Maritime ... Still Military ... Still Multimission
By JOHN A. GAUGHAN
Capt. John A. Gaughan, USCGR (Ret.), is a graduate of the U.S. Coast
Guard Academy and the University of Maryland School of Law. During his
active and Reserve Coast Guard career he held commands both at sea and
ashore. He also served as the U.S. Maritime Administrator, as chief of
staff to the Secretary of Transportation, and as deputy assistant to the
President. He is now president of First American Bulk Carrier Corporation
(FABC), a five-ship U.S.-flag vessel operating company.
For the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard the only things that have
not changed in the last year are "the three Ms"--Maritime, Military,
A quick review of the last year's events shows the following:
* A major change in leadership: from the commandant to the master chief
petty officer of the Coast Guard.
* Award of the Deepwater Project contract, the underpinning of the massive
recapitalization effort of the service.
* Award of the "Rescue 21" contract, which will lead to the
complete "rewiring" of the nation's maritime search-and-rescue
* The passage of major port-security legislation that imposes new responsibilities
on the service.
* The creation of the new Homeland Security Department, perhaps the most
far-reaching organizational change in the history of the service.
* An operational shift to maritime domain awareness (MDA) as the standard
for many routine missions.
Reflecting on the changes of the past year, Thomas B. Taylor, a retired
captain and chief of the Workforce Forecasting and Analysis Staff in Human
Resources, said, "Last year at this time it was the crews of the
boats, ships, and aircraft involved in the response to 9/11 that were
doing the heavy lifting; now it is everyone." And the heavy lifting
has only just started.
Prelude to the Present
The Coast Guard had begun its own "transformation" before Secretary
of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld popularized the term. The groundwork for
Deepwater was dug in the late 1990s with yet another "Coast Guard
Roles and Missions Study" that not only underscored the nation's
need for the Coast Guard but which also confirmed what the service's leadership
had been saying for a long time--namely, that the Coast Guard's physical
infrastructure (ships, planes, communications systems, etc.) was badly
in need of wholesale upgrading.
The centerpiece of the remedial effort that resulted was the so-called
"Deepwater Project," a radical performance-based contracting
approach to develop a system of systems to increase the service's ability
to carry out its many and far-flung missions. Long before the events of
11 September 2001 propelled the service into the national spotlight, the
trench warfare within and between the executive and legislative branches
to secure approval of, first the concept, and then the financial support
necessary for the recapitalization effort, was being waged. Ultimately,
then-Commandant Admiral James M. Loy was able to carry the day and put
into place the framework for Deepwater to become a reality.
At roughly the same time a less visible effort was underway to modernize
the National Distress and Response System. This effort, spurred by a number
of boating accidents and the loss of both civilian and Coast Guard rescuers'
lives, evolved into "Rescue 21." Again, before the events of
9/11 ignited the government and the Congress to action, the nonglamorous
work of systems engineering and project justification was already plowing
ahead, with little fanfare.
The Coast Guard found itself well-positioned and poised to aggressively
move ahead with its recapitalization plans when tragedy struck in New
York and at the Pentagon, and heroism intervened over the skies of Pennsylvania
on 11 September. As Loy said at the time, "We were carrying out our
missions along the coast when tragedy struck ... [at which time] we made
a left turn and took the lead in port security and anti-terrorism missions."
As the nation reeled from the horrific events the service rapidly ratcheted
up its port-security and homeland-defense mission response and visibility.
With the naming of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge as the president's
homeland security advisor, the service responded, as it has throughout
its history, both quickly and effectively. It provided Ridge with a cadre
of 18 Coast Guard personnel, for example, to staff up his operations coordination
center (the Coast Guard personnel remain there today) to allow an unimpeded
flow of vital information to be passed to him during the early response
to the attack. The service's experience in working cooperatively with
other federal and local agencies would serve it well in the early going,
and will be of even greater importance as the new Homeland Security Department
be- comes a reality.
In May of 2002 Loy stepped down as commandant and was replaced by Adm.
Thomas H. Collins, his vice commandant. That same day, not coincidentally,
Loy was appointed by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta as the
chief operating officer of the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA)
within the Department of Transportation. With the creation of the Homeland
Security Department, DOT's two largest agencies will move together to
form the core of Homeland Security.
Commandant's Direction 2002
One of Collins's first acts after taking the helm was to issue his Commandant's
Direction 2002, leading off with what have become his watchwords: "Readiness,
People, and Stewardship." His direction closely dovetailed with the
vision of his predecessor and was meant to build on the previous efforts.
"Readiness ... capable ... competent ... and vigilant in all mission
"People ... the Coast Guard committed to our people ... and our
people committed to the Coast Guard;
"Stewardship ... aligned from top to bottom and bottom to top ...
embracing innovation, technology, and effective management practices to
achieve measurable outcomes."
