Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Tag


Chuck Hill joins Matt to talk about design, use, and possibilities of naval corvettes, reflecting on the articles from 2013′s Corvette week. From definitions, to potential employment, to interdiction operations during Vietnam… this podcast runs the gamut. Please enjoy, Sea Control Episode 18: Naval Corvettes (download).

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The inevitable fiscal crunch that is starting our Military down has the Pharisees of the defense industry, think tanks, and senior military leaders all rabble-rabbling about the need for change. Some of that change is strategic- Asia Pacific pivot anyone? Other bits of it reside in the acquisitions department, as we see with the pros and cons of developing “revolutionary” weapons systems to confront “new” threats. The most harrowing changes for military leaders are the all too well known cuts to manpower that will come in some fashion, no matter the logic, or lack thereof, which delineates how those cuts will happen. There is more change in the air than cordite after an end of fiscal year shooting range, but it is important to reflect on some history in order to avoid stepping on the same proverbial rakes that have smacked our national security establishment in the face during previous drawdowns.

Ideas like this one are an especially pervasive form of bad, and seem unable to die even when history proves them inadvisable. We saw the call for unification in President Eisenhower’s attempts to reevaluate our national security establishment in light of the massive technological, strategic, and social changes that occurred after World War Two. It was vital to acknowledge the necessity of change in that period, because much like Eisenhower’s dictum on planning, self-examination is vital even if most of the individual recommendations may turn out to be worthless. Reconsidering defense in light of nuclear weapons, ICBMS, and the bi-polar nature of security dilemmas when facing the Soviet Union was important. Trusting academic tea-leaf readers in their assessments and then proclaiming there would “never be another amphibious landing”, that ground forces would not be used in limited wars, and that tactical airpower was only needed to defend or shoot down strategic airpower looks downright foolhardy when viewed as historical record. What saved us from the march to a monolithic Star Fleet force that all wore the small uniforms and all died like red shirts landing on Klingon? The pluralistic competition of our service structure, which was inefficient and far from perfect, but possessed a flexibility that made it anti-fragile.

Separate services, even separate services that possess redundant capabilities, are a vital part of American national defense. The Army needs the Marine Corps to soak up public attention as a motivation for better performance as badly as the Marine Corps need the Army to keep its constant self worry about irrelevance and drive its performance. Those intangible reasons can be criticized as they are not measurable, but of direct consequence are the different service outlooks which spurn actual innovation.

The Marine Corps decided it would gladly incorporate vulnerable and unwieldy rotary aircraft that Army and Air Force leaders largely ignored during Korea, and in doing so enabled the much better resourced Army to perfect the techniques of vertical envelopment to a higher degree than it ever could in Vietnam. The Navy had to have an Air Force that threatened its budget in order to develop SSBNs, and not pursue the much less effective option of carrier borne strategic bombers. Our most recent wars have shown the truth that a market place of defense ideas is better than a command economy for strategy. While the Marine Corps stubbornly resisted SOCOM membership, the other services gladly perfected the techniques needed to combat global terrorism in the learning laboratories of Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Those were bloody lessons, but proved that some enemies cannot be defeated by large MEUs waiting off shores, although the synergy created between such a force and SOCOM has proven to be vital, and continues to pay national security dividends. Service diversity even ensures we do not forget lessons learned in blood that may seem inefficient during peacetime arguments on Capitol Hill. Even the best planners can shortchange things that are easily forgotten as peace breaks out. Something as boring as oil platform protection is a skill the world’s preeminent Navy forgot, and had to relearn from the worlds 12th largest navy (the U.S. Coast Guard). There is known historical value and definite future value in keeping a diverse and flexible force, but to do so one must resist the urge to unify in the name of declining dollars. Cost savings are easy to evaluate in peacetime dollars, but take on a morbid tone when seen in defeat and death at the opening stages of a conflict.

Cleary such an arrangement has inefficiencies, and wasting taxpayer dollars in the worst economy in years should be viewed as criminal no matter if the DOD is committing the waste or not. Grenada, Desert One, and Vietnam all demonstrated the tragic human cost of pursuing service parochialism over higher interests. Such costs have been mitigated in part by the Goldwater-Nichols act of 1986. Goldwater-Nichols is far from perfect and could use an upgrade to incorporate recent lessons from the Long War. Jointness in our operations, communications, and interoperability is a good thing. Understanding perspective, knowing how the whole of the military functions instead of just one’s own slice, and talk the language of service peers are also good things. Making claims that bureaucratic restructuring to “align” and “combine” are fools errands, they repeat the mistakes that we almost made in trying to tear down an organic system. Our current force has grown through invaluable combat experience, to replace it with a theoretical framework that has never worked is a bad idea of immense magnitude.

