Steering in Deepwater

Steering in Deepwater

The 110-foot Coast Guard cutter Mustang tows the Roanoke Island cutter to Juneau, Alaska, after its engines shut down in the Gulf of Alaska. The Integrated Deepwater System Program will upgrade and eventually replace the aging cutter fleet.

The Coast Guard cutter Washington is one of a class of coastal patrol vessels that will benefit from the Integrated Deepwater System Program's sensors, computers and information-sharing technology.

Coast Guard turns to Web handling of paperwork for its biggest buy ever

A $12 billion, multiyear procurement generates lots of paperwork, but it won't swamp the Coast Guard.

At many sites in the mid-Atlantic states and California, Guard officials are using a Web collaboration application to evaluate three competitors' offers in the agency's largest-ever procurement. They can transfer documents, comment on them and synchronize their calendars through their browsers.

The procurement, called the Integrated Deepwater System Program, will replace 93 cutters and 206 aircraft over the next 15 to 20 years, said Cmdr. Paul Roden, deputy chief of the office managing Deepwater integration. Deepwater is complex not only because of the number of craft involved but also because the Guard needs to update antiquated computers and control systems in its existing fleet.

The Deepwater program touches just about everything, said Andy Cox, the Naval Research Laboratory's representative on one of the Deepwater tactical assessment teams.

Renovated inner workings

The information systems in cutters and aircraft will undergo upgrades while new vessels and airplanes are under construction, said Chief Petty Officer Phyllis G. Gamache, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

'This contract is for new ships and aircraft, but we can't get the new ships and aircraft the day after the contract goes out,' Gamache said.

The Guard undertook the huge acquisition because many of its assets are reaching the end of their service lives at the same time, Gamache said.

Following its request for final proposals in July, the Guard is evaluating bids from three teams of integrators and expects to award a contract in May, Roden said.

Adding to the acquisition challenge, the engineering, logistics and finance teams are spread out in geography and specialization. 'Our aviation types aren't used to talking to our surface-ship types,' Roden said.

The Guard's engineering logistics center is in Baltimore and its main aviation center is in Elizabeth City, N.C. Two commands in California and three in Virginia also need to weigh in on Deepwater. In early planning, the teams tried using public folders on a Microsoft Windows NT platform in the Guard's Washington headquarters, Roden said. But the server was inaccessible from outside that building.

For agencywide collaboration, the Guard installed SiteScape Forum from SiteScape Inc. of Maynard, Mass., two years ago, and teams began using it for parts of the Deepwater planning last year, Roden said.

An earlier version called AltaVista Forum, developed by the former Digital Equipment Corp., was already installed on some computers, Roden said.

The Guard now uses SiteScape Enterprise Forum 6.0 on a Dell PowerEdge server with dual 550-MHz processors under Windows NT. The server and its 250G Dell Computer Corp. external RAID array are at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

The entire Coast Guard uses NT on desktop computers, too, Roden said.

User names and passwords are required for SiteScape Forum, and the server looks for a recognizable IP address from military sites or contractors, Roden said.

Users can customize the look of SiteScape Forum in their browsers. Separate Deepwater folders deal with functional areas such as ships, aircraft and computers. The application routes proposal documents for approval and lets managers track comments from start to resolution.

'It's a cultural change for the Coast Guard to use a tool like this,' Roden said, but the 500 SiteScape users have given fairly positive feedback.

The SiteScape license cost the Coast Guard about $5,000 plus $5,000 per year for technical support.

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