New Coast Guard acquisition chief sharpens focus on Deepwater priorities
Rear Adm. Ronald J. Rábago became the assistant commandant
for acquisition and chief acquisition officer in June, taking control of the
Coast Guard’s $27 billion acquisition portfolio. With the service now in
control as lead systems integrator for its $24 billion Deepwater modernization program, Rábago is in charge of 22 major acquisition projects,
including the eight-ship National Security Cutter (NSC) program.
For the past two years, Rábago served as director of acquisition programs
and program executive officer. He previously served as the director of
personnel management at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington and
held numerous management positions during his 31 years in the service.
Rábago is a 1978 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and was
named the Coast Guard’s Engineer of the Year in 1995.
He discussed acquisition strategy and planning with Assistant Editor
John C. Marcario. Excerpts follow:
What helped you prepare for this position?
RÁBAGO: I’m the first acquisition chief to actually be a
Level III certified program manager at the beginning of
the job, so I have that experience. Plus, I was running
all of the 22 programs and projects for the Coast Guard
as program executive officer. I certainly am well versed
on all of those particular activities. And then I have 31
years of active duty, much of which has been spent in
support of our operational fleet as well as being out in
the operational Coast Guard doing missions, so I feel
very connected to that mission set.
What are your top priorities?
RÁBAGO: I’m going to focus on institutionalizing the
change. We’ve built this acquisition organization. It’s
process driven. It’s tied to policies and processes and procedures. And we want to make sure that this doesn’t evaporate with the change of a person, so what we want to do
is institutionalize it into our documentation, our guidance documents, connected to the department’s guidance.
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009
I want to continue to build on the relationships we have
with the other directorates that are doing the business of
supporting the Coast Guard.
I also want to continue the great work we’ve done for
our people in terms of focusing on certification, professional credentials, interactions and the right kinds of
forums, groups. That includes an integrative product
team environment and a variety of other tools we use to
have our people work closely together and solve problems. Because, in the end, that’s kind of what acquisition is about — solving those challenging problems and
delivering new capability to the field.
When talking to personnel in the field, what is
their most pressing acquisition need?
RÁBAGO: I would like them to be less heroic in terms
of keeping the old stuff going. I’d like them to have new
equipment systems, a logistics system that’s supportive
of it, that’s responsive to their needs. That means we
have new equipment that, when you call up the manu-