CCICADA Helps Coast Guard Make Best Use of Scarce Resources

Mathematical Models Reveal Best Options for Sharing Boats and Aircraft       


Allocating boats and aircraft for unpredictable search-and-rescue operations requires complex mathematical modeling efforts. (Photo credit: USCG)

Given its tight annual budget and expanding area of operations in the Arctic, the Western Hemisphere, and elsewhere, the US Coast Guard has a great need to make more efficient use of its inventory of boats and planes in all of its core missions—both to save money and to more effectively protect the security of the nation’s maritime operations.

To help the Coast Guard better allocate its physical resources, CCICADA has developed resource-allocation tools that at this early stage in their use are projected to save the agency more than $120 million over the next 20 years.

CCICADA is working on three projects with the Coast Guard in this area: Boat Allocation Module (BAM); Boat Allocation Model 2 (BAM 2); and the Aviation Capability and Capacity Assignment Module (ACCAM).

The USCG has been pleased with the results of this work.

“My office has been extremely pleased with the progress in developing the Boat Allocation Module,” said Commander Kevin Hanson, USCG Office of Requirements & Analysis (CG – 771). “CCICADA has remained receptive and flexible throughout the process.  I look forward to continuing our progress.” These tools have also been demonstrated to the highest levels of USCG leadership, including the Commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, and the Deputy Commandant for Operations, Vice Admiral Chuck Michel.


Collage of US Coast Guard boats and aircraft. (Image credit: USCG)

Boat Allocation Module (BAM)

In 2012, the US Coast Guard turned to CCICADA when it needed help in making optimal use of its flotilla of ships and boats to guard the nation’s coastal areas, protect the nation’s fisheries, interdict drug smuggling, maintain aids to navigation, conduct search and rescue operations, and perform many other operations.

Developed with the Coast Guard under its Coastal Operations Analytical Suite of Tools (COAST), the Boat Allocation Module (BAM) matches the capability and mission-hour requirements of each boat station to the available resources and assets. The overall goal is to inform senior USCG leaders’ decisions regarding asset capabilities, allocations, acquisitions, and mission tradeoffs. In its current implementation, BAM is projected to save the USCG $120 million over the next 20 years.

BAM was delivered to the USCG in 2013, has passed through the Coast Guard’s rigorous verification, validation, and accreditation process, and has been installed for use on Coast Guard computers. Senior leadership can use it to do “what if” experiments to guide policy changes.

Boat Allocation Module II (BAM 2)

In developing BAM, the CCICADA team observed that allowing fractional solutions to the boat allocation problem could give rise to more efficient solutions. In practice, fractional solutions correspond to sharing boats between boat stations. The potential savings from resource sharing convinced the agency’s leadership that the novel notion of sharing should be explored.

The BAM2 project develops a tool for the practical implementation of boat sharing. A key to development of the BAM tools has been the extensive collaboration with the USCG to make sure that all the Coast Guard “business rules” are accurately translated into mathematically-stated requirements. The next step is the formal delivery of BAM2 and practical implementation of boat sharing.

Aviation Capability and Capacity Assignment Module (ACCAM)

The problem of assigning aircraft to air stations cannot be solved with a simple variant of the Boat Allocation Module. Aircraft are used extensively for search-and-rescue (SAR), and SAR cases occur stochastically in space and in time, meaning we can’t be sure when or where they will occur. Also, aircraft may break down during a SAR event, calling for non-routine maintenance.

Understanding the availability of aircraft for just this one USCG mission requires a complex mathematical modeling effort that takes into account the stochastic nature of SAR events and aircraft breakdowns. The ACCAM module takes a careful look at aviation assets and how they may be distributed to meet mission demands. It seeks to assign aircraft to stations so as to optimize fleet usage and mission performance.

ACCAM was completed in May 2014 and is now in use at USCG Headquarters in Washington, DC, where it is expected to become a widely-used tool for making decisions about assignments of aircraft to air stations and testing of alternative scenarios based on budgetary levels and mission expectations. While the current version of ACCAM is built around the characteristics of today’s fleet of USCG aircraft, it is readily transformed into a tool for evaluating hypothetical fleets of the future, with aircraft described by their operating characteristics such as speed, range, and fuel capacity.

Other Coast Guard Resource Allocation Projects

As a follow-up to CCICADA’s work on BAM and ACCAM, the center is working with the Coast Guard to define metrics for performance of its various missions and for measurement of resource allocation, as well as to create tools for understanding the impact of changes in resource allocation on mission performance, a critically important problem in this day of shrinking budgets.

CCICADA is a US Department of Homeland Security University Center of Excellence that employs advanced data analysis and mathematical modeling to solve difficult homeland security problems.

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