September 23, 2008

An Axe to Grind

David Axe is a freelance journalist who has done some very impressive reporting particularly over the last year.   However, he is currently engaged in resurrecting a bizarre mad on of his about the Coast Guard.

I touched on this previously here...read the whole thing, I stand by it..


 IF (and that is a really big if) the allegations are true...then those responsible for this " conspiracy" did EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING. The only thing that can come out of this IF the allegation is true is for the USCG to loose the use of a Cutter right before the Alaska fishing season, and possibly, good men and women be punished for doing the right thing.

I don't suggest that there might not be NSC related scandals....but if this is what he's wasting bandwidth on, then the Senior Sea Service  must be pretty clean.

UPDATE:  At least part of Mr Axes pique seems to stem from the USCG not affording a rebate to bloggers that big papers enjoy. Galrahn responds, thoughtfully as usual, and has thoughts on the CG and web 2.0 here.

UPDATE 2: While responding to Mr. Stinson's comment, I rather belatedly  realized that I never posted the Coast Guards denial of the whole thing.

In fact, at no time did the Coast Guard remove or re-install equipment to mislead Navy examiners.  The Coast Guard has regularly and frequently discussed in detail with congressional oversight staffs the many actual activities associated with preparation and follow-on work for acceptance trials and delivery. 


(Brickmuppet...'FLOG')

sorry...

    This excerpt is important as it might explain why some investigators Freedom of Information Requests are being denied....

   
  Specifically, the Coast Guard presented Congressional staff with information that directly counters the false assertions and unsubstantiated claims regarding this matter.  Because of the sensitive nature of the information provided to Committee staff, the Coast Guard cannot publicly disclose those documents, because that would disclose equipment capabilities. 


The C4SIR system is classified and so there is likely some lack of forthrightness in its discussion....which is perfectly proper.

Aviation Week has covered this too.

The point of these two posts is not to dispute the Coast Guards version of things but to make the case that even if Mr Axe's anonymous tipster is accurate....the "scandal" being pursued here is not an ethical failure.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 03:02 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 388 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Great post, albeit that I don't agree with every word.  Indeed, Mr. Axe does have one to grind, I guess.  His grinding takes away from the core issue, however, and that is the sense there is a hide and seek playing out here.

In your May post, you wrote, "The priority now is to learn what went wrong, apply those lessons, see that this doesn't happen again and get the ship and her sister operational."  Indeed, this is the reason I have made the FOIA request.  Hard to learn from something if you're not acknowledging the situation.  I don't think anyone ought to be tossed overboard (we're beyond that), but hanky-panky doesn't play when it comes to large acquisitions.  Do note that the allegations have not been rebutted, at all.  Admiral Blore, when given the chance to put a stick in it and put it to bed (how's that for mixing metaphors) did not.  The allegations remain "out there."  The silence, at least from where I sit, is deafening.

Meanwhile, rather than throwing a hissy fit, I've written an appeal and will let the process carry on.  Having been down a similar path before, I know how long these things take to play out.

As to how this would impact the cutter fleet: if it is true, it will do nothing to the fleet except remind all involved that we must be above board in all we do.  Plain and simple.

Keep posting; I like your style.

Posted by: Peter Stinson at Tue Sep 23 23:35:24 2008 (isuRB)

2 Thanks for that.

Good luck with the FOIA request.

My big fear is that, after all the actual impropriety in this mess, that IF the story is true (and it has been categorically denied) the people who end up getting made an example of are made an example of for the appearance of impropriety...because they exercised good judgment made the best of a bad situation.


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Wed Sep 24 12:08:10 2008 (SazwJ)

3 The C4ISR equipment removal issue is not resolved by the repetitive CG comments that the "Coast Guard" didn't remove the equipment. They have never stated that the equipment was not removed by someone. (This whole thing was caused by my naming the CG specifically in my allegation. I should have made it more general. It's really splitting hairs - but technically an important distinction) The Transportation Committee documented C4ISR equipment removal. What they didn't state is what it was , why it was removed, by whom and how it affected TEMPEST testing. As for the comment that this is all classified so it shouldn't be discussed that is incorrect. the results of TEMPEST testing as in pass/fail etc is not classified - nor are the associated open issues. The technical specifics like frequencies, bandwidths etc is the classified part.

As for why this is important. The NSC has the mother load of C4ISR equipment. They have all the classified systems especially communications. In order for them to play with others well - especially the US Navy - they would need secure voice and data comm systems. The primary data exchange for comms is SIPRNET - the classified government WIDE internet. If it is compromised (like it probably was in Cuban waters by the Matagorda) then our enemies can clearly understand all of the communications by everyone using it. And if our enemies copy the clear and encrypted data they can break our codes.

