Coastie Cutters Got Leaky Networks (Updated Twice)


Categorie: Industry, Naval |

The Coast Guard’s 5,000-ton, 400-foot National Security Cutters, a centerpiece of the troubled $25-billion Deepwater modernization program, are having serious problems with their secure networks, according to leaked documents. The networks, which must adhere to the National Security Agency’s TEMPEST standard, are 70% likely to fail to meet that standard — and on a scale of 1 to 10, the potential conquences have a severity of 8, the documents from the Coast Guard’s Acquisition Directorate posit.

A separate Coast Guard “sitrep” dated September 5 detailed the problems:

Approximately 60 discrepancies are due to poor workmanship, such as improper installation standards, poor workmanship, etc. The remaining 353 discrepancies are due to design issues. Design issues include boundary devices not in place, improper separation of red/black equipment, equipment not meeting certification requirements, etc. The Post DD-250 Working Group and the Information Assurance Working Group are working together to determine what discrepancies can be resolved prior to delivery and what can be completed post delivery, as well as how the issues could impact delivery.

NationalsecuitycutterWhat does this mean, in plain English? “If NSC1 does not meet TEMPEST requirements … by delivery, the cutter will be unable to process classified information,” according to the first document. The vessels, built by Northrop Grumman with electronics provided by Lockheed Martin, will not be suitable for sensitive missions and won’t be safe to connect to Navy and other military networks. In an age where connectivity means effectiveness, the cutters will be isolated.

Last year, former Lockheed engineer Mike DeKort alleged that Deepwater’s eight 123-foot cutters had similar problems with their TEMPEST gear. Lockheed Martin denied the charge, and the allegations were soon overshadowed by severe buckling in the cutters’ hulls that forced the Coast Guard to remove them from service this spring.

In the wake of the withdrawal, the Coast Guard cancelled the shared Northrop-Lockheed Deepwater “lead systems integrator” management contract, citing poor performance. And this summer, the Coast Guard stood up the Acquisitions Directorate to fill the gap, a big step towards reasonable oversight for a service that long ago had surrendered leadership in its equipment programs to the very companies that stood to benefit financially from the programs. Subsequent correspondence between Coast Guard officials and industry revealed that DeKort had been right all along about the 123s: that their network gear, like their hulls, had failed to meet Coast Guard standards.

The emergence of seemingly identical problems with the larger NSCs indicates that the 123s’ issues weren’t isolated. Lockheed Martin’s work on Deepwater electronics appears to be fundamentally flawed. This comes as no surprise to DeKort, who says that some of the same engineers worked on both the 123s and the NSCs.

For the record, both Lockheed Martin and the Coast Guard have denied that there are any faults in the NSCs, aside from some structural issues that have reportedly been resolved. According to industry, the first cutter is still slated to begin trials this fall. Another cutter is under construction, against a requirement for eight of the vessels.

Update #1:

“Everything will be done before the first piece of classified material ever runs on this ship,” Coast Guard Adm. Ronald Rabago, director of acquisition programs, told Aerospace Daily in an interview at Coast Guard headquarters Sept. 27.

Update #2:

[Navy inspection group] INSURV will inspect the Bertholf and identify any major deficiencies that must be corrected prior to delivery. Based on INSURV’s acceptance trials report, the president of the board, Rear Adm. Raymond M. Klein, USN, may recommend to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen whether the service should accept delivery of the NSC 1.

According to the Coast Guard and the shipbuilder, an important goal toward earning the recommendation for delivery and acceptance is to minimize the number of deficiencies that the INSURV team may find during its inspection [next year].

“There will always be discrepancies when we are dealing with a complex system like a first-of-class ship, this is true for the Coast Guard and for the Navy as well,” NSC Technical Manager, Richard Celotto, said during an interview at his Arlington, Va., office. “What we hope to get from the INSURV team and our own evaluators is a manageable list of items that, after we complete them, we can recommend that the NSC is ready for acceptance. So part of our goal is to minimize the number of items on that list.”

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Deepwater: the good and the bad
Lockheed’s bad boats


12 Responses to “Coastie Cutters Got Leaky Networks (Updated Twice)”

  1. Michael DeKort says:

    What the Navy, CG and Lockheed are not telling you is that due to system of systems contract requirements they have to repeat the same designs from the 123s. Since the CG illegally waived the critical failures found by the same Navy tests everyone will have their hands tied because these waivers effectively changed the requirements and made these designs acceptable. As such they can get away with saying the tests passed. The NSC has over 350 TEMPEST design flaws most of which are leveraged from the 123s. There should be zero because the CG should have not accepted the 123 systems. All of this is why Lockheed fights the 123 refund request. The CG isn’t fixing this because they know they illegally waived failed tests they never should have. Based on all of this every NSC, FRC and OPC is destined to have the same problems. Add in the potential for all of the external equipment failing in bad weather and low smoke problems and the mess will be catastrophic very soon.
    If you want to put all of this to bed get the CG/Navy to allow an independent TEMPEST test conducted and all of the results made public (the actual measurements are classified – whether they pass or fail at a high level is not classified). Also ask the CG to publish exactly what the 123 and NSC TEMEPST flaws are and compare them. Then ask the CG to state whether or not Ron Porter was legally permitted to waive the 123 failures, if they should have been waived and what the risks are in accepting the waivers. Then ask the Navy if they normally waive these things. Finally ask them if the plan is to perpetuate the same designs on every NSC, OPC and FRC (where the systems match which is in most cases for comm/TEMEPST systems)

  2. brh166 says:

    The Coast Guard does a great job for peanuts of a budget and they don’t deserve this debacle. I mean these people are saving lives and helping people every day. The 60 minutes segment made me want to pull my hair out. Can we put some adults in charge at the DCMA AND DCAA please?

