Coast Guard names new acquisition chief

The Coast Guard has promoted an insider to lead an acquisition directorate stood up two years ago to consolidate procurement management and overhaul the troubled modernization program known as Deepwater.

Rear Adm. Ronald Rábago formally took command of the directorate as assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer on Monday and was promoted to two-star admiral on Wednesday. He replaces Rear Adm. Gary Blore, who will become commander of the 13th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Seattle, next month.

Since the acquisition directorate was established in July 2007, Rábago, who is certified as a Level III program manager, has been deeply involved in the organization's development as program executive officer and director of acquisition programs.

Until the new directorate was created, Deepwater was managed by a commercial lead systems integrator, a consortium led by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. known as Integrated Coast Guard Systems. Deepwater is a multi-year $25 billion recapitalization program aimed at upgrading a substantial portion of the service's air and cutter assets as well as the communications systems that link them.

An independent organization within the Coast Guard oversaw the contract with ICGS, but it lacked the staff and expertise to adequately do its job. After multiple problems arose with components of Deepwater, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen ordered the service to take over as lead systems integrator and consolidate all acquisition functions in an organization with the resources and staff to manage a growing investment portfolio, which is now valued at more than $28 billion.

Rábago oversaw the incorporation of the Deepwater program into the service's consolidated acquisition directorate in 2007.

While the contract with ICGS officially won't end until January 2010 when certain production requirements are to be met, the contractor consortium no longer functions as the lead systems integrator. That responsibility falls to the acquisition directorate's 850 government employees and 200 support contractors.

Rábago, one of the most experienced naval engineers in the Coast Guard, will manage an organization that continues to expand. The Coast Guard's fiscal 2010 budget request includes funding to hire another 100 federal acquisition employees.

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