The US Naval Institute Proceedings June 2022 issue includes an article that looks at how the retention and training of afloat personnel might be improved. There are a number of suggestions here including ending the up or out convention, lessons from the CG aviation community, and maritime credentialing.
This is about twice as large as my graduating class, 53 years ago. Interesting class composition including international students and first cyber systems graduates.
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Coast Guard Academy graduates record number of officers
Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.
NEW LONDON, Conn. — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduated 252 new officers along with nine international students with keynote speaker Vice President Kamala Harris in attendance during the 141st Commencement Exercises Wednesday, May 18.
The Class of 2022 consisted of 87 cadets from underrepresented minority groups including the largest number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to graduate in Academy history.
This year also marked the second highest number of cadets to commission into the Coast Guard in addition to 21 Cyber Systems graduates, the first to graduate from the newly instituted major to meet the needs of the service’s cybersecurity strategy of defending cyber space, enabling operations, and protecting infrastructure.
The new officers will begin to serve as leaders in a variety of operational roles throughout the Coast Guard, mostly on cutters.
Nine graduating international cadets from the countries of Cambodia, Iceland, Jordan, Mexico, Madagascar, Palau, Panama, Rwanda and the Ukraine will serve in their respective countries of origin.
“We view our cadets as our eyes and ears and hands and hearts, wherever you serve,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “You are doing the critical work — you will be doing the critical work to protect our country, to advance our interests, and to shape the trajectory of world affairs.”
Founded in 1876, the Coast Guard Academy is one of the five U.S. service academies and is ranked among the nation’s most prestigious and selective institutions of higher learning.
I always get a bit nervous when the word “transformation” is used, but I am sure everyone would agree that the personnel management system could be improved. One thing that always bothered me, was that the evaluation system for officers always seemed to require that every officer be “well rounded.” Sure that is nice, but you really only have to be really good at one thing to be useful, and a lot of talented people were lost because they were not well rounded. The word “evaluation” is used only once in the document and fitness reports not at all. But even so, the document suggests we should see much greater flexibility–Check out page eleven.
Coast Guard announces RW30 – our workforce transformation plan
By Kara Noto, MyCG Staff
The Coast Guard has released a strategy for revolutionizing how we build, develop and manage our tremendously talented force in the coming decades. Ready Workforce 2030 (RW30) challenges the service to be inspiring, agile, adaptive and efficient as we strive to maintain our competitive edge in an increasingly dynamic labor market.
“Change must be revolutionary, pervasive and transformative,” Adm. Karl L. Schultz writes in the new strategy.
The strategy calls for more career flexibility, training and learning options. The primary lines of effort are:
- Transform how we recruit, hire, and retain our workforce
- Modernize training systems and delivery
- Provide world-class member support
“Conditions of service that I accepted 41 years ago when I entered the Coast Guard Academy are no longer acceptable to our workforce,” said Vice Commandant Linda Fagan. “We must take decisive action to think differently and redefine our assumptions to transform our talent management system so there is more flexibility built in to make it easier for those who want to serve.”
They made clear that the Coast Guard can change as quickly as service culture will permit. “This is going to take cultural change,” Fagan said. “It’s going to create some discomfort. But RW30 will help us create the workforce we need.”
Fagan emphasized that our core values will remain our greatest strength. “The sense of belonging, the team, the camaraderie – that’s what we offer as an employer.”
Potential RW30 initiatives include:
- Assignment or billet-banding management processes to increase career growth and flexibility.
- Programs to promote and reward talent development
- A “no-penalty opt-out” for consideration by a promotion board for members in the process of changing specialties or addressing acute work-life issues
- Non-monetary, incentives-based reenlistment alternatives similar to those available in the private sector.
“We’re building and revising policies for OUR Coast Guard,” Fagan said. “We’re all invested.”
As RW30 planning gets underway, MyCG will share regular updates along with opportunities for you to help shape the transformation.
The US Naval Institute Proceedings’ December issue includes an article by LCdr. Karen Love Kutkiewicz, USCG, discussing the problems of motivating people toward sea duty, both now and in the future, when sea duty billets are expected to constitute a higher percentage of Coast Guard personnel.
The article has a couple charts that are particularly interesting. The first shows the growth in cutter billets and associated direct support.
The fleet has had some ups and downs and while we may be seeing a percentage rise currently, I suspect that there were periods in the past, when the Coast Guard was even smaller, when seagoing billets were at a higher percentage than currently projected for 2037 (really more like 2039 now). When I reported to the Academy in 1965, we had 36 WHECs and several icebreakers.
Still looking at the recent past, since we are adding both afloat billets and direct support billets, which will be in large part billets that require seagoing experience, while the rest of the service remains essentially stable, this does look like a substantial change in the overall percentage of coasties going to sea.
The second showing the assignment year 2021 command slots to be filled and number of applicants.
I would not think it surprising that there is more competition for Command Ashore positions because, while only officers with an afloat background compete for Command Afloat, those same officers, as well as essentially the rest of the officer corps, compete for command ashore billets, and at the O3/O4 level there are very few command ashore billets. Looking at the O3/O4 Afloat Command line, are 91 applicants for 53 positions adequately competitive? Could be.
