A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mr. Dan Eustace, a senior logistician with the United States Coast Guard. Dan has recently been recognized as Coast Guard Life-Cycle Logistician of the Year. He was generous enough to talk with me about his Coast Guard work, and provide some excellent insights into how he approaches acquisition logistics.

I’ve taken the liberty of slightly condensing Dan’s discussions for this blog post. The entire 42 minute interview audio is posted at the end of this blog for those who wish to listen.

Ron: Dan, on behalf of CLEP, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us about your work with the Coast Guard?

Dan: Sure. I’m a Plank-Owner of the Asset Project Office (APO). Back in the 2008/2009 era I was on active duty as a Lieutenant (Lt) with the Coast Guard, working in the Deepwater Program. I was with CG-4B, office of Deepwater Logistics Integration. At the time, for various reasons, we ended up with the first National Security Cutter (NSC) delivered with no logistics package. Our assignment was to build the logistics package for the ship class. We teamed with the U.S. Navy and performed a Logistics Readiness Review (LRR) of the ship, then went to work filling in the gaps in logistics support.

Later, our team was moved to Baltimore to stand up the APO, modeled after the way aviation had been doing business. We cobbled together a unit out of the remnants of CG-4B along with O-3 Division, which today is the Surface Forces Logistics Center (SFLC). We continued to work on logistic very early in our modernization days, the beginnings of what we do today.

I’m a naval engineer, but once I started in acquisition logistics I pretty much stayed in that world. It’s been great.

When my tour was complete I transferred to Project Resident Office (PRO) Baltimore which at the time was called the “Legacy Sustainment Support Unit.” This is now the In-Service Vessel Sustainment (ISVS) unit. This was essentially taking an old ship and refurbishing them. We were installing new systems and engineering changes, then building logistics packages for those engineering changes. I spent four years there, then came back to the APO as a Lieutenant-Commander in 2016 as the Fast Response Cutter (FRC) logistics lead.

I learned a lot on the very successful FRC program. After three and a half years here I retired, and picked up the civilian position I’m in now as a GS-14 Division Chief. My division manages In-Service Sustainment for patrol boats and the waterways commerce cutters. I work on a lot of different programs, and I was able to carry all my experience from the very early days of the NSC through the FRC into my world today. We’re working with a variety of different programs under different contracts with different logistics requirements.

The biggest issue I identified was a lack of standardized processes, methods, and practices. I very quickly started taking what I learned and building out a wholistic approach to managing all these programs.

Thee waterways commerce cutters is a major acquisition program. We’re replacing 35 existing inland waterways cutters, a very old aging fleet, and building a new class of ship to replace all of them.

The biggest issue I identified was a lack of standardized processes, methods, and practices. I very quickly started taking what I learned and building out a wholistic approach to managing all these programs. There are a lot of stake-holders in our community, and I see my office as the bridge between acquisition and sustainment.

Our job is to work with the program offices and the sustainment community, with a common goal of obtaining the necessary logistics data from the shipbuilders and boatbuilders, that we can then produce the logistics artifacts we deliver to the sustainment community. So I partnered with the SFLC, our main customer, and took a look at our joint Coast Guard processes. Quite honestly, there were some antiquated tool sets. Our IT systems are somewhat antiquated. They don’t integrate logistics very effectively and are not integrated where they should be integrated.

So I stood up a working group to quickly develop and came to a consensus on areas where we could streamline and make more efficient. Ultimately, what we were really doing was to build a collaborative relationship with the SFLC, our main partner. Prior to this, it was a case of acquisition does things one way and sustainment does thing another way. We really needed to get past that and build that joint relationship.

We were able to build a tremendous relationship from this. We’re continuing to lay the foundation for the cutters we have in acquisition now, as well as the cutters we’ll build in the future. Standardized processes, standardized workflows, things like that. I’m juggling a lot, but it’s necessary in order to do a better job of integrating logistics packages for the Coast Guard.

Ron: Wow! That’s a lot! This sounds like some very comprehensive work you’re doing. But tell me, what was the Coast Guard doing prior to this? Did every product line have their own logistics performance?

Dan: Going back eleven – twelve years ago, before we stood up modernizations, we really didn’t have many new acquisitions. The NSC was our first major acquisition in decades. That was supposed to be a Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) idea. The idea was the Coast Guard would have an office integrated with other commercial entities like Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed Martin. The goal was to build the ship, and use the integrated Coast Guard system of contractors to perform all maintenance. This was along the same lines of what the Navy has tried in the past.

However, the Coast Guard realized very quickly this was not cost-effective, and was something the Coast Guard could not afford. When the Coast Guard decided we needed to take this on and do it ourselves, we paved the way for how we were going to do logistics in the future.

