This is a continuation of a look at a report the Department of Homeland Security presented to Congress regarding Coast Guard mission performance begun in part one.
The report divides the Coast Guard’s 11 missions into Department of Homeland Security Missions and Non-Homeland Security missions as follows (percent of hours associated with each mission is in parenthesis):
Homeland security missions include:
- Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (25.25%)
- Drug Interdiction (11.22%)
- Migrant Interdiction (10.60%)
- Defense Readiness (7.82%)
- Other Law Enforcement (foreign fisheries enforcement) (0.93%)
Non-Homeland Security Missions include:
- Marine Safety (7.32%)
- Search and Rescue (8.16%)
- Aids-to-Navigation (14.05%)
- Living Marine Resources (domestic fisheries enforcement) (13.12%)
- Marine Environmental Protection (0.41%)
- Ice Operations (1.12%)
The first thing you may notice is that the “Homeland Security Missions” were Coast Guard missions long before the creation of DHS.
This distinction is artificial. DHS seems fixated on terrorism. Once the DHS is reconciled to the fact that they are the department responsible for disaster prevention, response, and mitigation regardless of whether that disaster is natural, accidental, or a terrorist attack, then they will see that the remaining Coast Guard missions are also to some extent DHS missions. (Notably the previous year when GAO testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, “Drug Interdiction” and “Other Law Enforcement” were listed as non-homeland security missions.)
Marine Safety and AtoN help prevent accidental disasters. Living Marine Resources and MEP help prevent environmental disasters. Any SAR case is at least a small scale disaster for those involved. SAR can be a major part of disaster mitigation as in the case of Katrina or Haiti. The SAR organization is the frequently the basis for post disaster communications. Even Ice Operations can mitigate the possibility of flooding by preventing the accumulation of water behind Ice dams that may release catastrophically–all good DHS missions.
As noted in part 1, the report seems to miss a signifiant part of the Coast Guard’s operation, but for now lets look at what it does show. We will look at Measures of effectiveness later.
The report actually covers the entire period from 2001 to the present and compares current operations with a baseline established on the basis of eight quarters prior to 9/11. One important item is that although total resource hours declined since 2005, hours are still up considerably compared to pre-9/11 levels, up from a little less than 500,000 hours to 717,992 hours, so a decline in percentage doesn’t necessarily reflect a decline in activity.
Homeland Security Resource Hours:
Hours increased significantly as might be expected, 115%, from a baseline of a bit less than 200,000 to 400,742.
Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security: By far the greatest percentage of hours (181,264 hours/25.25%) was taken by ports, waterways and coastal security missions. Resource utilization is up ten fold from the baseline after peaking in 2003/4/5.
- So what are these Cutters and aircraft doing? Mostly patrolling.
- Did we do patrolling before? Yes.
- So if they saw an oil spill, a SAR case, or a suspected drug smuggler, would they ignore it? No.
So maybe we ought to add another 25.25% to MEP, another 25.25% to SAR, and another 25.25% to Drug interdiction. Still do we patrol enough? The vessel and aircraft related measures of effectiveness targets are being exceeded. But the targets are abominably low, considering we are dealing with events with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Drug Interdiction: Hours are down 34% from the pre-9/11 baseline from a little over 120,000 down to 80,564. Here we are getting substantial help from DOD but that doesn’t show up in the hours, and the efforts of our LEDETS, like those of the small boats, are also not reflected by the resource hour measure.
Undocumented Migrant Interdiction: Up more than 150% to 76,100 hours. Reportedly we are achieving record high interdiction rates.
Defense Readiness: Hours are up considerably, to 56,128 hours or 7.82% but the baseline was ridiculously low at what looks like less than 7,000 hours or less than 300 unit days. The results have been poor with little improvement expected until the National Security Cutters and Fast Response Cutters replace the 378s and 110s.
Other Law Enforcement: (6,686 hours 0.93%) The number of hours has bounced around quite a bit by percentage (now 19.2% below the baseline). The entire effort is less than 280 unit days, but the service is exceeding its performance goal by a wide margin.
Non-Homeland Security hours (317,250 hours or 44.18%) dropped below the baseline in 2002/2003/2004 but are currently slightly above the baseline.
Search and Rescue: SAR Hours are down more than a quarter, from over 80,000 to 58,607 hours or 8.16%. Even so, we are meeting our performance objectives. SAR hours are demand driven. In 2005, hours were still below baseline, but bumped up 14.8% from 2004 as a result of Katrina. Hopefully we will be able to do more rescuing and less searching as a result of innovations like Rescue 21. The depressed economy may have a role here too. If we were a SAR only organization we would have to fly or get underway just to train and maintain proficiency. As it is, much of the proficiency training is done working on other missions, so perhaps we should credit a few more percentage points to the hours we spend on SAR.
Marine Safety (52,579 hours 7.2%): The Coast Guard did not even report commitment of resource hours to Marine Safety before 2005. I’m still not sure what we are doing with this much cutter and aircraft time that effects the number of commercial mariner and commercials passenger deaths or injuries (two of the three measures of effectiveness) Most of these hours must go to Recreational Boating Safety (the third measure of effectiveness). This may be another way to count patrol hours.
Aids to Navigation: AtoN hours show a drop from the baseline of about 10% to 1000,904 hours, but it is still 14.05% of the current total. Improved reliability of aids appears to have made this possible without a drop in service.
