Can-Do-itis, Can it be cured?

When we talked about the requirements for an Arctic Patrol Vessel, I had suggested that in this harsh and unforgiving environment, there would be circumstances when we would want to launch two helos or at least have a second helo on standby on deck. (Long range, far from help, marginal weather.) The response was that one helo would be enough.

Spoken like a true operator. Yes, Coast Guardsmen take calculated risks all the time. There is a mission to do. We have only one helo available. It would be better to have two, but that is not an option, so we go with one. We get away with it, so next time, we also go with one without even thinking about it. It becomes the standard.

But step back.

When we are in the procurement phase, we need to change our mind set. Having two helos is an option. The question is fundamentally different. I think the Coast Guard has been suffering from “Can-Doitis.” This is why we are still using ships that should have been replaced 15 years ago. Why our budget is being cut while the Navy’s is being increased. Why we must now decommission five ships before their replacements come on line. (Frankly, I think the decision to do so reflects refreshing realism on the part of the leadership, but it is why we got in this mess.)

I hope the operators’ attitude never changes, but when the operator moves to the position of stating our needs, the question has to change. Not, “If I have only this, are the risks acceptable?” but “What do we really need to do the job safely, reliably, and consistently without making unreasonable demands on our people?”

If we go to the administration or Congress and ask for the minimum we can get away with, we will never get more than the minimum. Worse yet, they will assume we have padded our request and will be only too happy to cut it further.

When our leadership decides that we can make do, they are not deciding for themselves. They are deciding for young people that we frequently demand too much of, the engineers that are working 18 hours a day, when they should be with their families, to get an ancient and unreliable plant ready to sail thousands miles from home, for the crew of a 110 that is, in fact, going in harms way, or the crews of cutters responding to the earthquake in Haiti only to have their ships fail them.

It is difficult, but going from the field to deciding what the service should ask for, means going from heroic, impetuous youth to being an overprotective parent looking out for the safety and well being of our most important asset, our people.

9 thoughts on “Can-Do-itis, Can it be cured?

  1. Some years ago, I cannot recall when, a Coast Guard JO wrote in USNI Proceedings that one of the problems in the Coast Guard is sea experience at a senior officer level. He advised taking a look at the flag officers and reviewing when their last sea duty occurred and at what rank.

    The truth is that most have not seen an at sea command or duty since being a JO. They have been good then but what has become of those ‘competencies?’ I doubt the “deciders” in the Coast Guard went directly from the field to decision making positions. There is a general disconnect in the two areas and the comments about officers being categorized into specialties will not help much. There should be some place in the Coast Guard for the generalist who has appropriate experience to inject in the decision making process. Just because a flag is wearing a Cutterman Insignia does not mean he has the sea experience.

  2. Some years ago, I cannot recall when, a Coast Guard JO wrote in USNI Proceedings that one of the problems in the Coast Guard is sea experience at a senior officer level. He advised taking a look at the flag officers and reviewing when their last sea duty occurred and at what rank.The truth is that most have not seen an at sea command or duty since being a JO. They have been good then but what has become of those 'competencies?' I doubt the “deciders” in the Coast Guard went directly from the field to decision making positions. There is a general disconnect in the two areas and the comments about officers being categorized into specialties will not help much. There should be some place in the Coast Guard for the generalist who has appropriate experience to inject in the decision making process. Just because a flag is wearing a Cutterman Insignia does not mean he has the sea experience.

  3. Mr. Hill, Are you thinking about a flight deck sized for two helos, like LPD-17 (but sized for a smaller helo)? That would be a very large flight deck indeed. Even the USN doesn’t do this on their surface combatants.

    • No, I was talking about having hanger space for two helos, which we already do on the National Security Cutter and the Navy does on their 30 year old FFGs that are the same size. In this particular case I was talking about aviation facilities on arctic patrol vessels and if that ship is an icebreaker, they are typically large ships. Most don’t have extensive aviation facilities, but on a ship that size, where the objective is SAR and LE instead of just ice reconnaissance, it is an option to use some of that space for generous aviation facilities.

  4. Mr. Hill, Are you thinking about a flight deck sized for two helos, like LPD-17 (but sized for a smaller helo)? That would be a very large flight deck indeed. Even the USN doesn't do this on their surface combatants.

  5. No, I was talking about having hanger space for two helos, which we already do on the National Security Cutter and the Navy does on their 30 year old FFGs that are the same size. In this particular case I was talking about aviation facilities on arctic patrol vessels and if that ship is an icebreaker, they are typically large ships. Most don't have extensive aviation facilities, but on a ship that size, where the objective is SAR and LE instead of just ice reconnaissance, it is an option to use some of that space for generous aviation facilities.

  6. Mr. Hill, Are you thinking about a flight deck sized for two helos, like LPD-17 (but sized for a smaller helo)? That would be a very large flight deck indeed. Even the USN doesn't do this on their surface combatants.

  7. No, I was talking about having hanger space for two helos, which we already do on the National Security Cutter and the Navy does on their 30 year old FFGs that are the same size. In this particular case I was talking about aviation facilities on arctic patrol vessels and if that ship is an icebreaker, they are typically large ships. Most don't have extensive aviation facilities, but on a ship that size, where the objective is SAR and LE instead of just ice reconnaissance, it is an option to use some of that space for generous aviation facilities.

  8. Pingback: The Navy’s Problems and Underway Time as a Measure of Availability | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s