After the NSC was the FRC. Prior to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) acquisition, which we’re in right now, the Coast Guard procured a lot of the major logistics artifacts from the shipbuilders. For example, with the FRC, the shipbuilder provides completed logistics packages such as the maintenance procedure cards and provisioning parts lists. We review and massage these packages and load them into our logistics system for sustainment. But the majority of work is done at the shipyard.

When the Coast Guard decided we needed to take this on and do it ourselves, we paved the way for how we were going to do logistics in the future.

What we learned over the years was that there is a lot of rework involved, and a steep learning curve on part of the commercial entity learning how to provide Coast Guard logistics products. What we decided to do was take this work in-house, so we have more control over producing Coast Guard logistics artifacts for Coast Guard assets. So OPC is the first major acquisition where we took a lot of that off the shipbuilder and brought in-house to the APO. We are procuring raw data from the shipbuilder, taking that data in-house, and producing logistics “blocks.”

We’ve always done this with boats, and the in-service sustainment projects, but that was always a much smaller scale. For boat projects we get very limited tech data. These are very small boat builders who – build boats. This is very different than building a 350 foot-plus ship. The data we usually get is drawings, Commercial off-the shelf (COTS) tech manuals, and the master equipment list. The APO takes those very basic logistics products and use them to produce maintenance procedure cards, provision the parts, and develop the supply chains. All from very basic tech data. So we’ve taken that model and scaled it up dramatically for these major acquisition programs. It’s definitely a challenge because we require more complex data. I think industry still struggles with some of that.

Because, at the APO, we see all of these programs, and we’re there participating in logistics development for all of them, we’re able to carry lessons learned from one program to the next. So what we’ve learned in the past we take forward to new programs. The waterways commerce cutter acquisition program is going to benefit from this experience.

We’ve tried to make it very easy for commercial shipyards to understand. For example, we’ve built templates for them. Instead of getting into the GEIA-0007 standard, which is very complex and hard to understand unless you use it all the time, we give the vendor templates and say “just fill this out. Don’t worry about this complex and very technical information.” The vendor just has to provide data such as the part number, CAGE code, nomenclature; keep it very simple to help mitigate some of the misunderstandings, and clarify what we need from those shipyards to create logistics products.

I look at this as we are the logistics center arm of the program offices. Even though the program offices have logisticians, we are tied at the hip with them. We make sure we procure the data needed correctly, requirements are solid, and traceability is all the way back to overarching requirements document (ORD). We partner with other logistics element managers throughout the Coast Guard to be sure we’re all on the same page. The APO also leads transition efforts to sustainment, as the bridge between acquisition and sustainment.

One key aspect is traceability. Requirements should always be traceable to contracts and the Integrated Logistics Support Plan (ILSP).

Ron: How does the work you’re doing compare to the DoD community work, and in particular the Navy with their shipbuilding programs?

Dan: Most of our certifications are PM level III, LCL Level III; we take a lot of DoD courses. I’ve had the chance to listen in to some of the other programs such as the F-35 program, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and learn the hurdles those programs have. They do things a little differently. My take is that those programs contract a lot out. They have a tremendous amount of resources. They do a tremendous amount of PBL. I think the scale is so much different.

We do partner a lot, and frequently, with the Navy. For example, the Polar Security Cutter (PCS) is a joint program between the Coast Guard and the Navy. So there is a heavy Navy involvement in this program. This is an interesting one as we partnered with the Naval Sea Logistics Center (NAVSEALOGCEN) to do a lot of the supply support. Which is a little different.

However, I will say that back in the days with the NSC, because we were still learning how to do acquisition and acquisition logistics, we partnered with NAVSEALOGCEN to perform the first logistics readiness review in the Coast Guard. We partnered with them for implementation of some other Navy-type programs that we still use today. For example, the Engineering Operating Sequencing System (EOSS) and Combat Systems Operational Sequencing Systems (CSOSS). These are standardized operating and control procedures, which are now required for all new cutters in the Coast Guard.

I happened to be the sole project manager back then, as a Lt, for developing and implementing the navy-type EOSS and CSOSS for the Coast Guard. I spent a lot of time working on that, which is now a standard for all of our new assets but still a Navy-type program. We still partner with the Navy to sustain that for the life cycles of our assets. So we have learned a lot, and do partner with DoD quite often where it makes sense.