There have been examples of “unified” militaries, look at Saddam’s Republican Guard, it clearly combined the best equipment, personnel, and training available to fulfill “civilian” leadership’s strategic wishes. Such a system is horribly fragile, and succumbs to the groupthink that all bureaucracies do. In this age of belt tightening, we should correctly become more efficient, but there are better ways than throwing out everything and starting from scratch. Reexamining our bloated personnel policies, taking a hard look at our compensation and retirement systems that resemble ticking fiscal bombs, and revamping our professional military education are all better places to start than tired and historically bankrupt calls for the “merger of …[U.S.]…ground forces”. The diversity of thought which comes from each service is one of the strongest weapons our joint force possesses, it would wise to avoid dulling such fine tool so we can save dollars only to spend lives unnecessarily in a future conflict.

As a Coastie I can say I take pride in my seagoing duties. No, I’m not a sailor but I work in the coastal zones for a seagoing service (it’s an association thing). However, we have Coast Guard personnel stationed all over the world; though 95% of those are near, if not on, the water there are those who work in the midst of- well- a place I thought was too flat and dry when I went there: Oklahoma City. There is little, well actually no, coastline there. But we have Coasties there and wherever we have Coasties they’re always ready.

19 April 1995 – A rental truck filled with explosives blew up half of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Institute and a Coast Guard reservist responded soon after the explosion and helped set up security zones, directed traffic, searched for survivors, and whatever else was needed. They also took over a church kitchen and opened what later became nicknamed “Cafe Coast Guard.” A rotating nine-person team worked around the clock to provide meals for the volunteer workers.

Always Ready.

Cross-posted from [re] ryan erickson

Help the Coasties pick their best videos of 2010 – they’ve picked 11 and want to get the number down.

Details at Coast Guard Video of the Year.

They certainly do a lot of stuff.

Admiral Allen of the US Coast Guard

I did an interview in April with Adm. Thad Allen, the 23rd Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, regarding social media & the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has been spearheading a move into the world of Web 2.0 and interaction with the public through online outlets, and Adm. Allen has been a prominent part of that transition. Here is the text of that interview:

Q1: Can you describe your personal social media journey?
A1: It would take more room than is available on a single blog. The work that really got me interested was a book. “In The Age of the Smart Machine” was written by Harvard Professor Shoshanna Zuboff. It was one of the pivotal points in my life. I was leaving my assignment as Budget Officer at Maintenance and Logistic Command, Atlantic and headed to the Sloan School at MIT. This book deals with the transition of the work environment and the nature of our work from a physical and material world to one where our work is virtual and invisible to the eye. A couple of other books that have influenced me have been Chaos, Linked, and Nexus. Social media is the merging of social networks with information technology. I have followed both for many years so this is pretty natural.

Q2: We are focusing on leadership this month in the Coast Guard. Which USCG leadership competencies relate most directly to social media? In which leadership competencies do the internal and external social media tools hold the most promise?
A2: Depending on how you are using it, social media could relate to just about all of them, but to answer your question I’ll choose one from each category:

  • Leading self: Self-awareness and learning – Social media is all about transparency and feedback and this makes us more aware as leaders, better able to understand complex issues and respect differing opinions, and more able to sense and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Leading others: Team building – Social media tools can empower individual team members to more actively provide input to and influence the outcome of a project or decision. This improves collaboration and information exchange among team members and ultimately results in a better final product.
  • Leading performance and change: Customer focus – The “social” aspect of this new information environment facilitates two-way communications. This allows Coast Guard leaders to better understand the needs, perspectives and opinions of our customers and to help them better understand the reasoning behind a certain decision or course of action we may take that effects them.
  • Leading the Coast Guard: Partnering – Social media facilitates greater collaboration and provides practical ways to engage the numerous internal and external stakeholders involved in or impacted by our broad world of work.

