“Swimming in Inequality” –USNI

MOBILE, Ala. Ð Rescue swimmers from Coast Guard Aviation Center Mobile show Luke Wiedeman how to properly inflate his life jacket, Nov. 7, 2011. Crewmembers from ATC Mobile worked with the Mobile chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help Luke realize his dream of becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. Luke was able to take part in training with the swimmers, navigate high-tech flight simulators and participate in a search and rescue demonstration. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

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.

united states coast guard

R 291500 MAR 19
ALCOAST 098/19

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: 2018randstudy@uscg.mil.

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

Command at Sea –Coast Guard vs Navy

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

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?

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance –Help is Needed

Cutter Stratton sailor returns home U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

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.

Officer Promotion System Gets a Make-Over

MilitaryTimes is reporting Congress is expected to authorize much greater flexibility in the Officer promotion system.

Specifically, the changes would include:
  • 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.

“Manual Health Records Put Coast Guard Personnel at Risk”–GAO

The Federal Times is reporting that a GAO study found that two years after a failed $59.9M effort to produce an Electronic Health Record system,

“…the service continues to rely on a paper management system. That poses serious risks for personnel, a new Government Accountability Office report argues.

“According to the report, Coast Guard regional managers and clinic and sick bay administrators warned the GAO they are “unable to adequately track vital information such as medications,” which puts personnel at risk of medical complications.”

I will just note that, I have Kaiser, and they already have an excellent Electronic Health Record system. Maybe we could use theirs.

Does DOD have a system, maybe we could use theirs.


The Coast Guard is directing the documentation of possible exposure to asbestos and lead on ships that were built before 1991, which of course means most of them.


This TD applies to all Coast Guard members currently and previously assigned to CG cutters that were constructed prior to 1991. Documentation is for the purpose of identifying potential exposure to low levels of asbestos and lead below the Medical Surveillance Action Level (MSAL) required for enrollment into OMSEP. Medical documentation of these exposures may facilitate the processing of future Veterans Administration disability claims.

This is primarily aimed at active duty personnel, but an entry on the Coast Guard Retired Facebook page indicates an intention to also document possible exposure of those no longer on active duty.

New Coast Guard Officer Evals Don’t Go Far Enough–USNI

US Naval Institute has a discussion about how the new officer evaluation report (OER) might be improved.

This was always my least favorite part of being in the service. Frequently it seemed if you were honest and followed the instructions, it was the kiss of death–damning with faint praise.

Ultimately I came to believe we would be best served if the evaluation was a simple choice of three check boxes.

___ Make this officer Commandant

___ Does OK

___ Fire the SOB