Page 36: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (March 2014)
U.S. Coast Guard Annual
36 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News • MARCH 2014 ” “
MR’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY tenure as commandant that the Depart- ment of Homeland Security was the right place for the Coast Guard. I think you are never going to fi nd a department that covers 100 percent of our missions, but with [DHS], we’ve come about as close as we can to covering the critical mass. That said, there’s always going to discussions about our marine safety missions, which are transportation-re- lated. But, safety and security are two sides of the same coin; when you en- hance safety, you enhance security, and vice versus.]So, I would strongly state that what don’t appear to be homeland security functions, are in fact homeland security functions. There are two issues out there right now that are continuing challenges for the department. One is general aviation aircraft and the other is unregulated small boats. I was once in a meeting with the leader of a rec- reational boating group and I told them that I wanted to have a serious discus- sion about small vessel security. I told him I was putting my toe in the water, and that I didn’t know if I was going to get bit by a piranha or a great white shark. He looked at me, and said, ‘we need to understand this: driving a car is a privilege and boating is a right.’
You have the experience of being the
Coast Guard’s chief executive, and now, the luxury of looking on from the sidelines after a job well done.
What has changed in the 3-plus years since you left the service? I’m not in touch on a daily ba- sis with what the Coast Guard has go- ing on, so I am not in a position to say anything about what’s happened since I left. I can tell you this: the Coast Guard has made extraordinary improvements in institutionalizing its acquisition pro- gram that’s delivering vessels like the fast-response cutter and the national se- curity cutter. When I became the com- mandant, I spent a great deal of my time preparing for oversight hearings related to our acquisition programs. I think the coast guard can be very proud as to where they’ve come with regard to those programs.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the Coast Guard today? Is it opera- tional, fi scal, manpower-related – or, all of the above? The biggest challenge for the
Coast Guard – and it has been since it was created – is to develop and retain cultural and organizational competen- cies to manage operational risk and apply those resources. That is the key element of what I call the operational genius of the Coast Guard. The only way you can run an organization as unique as the Coast Guard, and have it be as effective as it is, is to have leaders who know how to make resource allo- cation decisions and be held account- able for them. The enduring value of the Coast Guard is it is still able to do that. The Coast Guard is a unique prod- uct of the American Revolution. Before the Revolution, you had navies; you had border guards and police forces at har- bors and things like that. The origin of the service emanates from the Founding
Fathers, who realized that this was the only way with this much trade going on.
Tom Ridge [fi rst director of DHS]said, ‘If we didn’t have a Coast guard, we’d have to invent or create one.’ If you look around the world, most countries are mostly interested in what happens in their littoral waters, about their natural resources, issues about illegal fi shing, drug traffi cking, offshore oil develop- ment, etc. All of those mission sets call for a maritime constabulary force that is much more adaptable across those ranges of threats. The key is to reconcile the security demands for a navy and the local law enforcement missions. We’ve been able to do that in this country.
Looking back on your service – what part of it are you the most proud? If you look back at the ad- vances that have been made in the fi - nance and acquisition areas, and the extraordinary advances in how we man- age lifecycle sustainment assets, and how we’ve reformed our supply chain management and maintain our operat- ing platforms, these are fundamental business re-engineering activities that we probably won’t know the results of for many years. A great legacy would be to be able to say we fundamentally changed how we do things inside the
Coast Guard, and for the better. These aren’t things that are generally seen by the public.
Conversely, where do you wish you could have accomplished more or something a little bit differently? I wish I could’ve speeded up the regulatory process. I talked to every- one I could about this issue, but unless there is a national will to do something about it, it likely isn’t going to happen.
I was continually frustrated with the regulatory process.
A selection of quotes from former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant (2005-2009) and disaster manager extraordinaire Thad Allen:
About being “the government face of the [Deepwater] tragedy: “I told somebody I’m failing to get fi red. I’m honored to have been asked to do this. It’s not a very easy job; it’s very complex. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with personally.”
Source: Associated Press interview, June 7, 2010
About the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina:
The problem with the government’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina was that “we did not get the problem statement right.” The government thought the problem was a hurricane when it had become a fl ood. “You’ve got to understand the problem fi rst before you can effectively lead change.’’
Allen speaking to the Association of Change Management
Professionals conference in May, 2011
Testimony from Allen during his Congressional confi rmation hearings “While the character and nature of our service are clear, our missions are not static. New threats emerge as others are mitigated, and Coast Guard capabili- ties, competencies, organizational structure, and processes must change ac- cordingly. If confi rmed, my enduring goal will be to lead a Coast Guard that is steadfast in its character but adaptive in its methods.”
How to deal with a complex, fast moving crisis, where , unlike a tactical military campaign, you won’t have unity of command.: “In what I would call a ‘whole of government response’ —to a hurricane, an oil spill, no matter what it is—that chain of command doesn’t exist. You have to ag- gregate everybody’s capabilities to achieve a single purpose, taking into account the fact that they have distinct authorities and responsibilities. That’s creating unity of effort . . . and it’s a much more complex management challenge.”
The impact of social media and the 24-hour news cycle: “We all have to understand that there will never again be a major event in this country that won’t involve public participation. And the public participation will happen whether it’s managed or not. We’ve chosen to try to adapt and manage.
Before the oil spill, I had already started blogging and tweeting.”
In an interview in November 2010 with the Harvard Business
Review, Allen expounded on a number of leadership issues
Impressions of Allen from near and afar “I note that this [nomination] is somewhat ironic, since the largest body of water in the Admiral’s hometown [Tuscon, Ariz.] is the University of Arizona’s swimming pool.” Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R), Ariz., while introducing Allen at a his March 2006 nomination hearing for the post of Coast Guard Commandant.
Allen “always brings a new idea per minute to the table as far as how to grapple with diffi cult situations.”
Retired Adm. James M. Loy, former Commandant of the Coast Guard “No Coastie better demonstrated the service’s ‘get it done attitude’ better than
Admiral Allen, who confi dently stepped in to a critical leadership role and righted the Federal Government’s response to Katrina. His ability to coordinate the ef- forts of all local, state, and Federal agencies into one harmonious response should be the model to emulate when the next disaster strikes.”
Former Maine Sen. Olympia Snow (R) “I’m confi dent in Admiral Allen, seeing his work in Katrina. You’ve brought the most credibility and discipline and structure and analysis to that chaos, from those of us watching all around the world.”
Former VA Sen. George Allen (R)
MR #3 (32-41).indd 36 3/4/2014 10:52:12 AM