The post seems to be most concerned about O3/O4 command billets, but really, I see more of a problem in motivating personnel to fill department head and XO billets in the O3-O5 level. Will they ever get a shot at command afloat when up against those who were given early command?
This is not the first article bemoaning the loss of sea going experience.
Apparently one thing we have done, is open O3 command billets to Warrant Officers. Maybe, if we are not doing so already, we should consider opening O3 department head billets to Warrants as well.
Something else we might do, is reorganize at least some support functions into squadron commands, staffed by experienced seagoing personnel, including post-command squadron commanders. These commands (Area commands for the largest ships and District commands for WPC and WPBs) could mentor the ships’ COs and crews. In addition, they would be in an excellent position, to make fair evaluations of their performance. Additionally, they could be the source to fill short term shortages in essential billets.
To keep things in perspective. I would note that, while the Coast Guard has only about an eighth of the number of active-duty military personnel as the Navy, the Coast Guard has almost as many military command afloat billets (excluding Military Sealift vessels commanded by civilians), and far more at a junior level.
The US Naval Institute blog has a short entry that discusses what was, to me. an unrecognized barrier to more equal racial representation in the Coast Guard–the swim standard for OCS.
“… 70 percent of Black children are unable to swim and 60 percent of Latino children are unable to swim. Of the Black and Latino children that say they are able to swim, there also is a large portion that are self-taught swimmers. In comparison, it is estimated that only 40 percent of Caucasian children are unable to swim.”
Was also surprised to see the large disparity in representation between the Navy and Coast Guard.
“As it stands right now, 5.5 percent of commissioned Coast Guard officers are Black, and only 13.5 percent are minorities in total. It is possible that qualified minority candidates see the swimming standards as impossible obstacles to overcome.”
“As of 2017, the Navy reached 34 percent of minority officer representation.”
Sounds like we have a self imposed barrier to recruiting some good people. Certainly swimming is a desirable ability, but do we apply the same standard to all Coastguardsmen? Does the Navy apply it to their incoming personnel? Can we do something to provide this skill to those who do not come to us with the ability?
Below you will find an ALCOAST regarding the Women’ Retention Study.
SUBJ: WOMEN’S RETENTION STUDY AND HOLISTIC ANALYSIS UPDATE TWO
A. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 180851 DEC 18/ALCOAST 419/18
B. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 011425 JUN 18/ALCOAST 214/18
C. COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC 161410 FEB 18/ALCOAST 068/18
D. Coast Guard Strategic Plan 2018-2022
1. Background. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127), in partnership with the RAND Corporation’s Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), have completed the Women’s Retention Study and Holistic Analysis (WRSHA). As part of the study, RAND convened regional focus groups across the Coast Guard, and thanks to the outstanding support from participants and unit leadership, a total of 1,010 women and 127 men participated in 191 focus groups. The level of participation and response from the field yielded comprehensive feedback that provided vital insight into the study.
2. Final Report. The findings and recommendations have been released and the full study can be found at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2770.html. Breaking down barriers to retention and creating an inclusive workplace is an all-hands on deck effort. The report does indicate that sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other cultural concerns continue to exist within our Service. These behaviors are inconsistent with our core values, and have no place in the Coast Guard. I strongly encourage all members to read the report and discuss the findings at your upcoming Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) meetings and in other similar venues.
3. RAND Research Methods. The research team used quantitative statistical analysis, reviewed studies and trends across the civilian sector and the Department of Defense (DoD), and gathered qualitative insight through focus groups with our active-duty workforce. The focus groups provided enhanced understanding of the data and potential barriers to female retention. They also included a sample of active-duty men to understand male perspectives on retention and to assess whether certain factors are unique to women or are broad-based workforce retention barriers.
4. RAND Findings. The research team identified three factors that most prominently influenced female retention:
a. Work Environment: Leadership, Gender Bias and Discrimination, Weight Standards, Sexual Harassment and Assault, and Workload and Resource Issues.
b. Career Concerns: Advancement, Assignments, and Civilian Opportunities.
c. Personal Life Concerns: Spouses, Children, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, and Other Personal Life Factors.
5. RAND Recommendations. Based on the findings, the study proposed recommendations for initiatives aimed at improving female retention in the Coast Guard and addressing barriers contributing to the retention gender gap. These recommended initiatives are intended to address concerns from all female members, regardless of marital and parental status. In many cases, they will have broad-reaching effects that impact our entire workforce. RAND recommendations fall under three overarching categories:
a. Update Coast Guard Personnel Management Systems to Better Meet the Needs of the Coast Guard’s Current and Future Workforce.
b. Develop and Implement a Communication Plan to Ensure All Members Are Aware of Relevant Policies and Priorities and Strengthen Leadership Education to Foster Inclusive Work Environments.
c. Promote Accountability and Monitor Effectiveness by Establishing and Tracking Relevant Metrics.