Every one of my allegations has been proven accurate. (If you would like to challenge that please let me know) My sources tell me the NSCs IA and TEMPEST are in extremely bad shape and will require a major ship redesign to fix. This will cost hundreds of millions of $. The cost goes up as we leverage the system of systems design across all the NSCs, OPCs and FRCs.

Usually the TEMPEST tests are run end to end at least once prior to DD-250 signing so the open items can be understood. Supposedly that was never done on the Bertholf (I think the equipment "removal" gave them cover to avoid running those tests). However testing had been done on sub-systems for the whole year or so prior and over 100 items were still open. The Navy called out 350+ critical design flaws in the winter of 2007. Of course open items are to be expected and it's usual for work to get done after DD-250 signing. What is not usual is taking delivery of a $600m ship whose secure systems have never been tested end to end. (As I say that I see the 1st LCS may have done the same thing. Funny - who built her C4ISR?)

Not only were the tests not run before acceptance but the CG is now late on their commitment to have them done in August.

The objective and subjective data all point toward the CG and ICGS hiding a major flaw. If you would like to contact me I can lay it all out. (Any group of senior officials who would cover up an illegal waiving of critical comm security failures the Navy suggested not be waived can do pretty much anything to keep the cover up going to protect themselves. The facts - Ron Porter - an acting and not cleared CTTA signed off on waiving TEMPEST failures the Navy didn't want fixed. That act was sanctioned all the way up the chain. Additionally - this is the same group of people who were going to outfit every 123, NSC, OPC and FRC with external C4ISR equipment that would not survive the elements - among other things.  They accepted the first 8 123 like this which meant the designs would continue - due to system of systems - on every other surface asset.  The only reason this did not continue is because the problems were exposed to the public)

Posted by: Michael DeKort at Wed Sep 24 17:57:20 2008 (JZXvZ)

4 For those who do not know, Mr. DeKort raised numerous questions about the quality of work being done on the refitting/stretching of several 110 foot patrol boats into123' patrol boats. He was told to not pursue the matter.

When he did he was terminated by his employer.

His allegations proved to be correct.

He has since been treated rather roughly for his trouble.

Sir, I do not dispute that you are operating in good faith.

However, the fact remains that IF the Coast Guard did the swap that you allege, then it was still the correct thing to do. The vessel is serviceable and a useful asset even if the secure coms aren't working. The ship can be fitted with portable secure radios from the Army or Marine Corps. This will not have the full spectrum of capabilities of the system as designed but it will be sufficient for most needs. The vessel is needed now, in time for winter in the Bering Sea.

Your own information alleges that the C4ISR system is so poorly installed that it will require near total replacement and considerable yard time. IF your info is correct and the vessel was held up until the systems in question were fully operational then the ship would almost certainly not be ready in time, particularly given the issues with the C4ISR contractor.

Publicly available news reports have pointed to the maintenance issues with the other high endurance cutters such as the recent engine room fires on Dallas.

This drives home the fact that this vessel (Bertholf) is needed and its absence could concievably cost lives.

IF every one of the allegations you make above were correct...then the choice the Coast Guard had was between not waiving a test that they knew they would fail and would due to statutory requirements delay the in service date...thereby risking lives. Or waiving the test and potentially saving lives.

Ethically, by pretty much any standard, the Coast Guard (allegedly)  made the right choice.

This assumes their categorical denial is false.

Quality control in that shipyard is a major issue as the Navy has learned to its dismay with the San Antonio class LPDs and as you point out the C4SIR system contractor is even worse. This C4SIR issue is not a CG only problem, it is Navy too and possibly involves other services and agencies...because it involves secure communications it is highly probable that much revolving around this is quite sensitive, as is its scope, as are efforts to correct it.

It is possible that we may be talking past each other.
You are alleging major failures.
Mr Axe is saying that the attempts by the USCG to cope with the results of those failures in as ethical and productive way as possible is the real scandal.
I am saying that IF this is all true then Mr Axe is simply wrong. What's more, focusing on THIS aspect of the alleged scandal distracts from anyone who may have been responsible for it, and potentially ruin he carreers of those who (allegedly) had to deal with its consequences.

That is the crux of my disagreement with you and Mr. Stinson on this matter.

Thank you for your comment, and the considerable sacrifices you have made for your country.


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Thu Sep 25 02:24:32 2008 (73lWn)

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