and aircraft,as well as their crews. The lack of infrastructure funding could be a major detriment to the Coast Guard's ability to perform both its legacy and homeland security missions.

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