6. PRTF. In January 2019, the Personnel Readiness Task Force (PRTF) began their work at Coast Guard Headquarters. Consistent with the Commandant’s Strategic Intent to “Maximize Readiness Today and Tomorrow,” this study and the PRTF are part of the ongoing effort to recruit, train, support, and retain a Mission Ready Total Workforce that reflects the diversity and best talent of our Nation. Chartered by the Vice Commandant, this nine-member team will remain in place until August 2020 and will serve as workforce advocates for the organization. As announced by the Commandant in his State of the Coast Guard Address, the PRTF and the Coast Guard’s Senior Leadership team will explore forward-leaning policy changes to address the recommendations of the Women’s Retention Study, including using surge staffing to backfill members on parental leave, easing the existing tattoo policy, removing the single parent disqualifiers, and revising outdated weight standards that disproportionally affect women. The PRTF will provide the workforce regular communication on their progress to action this study and their efforts to improve organizational readiness.
7. Other Implementation Actions. In addition to addressing the above recommendations, the PRTF will also address the key study findings of leadership, gender bias and discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault as they develop implementation actions. Additionally, in June 2018, senior leadership launched a collection of initiatives, Early Action Items (EAIs), to address issues of greatest importance to our people. As just a few examples, we have aligned co-location tour completion dates for O4/E6 and below, instituted deferment options of TDY/TAD for one year post-partum, and removed gender specific pronouns and member names from OERs and EERs. The EAIs were our decisive first step in ensuring our service is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive to meet the needs of the nation.
8. POC. Direct questions about the WRSHA to COMDT (CG-127) at: email@example.com.
9. VADM M. McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, sends.
10. Internet release is authorized. Additional information on the study can be found at https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2770.html
First, let me say, I can not provide exact figures here, but what I do have is, I believe, close enough to be representative.
The opportunities for command afloat are much greater in the Coast Guard, than they are in the Navy, and those opportunities come earlier in an officer’s career. This should not surprise anyone who has considered this, but the degree of difference may be surprising.
The Navy is about eight times larger than the Coast Guard in terms of numbers of personnel. The Navy counts its “Battle Force” as 287 ships. That does not include the 13 Cyclone class patrol craft or twelve 84 foot MkVI patrol boats, but it does include over 40 auxiliary ships which are commanded by civilian Mariners and 11 Aircraft Carriers which by law must be commanded by aviators. The total number of ships commanded by Surface Warfare Officers and Submariners is about 260, perhaps a few more, but less than 270. This number should grow as more LCS and the FFG(X)s enter the fleet, but it is not likely to exceed 310 and a bit over 70 of these are submarine commands, so fewer than 240 afloat command for Surface Warfare Officers for the foreseeable future.
Apparently, the only command afloat billets for Surface Warfare Officers O-4 and below are 13 Mine Countermeasures ships, 13 Cyclone class patrol craft, 12 MkVI patrol boats, and four positions in command of three boat MkVI patrol boat sections for a total of 42 billets.
The Coast Guard
Over and above a large number of craft commanded by senior enlisted and warrant officers, the Coast Guard has about 208 cutters typically commanded by Officers O-2 and above. A few of these may be commanded by Senior enlisted or Warrant Officers, so about 200 billets for Commissioned Cuttermen. Of these, about 40 are exclusively O-5 and above CO billets. This leaves roughly 160 for O-4 and junior commissioned officers.
This means that proportionately, even at the O-5/O-6 level Cuttermen have greater opportunities for command at sea than their Navy counterparts. At lower ranks with about four times as many billets for a population only an eighth as large, the likelihood of being selected for command at sea is probably about 30 times higher in the Coast Guard.
This raises questions for me:
- Is the Navy’s policy of trying to make every SWO a generalist realistic? Perhaps they should have specialization early on like the British, in Weapons, ASW, Engineers, and Navigators? Maybe after a bit of aptitude testing? They could perhaps broaden experience later in careers. They certainly don’t have sufficient opportunities to even attempt to training every officer as a shiphandler.
- The Coast Guard will have a number of experienced skippers available for the larger ships. What does that mean for those who never got early command but gained experience as department heads and XOs? Are those that did get early command also getting department head and XO experience before being selected for O-5/O-6 commands?
The current budget impasse is creating hardships for Coast Guard members and their families. If you want to help, one of the best ways is through Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. If you would like to make a donation or organize a fund raiser, this is the link.
MilitaryTimes is reporting Congress is expected to authorize much greater flexibility in the Officer promotion system.
Ending some of the up-or-out rules that force officers to leave military service if they fail to be promoted along rigid timelines.
Allowing for mid-career civilians with high-demand skills to enter the military up to the rank of O-6.
Allowing promotion boards to move high-performing officers higher on the promotion list regardless of their time in service.
Allowing service secretaries to create “an alternative promotion process” for specific career fields.
None of this is mandatory, but it will give the services more options for Officer Personnel Management.
We will have to wait and see if application of the new latitude will be for good or evil.
This is old, but a discussion on Facebook, brought it back. The loss of a friend and a fine officer. Tragic. I think there are lessons to be learned here. I won’t presume to tell you what they are.
Let’s keep any comments thoughtful and civil.