Ice Ops (8,033 hours/1.12%): This category is primarily a reflection of ice conditions on the Great Lakes and navigable waterways that can fluctuate substantially year to year. It says very little about our Arctic capabilities, long in decline.
Living Marine Resources (94,178 hours/13.12%): Hours declined after 9/11 but now slightly exceed pre-9/11 baseline.
Marine Environmental Protection (MEP) (2,949 hours/0.41%): Like Marine Safety, MEP recorded no resource hours committed before 2005. Hours are down over 40% since 2005, but in FY2009 we exceeded our goals for prevention of chemicals and oil discharges per units shipped. There were no performance measures specifically related to safety of or pollution from offshore wells. I suspect most MEP work is not done by the cutters and aircraft included in this report, but that we will see a big increase in MEP hours when figures come out for FY2010. In the minds of most people, fisheries enforcement, both “Living Marine Resources” (domestic fisheries) and “Other Law Enforcement” (foreign fisheries) is a form of “Marine Environmental Protection.” Perhaps we need to group them with regulation of the chemical and petroleum industries and pollution clean-up under an expanded Marine Environmental Protection Program, so that there will be a better appreciation of what the service does.
Traditional Coast Guard missions continue within the Department of Homeland Security. They have not been neglected.
For the Coast Guard to have gone from less than 500,000 resource hours to consistently over 700,000 hours, a more than 40% increase, when there has been no substantial increase in assets and as the average age of the assets increased has got to be a strain.
Coming in Part 3: Performance Measures and Where the Problems are.
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To continue the thread from Part 1, I would say that the way the Coast Guard counts and categorizes resource hours is an absolute shell game. It completely ignores personnel effort (except for certain DOG components). For a missions like MEP or Marine Safety, this grossly underplays the amount of effort expended and discredits the effort required since these missions are mainly driven by shore-side personnel.
The question of double counting missions is a common issue. As a matter of program functionality, neither AOPS or ALMIS let you log more than one mission at one time. I’m ambivalent on this. The CG absolutely has to count for how many hours are being expended, but I agree that saying “i’m only doing PWCS right now and nothing else” just isn’t accurate for most operators…. well maybe the guys that do PWCS, but the rest of us still think we do all the missions 😉
As for the defense of non-HS missions within the Coast Guard…. In no uncertain terms, everyone should be aware that there are people in DHS that do not like that the CG continues to do the “non-DHS” missions. They don’t care about our legislative mandates; we are “their” agency and that’s that. Luckily the Coast Guard has defenders in Congress that are looking out for this issues. I think our senior leaders are in a tough spot because they don’t want to air dirty laundry and risk pissing off the agency. Given our multi-mission nature, I side with Rep. Oberstar’s idea that we should be an independent agency/service. Personally, i think the EPA model of an independent agency is completely appropriate.
BTW, I agree with Bill Wells that these reports are awful and that the CG is awful at “selling” it’s mission performance. Speaking as someone who has to write reports like this, no one is interested in presenting a larger theme. There are also so many hands on these reports that they end up as being the worst of everyone’s writing styles.
In the case of this report the OIG blatantly took language from other CG reports and plugged it in. I see absolutely no value added from OIG. They obviously had this report in the can and simply updated the numbers and asked the CG for text to explain the deviations in mission performance.
I would not have a problem with the Coast Guard being a separate agency, but I have hopes that the DHS will evolve an ethos more akin to the Coast Guard’s. Thinking only of thwarting Islamic Terrorists is myopic. Hopefully someday, this threat will faded. Then what will be left for the Department to do.
I think it should organize around the theme of Disaster Preparedness–prevent, respond, mitigate–natural, accidental, or terrorists. It should become a more flexible organization that does some SAR, some law enforcement, some defense functions, even some regulatory functions for the purposes of minimizing the effects of disasters, and a lot of planning.
Not that all the capabilities would need to be organic, it should work with non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), and identify military assets like portable hospitals, water making, purifying, and transportation equipment, unique transportation capabilities like STOL aircraft, landing craft, amphibious vehicles, anything that might be needed in case of a disaster and have plans in place to get temporary use of them.
Within that sort of organization the Coast Guard could function as the primary maritime arm, provide a contact point for the agency with the military, and form the basis for regional command nets.
All the normal CG facilities are needed for disaster response, and they are facilities that could not be justified if there weren’t a day to day use for them. And even if they did exist, they probably would not work if they weren’t exercised on a day to day basis.
When I get into the next section I think it will be clear that our most severe shortfalls are in the DHS missions rather than the non-DHS missions. For that reason, the Department should be more enthusiastic about championing our needs. They need to stop doing things like giving grants to build a gym for a police dept, and help the CG get the equipment it needs.
I seem to recall ages ago, when I was on an HEC, preparing a report that would have been an input for this kind of report. One year we credited most of our hours to one mission. The next year, policies had changed, and we were emphasizing a different mission, so that year, even though we were doing exactly the same thing, the hours went to a different mission.
Thanks for starting these posts. It’s unfortunate that more people aren’t interested in theses albeit somewhat dry topics. Other than national incidents (Katrina, Haiti, DWH), mission performance issues like these do more to drive major budget and resource decisions than any other policy or legislative topic we discuss. Everything from what sea state will the OPC handle to the number of replacement required for the C-130 and 378 fleets.
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