Update: Paragraph seven has been corrected to reflect that “a fifth [NSC] was fully funded in the 2011 appropriation.”
The following blog was posted by Cmdr. Glynn Smith on behalf of Adm. Bob Papp.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to see first-hand many areas devastated by Mississippi River flooding. I also got to see Coast Guard men and women in action, engaging their unique skills, authorities and capabilities to protect people who have been impacted by these rising waters. It was reminiscent of last summer when I began my term and we were embroiled in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup.
Disaster response highlights the Coast Guard’s special blend of statutory duties, military organization and versatile maritime hardware that makes us indispensable. So it’s fitting that yesterday, when the first year of my term as Commandant was concluded, Coasties were spread across Louisiana and Mississippi delivering our valuable services to those in need – this is who we are, this is our way, this is what we do.
Now, as I reflect back, I would like to share with you my thoughts on some ongoing initiatives started in May 2010 to strengthen the Coast Guard’s ability to perform its regular duties, provide interagency support and conduct disaster response. While I present these in the framework of the four principles embedded in my service vision, you will find they relate directly back to the recently published Commandant’s Direction.
First and foremost, Coast Guard men and women should have a clear and stable organizational structure, and the tools they need to safely perform their job. Anything less draws energy from the force and costs the service in the long run. This is the basic premise behind my principle of Steady the Service. Along these lines, we have made real progress, including:
• We continue to implement the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 that provided us authority to finish organizational realignment of the service, enhance the safety of U.S. ports and waterways and improve the acquisition of assets.
• We have worked hard to develop a state-of-the-art mission support organization by solidifying headquarters support directorates, standing up depot level logistics commands and unifying field mission support in base commands.
• We are recapitalizing our major assets: four of eight national security cutters are built, under construction or contracted and a fifth was fully funded in the 2011 appropriation; the offshore patrol cutter is being designed; seven fast response cutters are under construction; aging aircraft and boat replacements continue; and Rescue 21 continues to be deployed.
More is expected from Coast Guard men and women today than ever before. Technology has changed and mission requirements have expanded resulting in the erosion of some fundamental expertise since I joined the fleet in 1975. Therefore, I established my principle of Honor our Profession to regain focus on individual professionalism. Some examples of what we are doing to meet this need include:
• We revamped officer promotion board and assignment guidance to emphasize professional competence and the importance of command, as well as implemented the Career Retention Screening Panel to manage enlisted career progression.
• We are developing a new concept of operations for performing Coast Guard missions and growing expertise for operating in the Arctic where diminishing ice is providing access for tapping undiscovered oil and gas, and harvesting fish stocks.
• We have established proficiency as the skill level our people must strive to achieve and renewed the focus on the Coast Guard’s core competencies of airmanship and seamanship.
There is much greater demand for Coast Guard services than our current capacity can deliver, which makes my Strengthen our Partnerships principle a vital service imperative. And demand is growing. We will only meet the demand by working together and finding joint solutions to old ways of doing business. Here are a few examples:
• We continue to implement the Marine Safety Performance Plan which enhances our ability to work alongside industry in preventing accidents, and their potentially devastating results, from happening.
• We are an active participant in the newly created National Ocean Council, working with federal, state and local partners to provide effective stewardship of the oceans, coastal areas and Great Lakes.
• We have started the transformation of some sector command centers into interagency operations centers to improve multi-agency coordination and management of port security.
The most important ingredient to our success is our people. This is why my Respect our Shipmates principle has special meaning for me. With this in mind, I declared 2011 as the, “Year of the Coast Guard Family,” to bring special attention to the needs of families. A few examples of the great work we are pursuing in this area include:
• We established three new full-time ombudsman positions, one at headquarters and one at each area, to guide the program, address ombudsman issues and support volunteer ombudsmen in the field.
• We have fully supported the President’s 2012 budget request to improve critical housing shortfalls, access to affordable high-quality childcare and better align the Coast Guard with Department of Defense standards.
• We have aggressively worked alongside the Department of Defense toward certification and full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell so that gay and lesbian Americans can serve without fear of retribution in our service.
• We are renewing emphasis on the Coast Guard family through outreach to retirees to ensure they remain connected as they are a strength for us in local communities.
Over the past year, we’ve made tremendous progress, but there is still much to be done. I’m looking forward to continuing this work. I remain committed to our people, heritage and missions. They define our service. I am delighted, honored and privileged to be your Commandant. I look forward to the next three years of working together to ensure the success of our Service as it continues to protect those on the sea, protect America from threats delivered by sea and protect the sea itself.
Adm. Bob Papp