Written by Lt. Charles Clark
Ideas and innovation occur at all levels of an organization. Some of these ideas require years of research to develop into a fully executable solution, while other solutions can be more rapidly deployed. These innovations often improve mission effectiveness and offer solutions to potential issues that may arise.
Recently, the Coast Guard, alongside scientists at the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), recognized that the Coast Guard fell short in this area, and worked to create a lasting solution that would allow for quick implementation of innovative ideas.
For years, the Coast Guard depended on a thorough, albeit tedious, research and development process that could sometimes take more than two years to complete.
On May 5, 2016, the Coast Guard’s new Science and Technology Innovation Center (STIC), located at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center in New London, Connecticut, opened its doors with an official ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Over the years, we have had successful joint projects and a good working relationship with Coast Guard [Research and Development Center],” said Anh Duong, director of Department of Homeland Security Borders and Maritime Security Division. “The new [center] helps formalize this partnership and will push it to the next level where our two organizations work closely together toward a culture of innovation and shared knowledge in order to quickly transform science and technology into operational capabilities for the Coast Guard.”
The center will develop prototypes and modifications from existing commercial, off-the-shelf technology and host technology capability demonstrations to counter emerging and anticipated threats. The Center will also focus on evaluating high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) products that have a connection to Coast Guard and DHS statutory missions.
One of the center’s first efforts will be addressing tracking jettisoned objects and hazards to navigation at sea.
Coast Guard policy requires tactical teams to continue pursuit of a fleeing vessel, even after items, such as evidence, have been thrown over the side of the vessel. These pursuits can last for hours leading overboard items to drift for miles after an extended period of time, making them very difficult to find.
Additionally, the Coast Guard spends countless hours and resources responding to reports of derelict objects and vessels adrift at sea. With the ability to track these objects, the Coast Guard could reduce the amount of time and money spent responding to these reports.
After determining that a solution was not readily available, the STIC combined commercial, off-the-shelf items with additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, to develop initial prototypes of the Maritime Object Tracking Technology System. The STIC is currently working with the U.S. Navy to refine, field test and obtain a national stock number for the prototype so DHS and Department of Defense units can easily purchase it for their operators.
With the center officially open and operating, the Coast Guard is now better positioned to identify and leverage opportunities, such as the Maritime Object Tracking Technology System, and rapidly offer these solutions to the fleet.
The center also supports the DHS strategic priority to leverage the Science and Technology Directorate in order to enhance department-wide innovation.
“The [STIC] is well positioned to help transition and execute the strategic priorities of Secretary Johnson’s new DHS-wide S&T Integrated Product Teams in delivering new capabilities resulting from DHS S&T technology investments into the hands of Coast Guard operators,” said Capt. Dennis Evans, commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center.
In addition to supporting department-wide priorities, the center also brings enhanced capabilities to the Coast Guard, supporting Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft’s strategic priorities.