More than a decade ago, the Coast Guard came up with a plan, called Deepwater, to replace aging vessels like Dallas with new cutters, at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. But in the feverish aftermath of 9/11, with the Bush administration eager to turn all government departments into outposts of the war on terror, the humble Coast Guard attempted a far more ambitious transformation — a $24 billion scheme to transform its boats into an integrated fleet boasting heavy weaponry and futuristic communications systems. When the agency leapt at the opportunity to get its hands on an expanded budget and high-tech ships, however, it failed to put in place the necessary tools to make sure that such massive contracts would actually deliver what the government ordered. The result has been six years of incompetence and alleged fraud by private contractors and billions of squandered taxpayer money, much of it wasted on flawed boats that have since been scrapped. The Coast Guard, meanwhile, is still attempting to play a growing military role with ships that are old, unreliable, and a hazard to their crews.
(Photo: Coast Guard)
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