Q3: Has thought been given to having a deployable team (perhaps as part of the DOG) of social media specialists to respond to major events and incidents? While general social media competency for all members and high level competency for PA should be a goal it seems it would be useful to have a deployable team in the interim and perhaps as an ongoing resource for high profile events.
A3: Keeping in mind that this question relates to the external aspects of social media, I think that our Public Affairs specialist are the right people to orchestrate our social media efforts during a critical incident. Much of what takes place in the social media realm already falls in their world of work and we have seen them interact in that environment with great effect, including during Hurricane Ike, the Miracle on the Hudson, and most recently with the floods in North Dakota. The external component of social media is an extension of our existing public affairs policies and practices and the public affairs program is taking a strategic look at the competencies and tools required for the future in terms of how it trains and equips its people.

Q4: One of the great features of social media is accessibility from almost anywhere at any time. How are we addressing the tension between security and access? This seems to go two ways – access to the public social media tools from inside the CGDN and access to the internal tools for those temporarily, such as being off duty or not on reserve service, or permanently, like most Auxiliarists, outside the CGDN/Portal. Our members engaged in social media activities as part of their duties appear to utilize the public tools through their own resources, largely on their own time. At the same time, for the Portal/Quickr platform to be fully effective it seems problematic for access to be limited to the duty period for active, reserve and civilian members and inaccessible to most of the Auxiliary.
A4: All great points and we have addressed this on numerous occasions on my blog and during different interviews. There will always be a tension between security and access. Our ability to exist on both the .gov and .mil domains brings with it certain security responsibilities that we cannot overlook in order to maintain the integrity of those critical networks. That being said, we recognize the strategic and operational value of social media and have directed our IT staff to find ways for us to do both. The new portal, which we are gradually phasing in, is already enhancing our ability to use social media for internal purposes. We are also working on the off-duty access issues.

Q5: For the Guardian new to social media where would you suggest they start? Internal tools or external? Building competence as privately as an individual or jump right in as part of their duties?
A5: The strength of social media is that it is flexible and adaptable to your specific needs. The first step is to develop awareness of what the different tools are and how they may be used and then consider the potential benefit they may bring to your job or unit. Ultimately, everything we do is assessed on its contribution to mission execution or mission support.

Q6: Along the same lines, what sites/blogs/books would you suggest to build social media competence, the Commandant’s Social Media Reading List?
A6: I just published something like that as my 200th blog. It is here:

Q7: Do you have examples of best practices use of social media within the Coast Guard?
A7: First we have to acknowledge that our formal foray into social media is still in its infancy. So far, the most visible activities have related to external communication. This was done deliberately, as this was the low-hanging fruit that we could use to gain some organizational inertia. These specific efforts have significantly enhanced our presence in the blogosphere, helping us to inform the Coast Guard narrative and we have seen very positive results in terms of our customer interaction, particularly with the maritime community through maritime focused blogs.

Some of this was already being done by Coast Guard employees on their own initiative, like JD Cavo from the National Maritime Center ( or this example by Jorge Arroyo, correcting some critical misinformation on a sensitive rule-making issue ( Internally we are trying to increasingly use wikis to improve the efficiency and quality of the rule making and policy development processes. We expect these activities to accelerate as the new portal is brought on-line and more employees begin to champion these tools.
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This interview is coming on the heels of a report published by the National Defense University titled “Social Software and National Security: An Intial Net Assessment” which discusses the use of social media in government agencies to share information both internally & with the public. I think this indicates an important shift in the institutional mindset of government in relation to the Internet & interaction with the American people, and I’m proud that the Coast Guard is at the forefront of this shift.

Thanks to Adm. Allen for taking the time to do this interview. I’ll be publishing part 2 in a couple of days.

Photograph by Tidewater Muse

Great photos from Coast Guard News’ photostream on the rescue efforts in Fargo, North Dakota.

Heritage’s Mackenzie Eaglen and Eric Sayers recently wrote,

…the Coast Guard must procure a much larger and modern fleet of national security cutters (NSC) and move ahead with the development of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC). This would then allow one national security cutter to deploy with each carrier strike group and expeditionary strike group. This increase would satisfy the growing demand of Combatant Commanders for more Coast Guard assets in theater following recent deployments by the USCGC Dallas last year in support of Africa Partnership Station and relief efforts in Georgia.

I totally agree. What do you think? Going back to my days as a congressional defense staffer, I have long felt the Coast Guard’s modernization program reflects a pre-911 world. Moreover, increasing the number of cutter days in the various combatant commands would allow the Coast Guard to win more hearts and minds around the world.

In this era of bailouts and stimulus packages, spare me that our nation can’t afford to have one cutter with each and every carrier and expeditionary strike group. And yes, I know this would require an increase in Coast Guard end-strength.

To read the entire report, click here.

photo credit (me)

Earlier this month, USNI Guest blogger and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen delivered his 2009 State of the Coast Guard Address. The Q &A that followed his remarks was expanded to include questions submitted on-line via ICommandant. I submitted the following question regarding the Coast Guard’s history program:

Q13. What is the state of the Coast Guard’s historical program?

A13. The Historian’s office interfaces with every program in the Service. It has direct contact with the Commandant and nearly all the flag officers and directly communicates with politicians on their behest. The office works directly with hundreds of museums, academics, veteran groups, the retired Coast Guard community and all components of the public. The Museum Program has currently loaned-out thousands of artifacts to over 100 museums nationwide, and tracks and oversees about 20,000 artifacts. The loan program gives the Coast Guard exposure throughout the country and in many different venues.
Provided below is an overview of what resources are available to the Historian’s office, their key tasks, and major undertakings.


CG Headquarters office, 2 Area offices, CG Museum at the CG Academy, and the Exhibit Center in Forestville, MD.


1) The office regularly interacts with the media and participates in documentary interviews.

2) Public speaking is performed periodically but is restricted by staffing and budgetary limitations.

3) Part of the office mission is archiving historical material not destined for the National Archives. The Historian’s Office has an archive of nearly 2,300 liner feet of documents. This includes books, manuals, and photos. These collections are available to the Service and the public.

4) Historical website development is a major component of the business of the office. The website gets over 100,000 visits a year.

5) The office collects a limited number of oral histories each year.

6) The Historian’s Office is responsible for the preservation and management of the Service’s 20,000 artifacts.

7) The office is also responsible for the Coast Guard Museum and the promotion of the Service’s history through loans to other museums.

8) The office answers over 7,000 inquiries a year which requires 40% of the staff’s time.

Major Projects

1) The National Coast Guard Museum initiative could have the greatest impact on the program. The historian’s office is currently working on a system to provide creative and curatorial input into the design and construction process.

2) Another current issue that the office is involved with is creating the historical record of the Service’s transition to the OPCOM and FORCECOM organization.

3) The office is currently working with the Commandant to preserve his legacy and to document his tenure. The office has gathered hundreds of documents and collected many hours of oral history interviews.
4) The addition of the Area Historians has allowed the office to collect more oral histories and have a presence in the field.

5) The on-going development of the internet site allows the office’s information and collections to be viewed by members of the Service and the public. This helps with the overall promotion and dissemination of Coast Guard History.

Many thanks to Admiral Allen and his staff for expanding the Q&A session to include questions from the blogosphere and for the update on the CG’s history program. To view the rest of the Q & A session, click here.

Accelerating the Deepwater program and building a larger fleet of National Security Cutters were the focus of my questions to RADM Gary T. Blore, USCG, during a recent DOD Bloggers Roundtable. Dating back to my days on Capitol Hill, I have felt that 25 years was way too long to modernize our Coast Guard. Moreover, I have also thought the Coast Guard should procure more than 8 National Security Cutters.

How much money could you save if the Deepwater program was accelerated? Because it’s been stretched out over 25 years. If you’d done it over 10 to 12 years — and if you could, which programs could be accelerated today?

ADM. BLORE: … in very gross terms — this goes back to some studies that were done in 2003, 2004, so to get anything, you know, reasonably accurate, we would need to take a look at that. But I think — and this is largely based on, I think, some work that RAND and the Center for Naval Analysis did. And they estimated, out of the $24 billion program, that about 10 percent, or $2-1/2 billion, could be saved by accelerating the program. And again, that is a very rough figure that was used back at that time. And a lot of that has to do with, you know, economic order quantities and, you know, maximizing production rates and that sort of thing.

The programs that would have been accelerated — and I think has been our position that if the Congress asked us to accelerate acquisition — would be those programs that are running and successful, so Response Boat-Medium, our patrol boat contract, you know, those lines — the maritime patrol aircraft — those lines that are already producing.

There are some risks to accelerating programs that aren’t in production. There is wisdom to the schedule that acquisition uses so that we make sure all the checks and balances are in place before the product line starts. Once the product line starts then you — very low risk to accelerate up to the maximum that the production line can produce.

Could the National Security Cutter be accelerated?

ADM. BLORE: It could, probably less so than some of the other projects, just because there’s limited capacity at the shipyard in Pascagoula, but it could be accelerated somewhat.

Why are eight national-security cutters replacing a dozen Secretary-class cutters? Why not, like, a one-for-one basis?

ADM. BLORE: The question is why do we have eight national-security cutters replacing 12 high-endurance cutters. When the Deepwater project was originally formulated in the late ’90s, they did use cost as a variable parameter to organize the overall system that was going to replace the Coast Guard assets at the time. And they were allowed to make tradeoffs. So, for example, if, you know, you were going to get more capabilities in aviation that were going to replace some capabilities on the surface side, they were allowed to do those sorts of mixes as the three consortiums that competed for that made their final proposals. So one is there was a tradeoff within the overall mix within the Coast Guard.

The second thing is, the national-security cutter, if you take each individual national-security cutter, it provides about 50 more days away from home port than the 378 does. It is also more capable for each day it’s under way than the 378. And I think if you do the hours, you’re correct, it doesn’t quite equal, you know, 12 times — what is it for a 378? — 130, I think, or somewhere around there, versus eight times 170 days. But it was their attempt to optimize the system — “they” being Integrated Coast Guard Systems at the time. And again, given the cost parameters, given the overall system mix, the determination was made that eight fairly expensive — in comparison to the other assets — national-security cutters was the right mix. There’s also a very robust off-shore patrol cutter, of which we would be building 25 new ones that would be coming in right after the national-security cutters. So I guess the other thing I would invite is, when you think of the mix of your replacing 12 with 8, remember that we’re also coming in with 25 new off-shore patrol cutters.

Full transcript of the interview can be found here.

Cross posted over at An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog

I routinely receive “Two-and-a-Half Minute” presentations from various Coast Guard programs at our weekly All-Flags briefing. I thought readers of the USNI Blog would find this week’s topic particularly interesting. 

The Cooperative Maritime Strategy states:

…maritime forces will be employed to build confidence and trust among nations through collective security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests in an open, multi-polar world. To do so will require an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces and enhanced cooperation with the other instruments of national power, as well as the capabilities of our international partners. Seapower will be a unifying force for building a better tomorrow.

One way we are doing this in the Coast Guard, working closely with the DOD and DOS, is through our Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Through FMS we:

  • Build partner capacity
  • Gain access and influence
  • Improver interoperability and standardization

Value of Coast Guard Foreign Military SalesThis is the Cooperative Maritime Strategy in action! 


The FMS program is currently running 32 procurement projects valued at $96.8 million. This is nearly a three-fold increase in dollar value since 2006! Since its establishment in 1997, the program has delivered 201 vessels with another 88 pending.

The maps below show the strategic reach and impact of this effort, and these are not all inclusive. Other nations receiving FMS vessels include several Caribbean Island nations(9 vessels), Central America(13), Bangladesh (21), Pakistan(5), Philippines(3), and Sri Lanka (1). The sales and deliveries are closely coordinated with our international training program and delivered as a “Total Package.” This includes, spare parts, documentation (pubs and manuals), as well as training.

Foreign Military Sales to South AmericaCoast Guard Foreign Military Sales to Africa, Europe and the Middle Eastern nations

The FMS program marries international engagement with good stewardship. By increasing the customer base of a specific platform we reduce the risk of our acquisition by achieving economic order quantities and stabilizing production rates. This particularly valuable as we progress with our recapitalization program. We are currently assisting Mexico in procuring the new CASA Maritime Patrol Aircraft and there is strong interest from several nations in South America, Africa and Asia to purchase our new Response Boat – Small, Response Boat- Medium and patrol boat platforms.

Just one more small but significant way the Coast Guard is working to do its part…

Related posts from iCommandant:

Out of Hemisphere Deployments

Coast Guard in Iraq

Dealing with Piracy — What is your Endgame

Counter-Drug Symposium — Transnational threats that require transnational solutions


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