But I think the scale is just dramatically different. For example; I took a trip to Army Watercraft in Michigan with two other program managers and our commanding officer, just to see what we could glean from how Army Watercraft does business. Their PMO was probably the size of Coast Guard headquarters. So it was a dramatic difference in the number of people managing the program. We walked into the conference room, and there was probably 70 people in there, and four of us. What they were looking for was to glean from us how we do business, because for the first time in a long time they had some new boats and other crafts they were acquiring. They weren’t quite sure how to do it.

So we went there expecting to learn from Army watercraft and they were interested in hearing about how we do business. They recognized our successes with the FRC and a lot of our boats. So it was eye-opening, just in the size of resources they have dedicated. Our program offices are maybe ten people deep each. Here in the APO my boat team, working on about eleven different boat acquisitions, is six people. So there is quite a different level of effort with DoD and how they do things.

Ron: My last question, and I really appreciate your time; is there a given logistics element that you find consistently the most challenging in supporting and developing?

Dan: So, logistics has twelve elements that should all be integrated. You make a change to one and they should all be changed in some way. I think the most challenging is maintenance and maintenance planning. Because maintenance really drives everything else. The way we’re going, and in our conversations with SFLC, we need to take a round-turn on our configuration. If you boil it down to the bare basics; if you have a maintenance-worthy item, that item should probably be a configuration item. So if you were to build a configuration, at the bare minimum, your configuration would consist of all maintenance-worthy items.

If you have a maintenance-worthy item, that item should probably be a configuration item. So if you were to build a configuration, at the bare minimum, your configuration would consist of all maintenance-worthy items.

You can add more to it, but if it’s a configuration item, more than likely there’s maintenance associated with it. Even if it’s a remove-and-replace. So maintenance is one of the most challenging because maintenance drives everything else. Maintenance drives supply support, maintenance is closely linked to your configuration, and a lot of your training needs are impacted by maintenance needs and what your maintainers need to do. To do the maintenance that’s required you need manpower, either on-board or ashore. Supply support is tied to maintenance, for example stock in your supply system. You probably shouldn’t be stocking something that doesn’t have maintenance associated with it.

So the problem with maintenance is that it’s very complex. You can’t just take an OEM-recommended maintenance and turn that into a Coast Guard maintenance procedure. You have to do your own reliability-centered maintenance analysis, and make sure the way the item is being utilized has the “right-sized” maintenance associated with it. In order to do all this work, we do have to hire contracted resources to augment my organic resources. My teams may have four people on them, barely enough to QA logistics artifacts produced by contractors.

So we have a contract here at the APO to tap into and write task orders to provide us with additional persons we need for tasks such as RCM analysis and provisioning parts. But with maintenance, it’s a very unique skillset. Many people have the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) RCM level II certifications. But you can’t just learn it by reading books. You have to do it every day. It’s a very “hands-on” skillset; you have to perform the analysis and look at the tech data.

Another challenge with maintenance is manpower. You develop the manpower plan very early on in acquisition, because it takes a while to get the billets defined and funded. So by the time you start collecting the data and producing the maintenance, based on some early analysis and theoretical results, the manpower slate is already set. So what happens when you get into developing the maintenance and realize “uh-oh, we don’t have enough billets to support this maintenance.” Now you have to start looking at what can be contracted out? What can be moved from the crew to on-shore facilities?

Things can go awry very quickly if maintenance isn’t correct. Plus, there are life-cycle implications. If you don’t have the correct maintenance you may not have the desired reliability you want to achieve for that asset.

So, in my view; maintenance planning and management is the most challenging.

Ron: Well thank you Dan. This is much more than I anticipated. Your answers are very comprehensive.

Dan: Interestingly, I am not a logistician by trade. I retired as a naval engineer. All of my ILSMs working for me, O-4s, are all naval engineers. We really don’t have a career path, at least in the officer ranks, of acquisition logistics. Most of our logistics billets are filled with naval engineers who may or may not have ever done anything like this before. It’s a learned skill-set. I didn’t know anything about acquisition logistics until I started working in CG-4B, which then became the Asset Project Office. So logistics is a secondary path, and very different then anything else most people have done.

I will say that in my current position, I am a project manager. My official title is “Program Management Specialist.” I think in order to be a good logistician you have to be a good project manager. You have to be able to sit back, look at the big picture and establish the communications; identify requirements and identify needs of your customers. I am a life-cycle logistician level III. But first and foremost I am a project manager. I think the best logisticians are also good project managers, and vice-versa. Those skills go hand-in-hand.

Integrated logistics is a very complex world. I think the ability of a project manager to sit back, look at the bigger picture, and see how everything is integrated really helps. I’ve become a professional integrated logistician just because those skills intertwine.

Ron: Dan, thank you very much.

Audio track of Interview with Mr. Dan Eustace, United States Coast Guard Asset Project Office. July 20, 2021