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Boeing and the Coast Guard have sent letters in response to my post last week, “Confessions of a Defense Junketeer.” In that piece I reported on a junket Boeing recently arranged for reporters in support of its KC-767 tanker program. I also criticized Deepwater, a $24 billion Coast Guard modernization program that has been overseen by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman (with the predictable result that the two companies awarded themselves for major contracts under Deepwater). The letters—Boeing’s was sent by William Barksdale, Tanker Communications Manager, and the Coast Guard’s was signed by George Kardulias, Director of Communications–are printed below. My reply follows.
As is standard practice in our industry, we often invite reporters to attend tours and briefings at our production facilities. On occasion and for convenience sake, we will provide transport to far-away facilities such as those in Everett. We invite reporters, including bloggers, without any precondition about what they write. We have little control as to whether a particular reporter will chose to do the hard work of focusing on central issues of news–what we believe to be the unparalleled quality of the KC-767, and the existence of an open and competitive tanker procurement process–or whether a reporter will choose to simply and casually revisit what most would agree to be outdated issues. We enthusiastically look forward to future media tours of our production facilities, as we believe that a fully informed media is in the public interest.
Your recent web blog on the defense industry made an unfortunate characterization and an error in fact concerning the Coast Guard’s Deepwater acquisition program. While the Coast Guard permanently decommissioned the eight converted 123-foot patrol boats and terminated the conversion of the remaining patrol boats due to structural uncertainties, the Coast Guard has not scrapped Deepwater.
Within the Deepwater Program just last week we awarded the contract for continuation of construction of the first two national security cutters and construction of the third national security cutter. Furthermore, we are accepting new maritime patrol aircraft and have solicited for designs for a new fast patrol cutter. Contrary to your assertion, Deepwater is not a boondoggle; it is a multi-year effort to accomplish the absolutely critical modernization of our aging fleet of cutters, aircraft and sensors.
Boeing’s letter doesn’t require much comment, but I would urge you to read this roundup on the company’s junket, written after my post ran, by David Postman of the Seattle Times. As to the Coast Guard letter, I did err in saying that Deepwater has been scrapped. What changed is that the Coast Guard, following a blizzard of criticism, scrapped Lockheed-Northrop management of the program and now oversees Deepwater itself.
Up until now, though, Deepwater has been a horrific boondoggle. “Deepwater is listing under a storm of congressional criticism for design mistakes, cost overruns and lax oversight,” the Seattle Times recently reported.“Four government audits have criticized management of the project, which involves 91 new ships and 240 aircraft.”
Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has been a leading critic of Deepwater. She has described the program as “plagued by cost overruns, debilitating design flaws, ships and technology that fall far short of contract requirements.” Cantwell’s office summarized some of the major problems with Deepwater:
So far, eight 123-foot patrol boats converted under the Deepwater program are out of service—a waste of $100 million. After spending $25 million, the Coast Guard suspended the Fast Response Cutter project because the contractors’ design failed to meet testing requirements. The National Security Cutter—the largest of the new Deepwater ships—is over budget and the current design and construction fails to meet the Coast Guard’s performance goals. Deepwater’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Eagle Eye, has significant delays, and the prototype crashed. These mistakes have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, while delays have forced the Coast Guard to rely more heavily on outdated equipment that was not built for post-9/11 missions.
That sounds like a “boondoggle” to me. We’ll have to wait to see if the Coast Guard can now get the program back on track.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature