The Coast Guard has initiated a “Tech Revolution” to modernize its information technology systems and plans to strengthen its outreach to the technology community, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said on Thursday.
The technology revolution is a “whole of service effort to empower our people with an information system that is reliable, mobile and integrated,” Schultz said during his annual State of the Coast Guard speech.
Schultz also said that this summer the Coast Guard will assign personnel to the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit in Silicon Valley “to identify capabilities ready for accelerated deployment to solve a host of defense and homeland security problems.”
The Defense Innovation Unit was established during the Obama administration to improve the Pentagon’s access to new and emerging technologies and use commercial contracting methods to obtain new capabilities more rapidly than traditional procurement methods allow.
The Coast Guard on Thursday also released a Tech Revolution Roadmap laying out its plans for digital modernization.
“In 2020, we will increase the service’s external internet speeds by 50 times and double major cutter connectivity with planned upgrades over the next three years,” Schultz said during his address in Charleston, S.C. “And, we are placing all of our IT equipment on an industry-standard replacement cycle, reducing the risk of future critical failures and addressing the long-term problem of deferred maintenance.”
In the coming months, the Coast Guard plans to improve email reliability for day to day and crisis response operations by transitioning to Microsoft [MSFT] Office 365 in the cloud, he said.
The Coast Guard is struggling with outdated IT systems and faces a $300 million annual funding shortfall in this area, Schultz said. The Tech Revolution Roadmap is aimed at helping to close this gap, he said.
“Just this past summer, over 95 vital systems went offline for several days due to a single server malfunction, impacting our ability to save U.S. citizens, thwart criminals, defend our nation, and yes, even to simply check our email,” Schultz said. “Our people will never fail our country but our technology is failing our people.”
The Coast Guard recently opened a new Blue Technology Center of Expertise in San Diego that is also meant to better connect the service with the innovation ecosystem in Southern California.
“This center will create a unique pipeline for the rapid implementation of new maritime technologies into Coast Guard operations around the globe,” Schultz said.