Industry heavyweights come out for NAIS briefing

Published 15 February 2007

Nationwide Automatic Identification System contract may eventually be worth as much as $165 million, but executives suspect that the project will lead into work on the Command 2010 project; Boeing, L-3, SAIC, and others attend a briefing

Likes bees to honey, the industry heavyweights are swarming around the Coast Guard’s planned Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS) in the hopes of snatching up part of the $165 million project. That is a lot of money, but in fact it may only be a fraction of what the winning company can expect. Authorities and executives alike believe the system — which tracks commercial vessels as they approach and operate within American waters — is a possible gateway to something larger: the contract to develop Command 2010, which will update the Coast Guard’s major command and control systems. “The automatic identification system is being viewed as a steppingstone,” said one prospective subcontractor. “That is why all the heavy hitters are interested.” Heavy hitters at a recent 18 January Coast Guard briefing included executives from Boeing, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Science Applications International Corp.

NAIS is intended to manage sea traffic by providing real-time awareness of every ship in American waters — a plan that has the dual effect of improving sea lane efficiency and allowing authorities to track and intercept suspicious vehicles. “The Nationwide Automatic Identification System is one element of maritime domain awareness,” said Captain Kurtis Guth. The NAIS data will be incorporated into other military and government command and control systems, and will also be integrated into existing Coast Guard projects such as Rescue 21, (to enhance communications along the nation’s shorelines) and the much maligned Deepwater program. It might even share data with the SBInet, which may explain Boeing’s interest.

With the Coast Guard having already managed the first stage of the project — in which fifty-five ports will get receive-only capabilities by next October — the request for proposals for the second increment is expected this summer, with an award to be made in 2008. The winning system, which must transmit messages for fifty nautical miles and receive messages within twenty-four nautical miles, is to be completed by September 2009. “Increment No. 2 is much more complex,” Guth said. “The contractor will need to integrate the system with command and control systems, both for the Coast Guard and the Defense Department.” A third phase will use satellite service to increase transmission range to 2,000 nautical miles.

-read more in Alice Lipowicz’s Washington Technology report