Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Coast Guard's "Deepwater" modernization program was plagued by problems. One whistleblower says it still is.
By Nick Baumann
Last week, the Coast Guard kicked off construction of the 418-foot Stratton, engraving the initials M.O. into the ship's keel in honor of Michelle Obama. The Stratton will be the third of eight so-called "National Security Cutters" that are set to be the crown jewels of the service's revamped fleet. But the first lady may have lent her name to a flawed vessel, for critics of the new ships maintain that their communications systems are likely vulnerable to interception and that the Coast Guard's entire modernization program is ridden with major problems.
The Project on Government Overight (POGO) and Michael DeKort, a former Lockheed Martin engineer, have been leading the charge against the new ships. In 2006, DeKort recorded a whistleblowing YouTube video that claimed the Coast Guard's $25 billion, 25-year-long modernization effort to modify or replace nearly all of its ship and helicopters, known as Deepwater, was in trouble. Since then, DeKort, POGO, and members of Congress have criticized Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, the two main Deepwater contractors, for alleged mistakes in building and refitting ships and equipment.
One of the key issues that plagued Deepwater refits of older ships was a failure to meet electronic security standards that normally prevent foreign powers from eavesdropping on military communications, DeKort claims. He now says electronic security on the new National Security Cutters—like the one with Michelle Obama's initials—could be just as problematic. (The Coast Guard and its contractors dispute DeKort's allegations about electronic security on both the older ships and the new cutters.)...(Remainder.)