To improve current and future readiness, the Commandant's Direction says,
the service will build robust maritime strategies that will be refined
and aligned with Homeland Security Department strategies to fully and
vigorously support the National Strategy for Homeland Security. It will
leverage the integrated Deepwater system project and the National Distress
and Response System modernization project to provide a maritime-domain-awareness
capability that integrates the service's afloat, ashore, and airborne
C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance,
and reconnaissance) assets to meet the informational and tactical needs
of decision makers and operational commanders. This "network of networks"
approach will revolutionize the way the service carries out its missions.
Under the Rescue 21 umbrella, for example, a distress call from a boater
will carry with it a line of direction that in many cases can be triangulated
to provide the rescuers with a fix on the boater's location. Rescue 21
also will track the position of the assets committed to the rescue, thereby
providing a significantly higher level of protection for the rescuers
themselves. As Cdr. Edwin Thiedeman of the Rescue 21 project team said,
"Our goal is to take the 'search' out of Search and Rescue."
Whether Rescue 21 or the Deepwater Project, all of the service's new
and/or upgraded systems are being developed with interoperability in mind.
This approach was important at the outset of the project and under the
new Homeland Security Department will be an operational imperative. One
of the principal goals of the new departmental reorganization is the multiplying
or "value added" benefits that result from the interagency coordination
of their various assets and responsibilities to better protect America's
people and infrastructure.
Under the same readiness rubric, the service hopes to build strategic
partnerships to "enhance mission outcomes" at all levels--federal,
state, and local; international, regional, and bilateral; both public
and private--to bring clarity to mission planning and execution and to
leverage the capabilities of Coast Guard forces and force structure.
To increase and validate its commitment to Coast Guard people, Direction
2002 says the service will emphasize education, training, and professional
growth for the work force. Collins plans to implement restructured personnel,
operational, and support systems that govern assignments and advancements
to provide greater stability and flexibility for the work force and, ultimately,
an improved quality of life and work. The new commandant has reiterated
time and time again that people must always come first. One way he plans
to demonstrate his commitment to people is through the design of human-resource-sensitive
requirements into the acquisition of new hardware, the implementation
of new security policies, and the design and deployment of new and more
user-friendly technological systems.
He also is committed to increasing the size of the Coast Guard's work
force both to meet increasing mission demands and to develop new strategies
to recruit, retain, and train and deploy an increasingly diverse, capable,
and flexible work force.
Finally, Collins is committed to strengthening, through his Commandant's
Direction, the service's stewardship of the public trust by pushing and
persuading supervisors at all levels to strive to be the best leaders
and best managers in government. His senior management team is striving
to inspire a culture of innovation and process change. Through the Coast
Guard's new chief of staff, Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the service hopes to
take advantage of the opportunities presented by the systems-acquisition
initiatives to develop strategic relationships with vendors and revolutionize
operational and support processes to the advantage of the American people.
All of this is set before a backdrop of showing measurable results that
support administration management goals and, of greater importance, the
expectations of the taxpaying public.
All of which looks and sounds like a tall order--but people at all levels
of the organization are taking it to heart. Master Chief Petty Officer
of the Coast Guard Frank Welch puts it this way: "Admiral Collins
is a tried, trusted, and respected leader who has shown his commitment
to people, innovation, and getting things done."
The Deepwater Project
Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman, director of the Deepwater project, must
feel at times like the executive chef in the trendiest New York restaurant
on a busy holiday evening. The Deepwater contract was awarded during the
summer of 2002 and now the thousands of actions necessary to see the project
through to completion are underway. The Homeland Security bill that establishes
the new department also contains a provision that requires a report within
90 days of enactment on the acceleration of the project. Stillman himself
was under full sail from the outset during a recent interview: "Deepwater
is about managing knowledge ... promoting security ... protecting liberty.
... It is about readiness ... people ... stewardship of the people's trust
in the Coast Guard: ... It makes sense. ... It will significantly increase
maritime domain awareness. ... Deepwater is the essence of a new operating
paradigm for the Coast Guard!" To Stillman, those are not just words,
he truly believes in and "lives" them. He also recognizes that,
for the project to be successful, he and his successors in this multiyear
project must ruthlessly demand superior performance from all of the integrated
teams responsible for bringing the project in on time and on or under
budget. He points to the fact that Deepwater represents a radical departure
from the Coast Guard's traditional way of doing business--i.e., through
insistence on an in-house design and the exercise of command and control
from top to bottom. Deepwater, though, is performance-based contracting
that focuses on advanced technology rather than simply assuming that bigger
is obviously better. "The application of technology, both current
and emerging, is the multiplier to get more bang for the buck ... to ensure
interoperability at all levels not just within the service," Stillman
says, "but with DOD and other federal agencies. ... This is the way
to the future." His intensity, his passion, and his commitment reflect
the importance being placed on the project to take the service into the
21st century with all of its challenges, both known and unknown, that
face the Coast Guard and its people.
One of the leading indicators of the likely success of Deepwater will
be the president's fiscal year 2004 budget. Propelled by the preparations
of previous years and the events of 2001, the Coast Guard's FY 2003 budget
was one of its best in decades, and included a 20 percent increase in
operational funding. But the service's needs are so many and so great
that one year of budget success does not translate even into the substantial
down payment needed to recapitalize, reequip, and outfit the service for
not only its traditional missions but also the newly emerging responsibilities
mandated under the new port-security legislation and the establishment
of the Homeland Security Department. Collins and Stillman are both necessarily
constrained in their service's comments on the FY 2004 budget and the
chances for another increase in a year of potential deficits and increasing
demands for federal dollars. But both emphasize the importance of maintaining
the momentum created by the current increase in funding, and Allen provides
a helpful excerpt from President Bush's Homeland Security Strategy: "The
budget for fiscal year 2004 will continue to support the recapitalization
of the U.S. Coast Guard's aging fleet, as well as targeted improvements
in the areas of maritime domain awareness, command and control systems,
and shoreside facilities." Just as last year when the role of the
president's Homeland Security Advisor was an open question, the level
of support for the Coast Guard indicated in the FY 2004 budget will provide
an augury of its ability to carry out its multimission responsibilities
in the coming years. As a chief with many years of service at one of the
Coast Guard's undermanned shore stations put it, "That is the $64,000
The project managers for Rescue 21, the modernization of the nation's
distress and response system, are equally emphatic, in their own electrical
engineering way, about the importance of upgrading the service's coastal
command and control and distress communications system. The current system
is a 1970s' vintage analog system plagued with high maintenance costs,
a lack of system integration and standardization, a lack of capacity,
and unevenness of coverage--to name just a few of its shortcomings. The
new system--again, being built under a performance-based and -driven contract--will
provide improved communications coverage, position localization, digital
operation, a high state of reliability (99.5 percent) for all critical
functions, additional channel capacity, automated broadcasts, and interoperability,
using the APCO Project 25 standard. The new system, which will begin operational
testing this year, is slated for a systematic rollout along the Coasts,
the Great Lakes, and the western rivers over the next four years.
The Coast Guard's intention is to deliver a solution with minimum impact
on the environment and maximum benefit to the public. The system is designed
to be installed at Coast Guard Group operations centers, on all standard
and response search-and-rescue (SAR) boats, aids-to-navigation vessels,
the 87-foot-long patrol boats, and SAR helicopters. The system will be
fully interoperable with the communications equipment flowing from Deepwater
down to the 110-foot-long patrol craft. Support for the program has been
both universal and sustained.
The Homeland Security Department
After much debate, the legislation creating the new Department of Homeland
Security passed in November 2002. That legislation pulls together under
one department 22 federal agencies from across the government working
together to provide much greater homeland security for the United States.
Not since 1915--when the modern-day Coast Guard was established by combining
the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Lifesaving Service--has the Coast
Guard faced the challenge of integrating its many missions, culture, and
its people into a new department in which all of the agencies affected
are being challenged to mesh their operations into a cohesive, effective
agency with one common goal--protection of the American people and America's
vast and complex infrastructure.
The transfer of the Coast Guard to the then-new Department of Transportation
in 1967 did not impose a need for interoperability with, between, and
among the stovepipe responsibilities of the other agencies (e.g., The
Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal
Railroad Administration) brought under the Department of Transportation
The commandant's desire to maximize the service's effectiveness, under
whatever scenario received final approval, was met in the new legislation.
The Coast Guard remains intact; it retains its essential elements--military,
multimission, and maritime; and it retains its full range of missions,
both safety- and security-based. The service will report directly to the
DHS secretary, as will the Secret Service.
In addition to its work on maritime domain awareness, port security,
maritime safety, and maritime law and treaty enforcement, the Coast Guard
brings both operational expertise and an ability to bridge and coordinate
among the agencies not only within DHS and between DHS and DOD and other
departments at the federal level. It also brings a long history of close,
effective, and cost-effective working relationships with state, local,
and private partners.
The challenge begins immediately. As Collins points out, the administration
has only 60 days after signature of the legislation to submit its reorganization
plan. Collins himself catalogued a quick list of transition challenges:
identify strategic direction, objectives, and performance standards; achieve
unity of purpose; coordinate operations and establish command and control
procedures; integrate management functions, financial data, and information
technology; recognize the valid perspectives of multiple stakeholders;
develop implementation plans, preparing to move into and support DHS while
retaining critical links to DOT; and continue sustaining services to America.
Collins also echoed the feelings of Deputy Secretary of Transportation
Michael Jackson (who successfully led the effort to get the new Transportation
Security Administration up and running, and federal security screeners
into all commercial airports by 19 November 2002): "Everybody on
this team had this passion for not failing." Collins feels the same
way about the task ahead for the Coast Guard in the new Department of
Putting People First
The first thing that strikes one about Collins is his quiet determination
to make all of this work. The second thing is his confidence that it will
work. Underlying that confidence is his belief in the people of the Coast
Guard. When he tells visitors to pay attention to the "Commandant's
Direction 2002" he follows that request with a deceptively simple
statement that "It's all about the people." In fact, when asked
for his own personal priorities, he is quick to say, "People, transition
to the new department, and ensuring that the service remains operationally
and mission-oriented." Without criticizing any of his predecessors
in any way, Collins conveys a sincere desire to put deeds in place of
the traditional platitudes about people being "our most important
asset." He also talks about the role the master chief of the Coast
Guard will play in ensuring quality-of-life improvements both at home
and in the workplace, and about the master chief's role as a member of
the service's leadership council. Time and time again he returns to how,
and how much, he values the Coast Guard's people--active, reserve, auxiliary,
and civilian. He marvels at how Coast Guard people have responded to the
present challenge, and how poised and capable they are. He cites the new
work uniform as a small but tangible example of trying to make the workplace
better, and discusses the new educational initiatives and opportunities
coming along as examples of the Coast Guard's efforts to improve the quality
The need to "grow" the work force also occupies much of his
time. The service has a goal of increasing both its active-duty and civilian
work forces by 10 percent over three years, and its reserve component
by 20 percent in the same time frame. It must grow those increases to
some extent by signing more active-duty recruits, but must also reduce
attrition rates (which, except for the reserve forces, were down significantly
last year), ensure the proper mentoring of junior personnel to assume
early leadership roles, and recruit people with the talent needed to take
on some extremely challenging assignments.
Collins seems not at all daunted by this task. He points to the ebb and
flow of events that have dictated similar efforts in the past, and notes
that, during World War II, the Coast Guard had 38,000 port securitymen
in its ranks. Balancing the workloads on his people and preparing for
the expected additional increases in responsibilities brings him back
to the vital need for Deepwater and Rescue 21, both of which will increase
the capabilities and the capacities of the service to be an asset provider
to the new department.
In short, rather than be intimidated by such challenges, Collins seems
buoyed by the size and complexity of the task ahead. He draws his optimism
from the service's historic ability to adapt and carry out new assignments--to
be "always ready." And he knows that Coast Guard people have
demonstrated throughout the service's history their ability to rise to
The Way Forward
Following are excerpts from the Commandant's Standing Orders that Collins
issued shortly after assuming the helm of the multimission service:
"The U.S. Coast Guard always has been and always will be America's
Shield of Freedom. Through ingenuity, leadership, and hard work, our people
take on the most daunting of tasks and achieve superior results. I firmly
believe there is no problem that our people can't solve. And, after they
have completed a harrowing SAR case, arrested a drug smuggler, or seized
an illegal fishing vessel, they proudly return to their station ready
for the call to duty. My point is that we must take care of our people,
for without them the Coast Guard would be empty stations and idle vessels.
"So, my standing orders for every active-duty, reserve, auxiliary,
and civilian member are very simple. The first is: Look out for your people.
From our most senior field commander to our most junior recruit ... [we]
have a responsibility to look out for each other, on and off duty. We
truly need to be a Coast Guard family. Without our people, the best ships
and aircraft in the world are useless.
"My second standing order is: Be good stewards of the public trust.
Look for better, more efficient ways in which we can do our jobs. You
must not be afraid to try new ideas and processes if they will allow us
to operate more effectively. As I have said in my direction, you 'should
inspire our people to identify and embrace necessary change, employ their
creative talents, share new ideas, and deliver the highest quality of
service to the American public.'
"My third standing order is: Ensure that your people are always
ready to answer the call to duty. At no time in our history is this more
applicable than after 11 September 2001. In order to achieve superior
operational results, we need to ensure ... [that our] people, equipment,
systems, and processes are ready to go in a moment's notice. Readiness
also means reaching out to the other branches of military, federal and
state agencies, and other stakeholders, to establish strong working relationships.
"My last standing order is: Live by the core values of honor, respect,
and devotion to duty. These core values are what make our organization
what it is today--a group of dedicated and highly motivated individuals
who would willingly sacrifice their lives for a mariner in distress or
to defend our great nation. They are more than just noble ideals to adhere
to; they are words to live by." *