Coast Guard:

Coastal Buoy Tender Acquisition Project Did Not Follow Federal Guidelines

RCED-92-156: Published: May 20, 1992. Publicly Released: May 20, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether the Coast Guard's acquisition program for coastal buoy tender replacements has been justified and conducted according to federal, Department of Transportation (DOT), and Coast Guard regulations governing system acquisitions.

GAO found that: (1) under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acquisition guidelines for acquiring a major system, an agency is to define its needs and whether existing systems can perform those functions; (2) the Coast Guard has not justified its need to replace coastal buoy tenders, in the manner prescribed by OMB guidelines; (3) the Coast Guard defined its need by stating that, since its existing vessels were aging, it would need replacement vessels functionally similar to existing coastal buoy tenders; (4) the Coast Guard did not consider whether existing navigation vessels could perform functions similar to existing buoy tenders; (5) seagoing buoy tenders could service some of the larger aids now serviced by coastal buoy tenders; (6) DOT guidelines require top departmental officials to review acquisition projects to ensure that a project does not advance from one phase to the next until management concerns have been met; (7) although the Coast Guard did not meet the provision of the first phase of the federal acquisition process, DOT allowed the buoy tender replacement project to advance to the second acquisition phase; (8) during its review of the first phase of the project, DOT had unresolved concerns about how technological advances could change what the coastal buoy tenders replacements would need to do and whether other existing vessels could perform some of these functions; and (9) by allowing the project to continue without a clear understanding of other Coast Guard vessels' functions, DOT risks procuring a replacement system with capabilities that exceed or do not meet its needs.