C3CEN: 29 years of engineering for the U.S. Coast Guard

Written by Lt. Christopher Rogers

The Coast Guard Command, Control, and Communications Engineering Center (C3CEN) team. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawna Robertson.

The Coast Guard Command, Control, and Communications Engineering Center (C3CEN) team. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawna Robertson.

The state of the art command, control, communications, surveillance, intelligence, navigation, and combat technologies managed by the dedicated team at the Command, Control, and Communications Engineering Center, C3CEN, enables our people, vessels and aircraft to successfully perform each of the Coast Guard’s 11 missions.

C3CEN evolved from the Command Display and Control Support Facility to the Command and Control Engineering Center, C2CEN. Today, C3CEN is the Coast Guard’s premier engineering center supporting systems aboard 239 Cutters, 1,859 small boats, seven communications stations, 1,528 remote mission sites, 47 command centers, two maritime intelligence fusion centers, and 86 nationwide Differential Global Positioning System sites.

Chartered August 27, 1986, at the Support Center Portsmouth, Virginia, personnel were responsible for providing hardware, software, training, configuration management, and depot level maintenance support for the navigation systems installed on 13 270-foot medium endurance cutters.

The Control Support Facility was renamed the Command and Control Engineering Center, C2CEN, on June 6, 1996, to reflect its broadened role.

U.S. Coast Guard image.

U.S. Coast Guard image.

C2CEN expanded its missions becoming the Coast Guard’s largest engineering command with 125 military and 80 civilian and contracted personnel.

Some of the expanded missions included Vessel Traffic Service and upgrades to existing VTSs in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston. Personnel also worked on electronic charting systems, closed circuit television for flight decks, navigation and surface search radar systems, short range aids to navigation and the Y2K initiative.

“Our customer centric culture sets us apart,” said Capt. Paul Miller, retired. “The unwavering focus on the end user and operational mission has made us successful.”

Another expansion of the C2CEN involved facility additions and training of buoy tender crews on operation and maintenance of the integrated shipboard control system, main control and maintenance system installed on their cutters.

Notable C2CEN initiatives earned the Vice Presidential Hammer Award in 1999, reserved for teams that have demonstrated bottom-line results in streamlining government processes, saving money, and reaching exemplary achievements.

On September 15, 2010, C2CEN emerged as C3CEN.

C3CEN added to its responsibilities with the delivery and maintenance of tactical communications systems. This expansion included responsibility for the development and support of over 10,000 Very High Frequency radios, 2,500 High Frequency radios, and 2,400 satellite radios as well as several ancillary communications components. Organizationally, C3CEN became one of the three Centers of Excellence within the Coast Guard’s C4IT Service Center; the other two being TISCOM and the Operations Systems Center.

Today, C3CEN’s staff consists of more than 350 personnel, provides 47 systems and 25 products, directly supporting all Coast Guard missions and administering cradle-to-grave lifecycle management for every product it releases.

After C3CEN engineers develop a system, they thoroughly test and validate it, deploy it, train operators on using it, maintain it, and at the end of its serviceable life, replace it.

“As the Coast Guard’s C3, intelligence, surveillance and navigation engineering center, we are focused on providing sustainable and affordable capabilities through engineering rigor that our customers can trust,” said Capt. Scott Beauregard, commanding officer of C3CEN.

Furthermore, C3CEN’s training center has grown to become one of the Coast Guard’s largest training facilities, offering 15 operator courses, 13 of which are college accredited, and averaging 400 students annually.

Rescue 21 RFF tower. Photo by Hon Leung.

Rescue 21 RFF tower. Photo by Hon Leung.

Prominent C3CEN efforts today include Seawatch and Rescue 21. Developed by engineers at C3CEN, Seawatch provides an integrated command and control system that combines communications systems, surveillance systems, navigation and tactical sensors to improve situational awareness at sea.

Rescue 21 is a nationwide radio distress communications system that allows the Coast Guard to geo-locate the source of a distress broadcast. It provides 296,000 square nautical miles of radio coverage and is still expanding. To date, Rescue 21 has played a vital role in more than 75,000 search and rescue cases.

C3CEN’s ongoing commitment to excellence applies not only to its pivotal position within the Coast Guard, but to its community service efforts. C3CEN has maintained an extensive Partnership in Education program where volunteers devote their time and talent to promoting the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to local youth averaging over 700 volunteer hours annually spanning seven different local schools.

Today, C3CEN celebrates 29 years of supporting the Coast Guard “Sustaining the Present and Developing the Future.”

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