Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Changes loom ahead for the Coast Guard's civil engineering program

Perhaps you've never given thought that the Coast Guard has a number of civil engineers. Well, it does. The Coast Guard has plenty of real estate and need for a civil engineering program. I'd be overstating to suggest that our plant and property looks like this old base in Cleveland, Ohio... but perhaps not by much. Our funding for major civil projects has been cut to the bone due to Deepwater as acquisition is acquisition, at least in the eyes of many members of Congress.

But, the civil program is undergoing change, and now that change is out in the open. Jessica Holzer from The Hill reports,
The U.S. Coast Guard is forging ahead with a plan to downsize its Civil Engineering Program (CEP) over the objections of several members of Congress who believe the move violates the 2002 Homeland Security Act and legislation passed last year that outlawed any cuts to the program without congressional approval.

The plan has yet to be unveiled, but remarks from Coast Guard management to employees and union leaders suggest that it will involve shuttering scores of civil-engineering units scattered in coastal regions of the country and centralizing operations in Norfolk, Va.

The units oversee the upkeep of docks, shorefronts, aircraft hangars, barracks and other Coast Guard facilities and assess the impact on the environment of new construction. They are staffed mainly by engineers and architects at the high end of the federal government’s pay grade.

Many critics of the Coast Guard’s efforts question whether the CEP’s maintenance duties and larger-scale projects can be managed from an office in Norfolk.
The people I know in the civil program have been extremely tight-lipped. Getting any intel out of them has been more difficult than getting Scooter Libby to talk about Valerie Plame. Much more difficult. I'll pass a senior civil engineer in the lobby and press for information and come away knowing less than when I started.

But now the cat appears to be out of the bag.

Good news for Norfolk's civil community, which has taken a severe hit over the last few years. A decade ago, the Facilities Design & Construction Center had nearly a hundred employees. I think they're down to thirty now. And they knew, or know, design & construction. My own suspicion -- based solely on what I read in Ms. Holzer's article is that the maintenance component isn't going to get centralized, just the acquisition (aka the design and construction component). And the real impact on the program I think, then, is the move of billets from Seattle, where the other FDCC is located.

As to the 1970's construction fiascos, I hope the Coast Guard is smarter now... ;-)

And, I suspect all this is just a precursor to the various CIAO-induced changes headed downstream.

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