  3. [...] Inspections revealed that all eight rebuilt cutters had hull problems. The shipyard denied the charge. Congress got involved. And amid ongoing investigations, whistleblowers surfaced, alleging that the hull problems were only the tip of the iceberg. Deepwater’s ambitious electronics, courtesy of Lockheed Martin, were also flawed – this according to former Lockheed engineer Michael DeKort. He and others said that both the Coast Guard and the industry team shared the blame for sloppy management, poor workmanship and a corporate culture that dodged accountability. [...]

  4. [...] What’s most interesting, according to Lockheed whistleblower Mike DeKort, is that his former employer is finally ‘fessing up to its own sordid role in the fiasco. Lockmart handled the “topside” external electronic equipment while Northrop did the hull work; initially only the hulls were subject to official scrutiny, but for years DeKort has insisted that the topside equipment was faulty, too. The Coast Guard belatedly came around to his position. Now Lockmart, too, has made it official. Reuters again: Lockheed Martin said the Coast Guard initially identified nine class-wide issues, of which five were under its area of responsibility. But in a subsequent letter, the service expressed concern about only one issue under Lockheed’s watch involving certain topside equipment items. Lockheed was eager to resolve that remaining issue, said spokesman Troy Scully. He said a settlement needed to be negotiated, but the estimated replacement value for all of the topside equipment in question was only about $3 million. [...]

  5. [...] If it’s true, why’d they decline to sign? Well, the Coast Guard’s official blog hints that, as I’ve reported all along, the cutters have leaky networks that expose them to enemy hacking: [Navy] SPAWAR [electronics experts] identified discrepancies that will be added to the list of [Information Assurance] remediation actions that need to be completed prior to final onboard testing. Full instrumented TEMPEST [info security] surveys along with IA scans of the Bertholf’s networks and systems will be performed after Acceptance Trials (AT) with TEMPEST and IA status highlighted and documented on our acceptance agreement with the shipbuilder (DD-250). Up to this point all tests and inspections have been preliminary in order to properly identify and manage risk. [...]

  6. [...] A couple weeks back I reported on the Coast Guard’s new policy for official messages posted to the internet. The service was prohibiting its personnel from posting messages from senior officers unless they had been vetted by Coastie HQ. In light of all the bad press the Coast Guard was getting for its disastrous Deepwater modernization scheme, I read the new internet policy as a possible sign of a impending crack-down on Coastie bloggers. [...]

  7. [...] The Coast Guard’s recently approved budget for next year totals nearly $10 billion — a modern record. The spike in funding is necessary to pay for more than a thousand new personnel for the lifesaving service. But cost increases in the Coast Guard’s Deepwater shipbuilding scheme also are a factor: * The first two National Security Cutters, the troubled flagships of the Deepwater fleet, will cost between $500 million and $600 million apiece, hundreds of millions more than originally projected. [...]

  8. [...] But for all the public debate over Deepwater, the Coast Guard repeatedly has declined to confirm allegations that Deepwater’s biggest problem was systems-wide flaws in the command-and-control architecture that was supposed to be common to all the new ships and aircraft. Lockheed whistleblower Mike DeKort has been harping on this point for years, and documents have surfaced hinting at command-and-control systems problems in the modernized 110s and the new National Security Cutters. Now there’s further indication, buried deep in the Bollinger lawsuit. [...]

  9. [...] We need a Coast Guard that’s equipped and sized to handle both routine domestic missions, such as inspections and search-and-rescue, and occasionally join Navy deployments. On a side note, Boutwell has a Facebook page to help observers keep track of her during her long cruise. Related: Coast Guard lawsuit Coast Guard’s sunk costs Coast Guard’s billions Congress wants to take away CG’s buying power Coasties in Georgia Coasties to the rescue! Behind the Coast Guard’s rescue spin Coast Guard spins rescue Cutters got leaky networks Coast Guard slams contractors What’s next for Deepwater? Coast Guard sinking ever faster Deepwater: the good and the bad Lockheed’s bad boats No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  10. [...] New Coast Guard cutters apparently not compliant with data security standards. See David Axe’s post here. [...]

  11. [...] of frigate-size patrol vessels, called “National Security Cutters,” had bad backbones, poorly-designed computers and radios and ended up late and costing twice their original budget. With costs spiraling, the Coast Guard [...]

  12. [...] had been vetted by Coastie HQ. In light of all the bad press the Coast Guard was getting for its disastrous Deepwater modernization scheme, I read the new internet policy as a possible sign of a impending crack-down on Coastie [...]

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