Giving More Than 100%–Part 1, Report of USCG Mission Performance

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security recently completed his “Annual Review of the United States Coast Guard’s Mission Performance (FY 2009)”.  The final report is available in Acrobat PDF format from DHS.

I’ve seen some dismay expressed over the results, particularly with regard to the allocation of resources, while Appendices C and D which discuss how the Coast Guard is meeting its measures of effectiveness have been largely ignored. These are the types of comments I have seen:

  • That the Coast Guard was no longer a SAR organization, because we spend only 8.16% of our resource hours on SAR.
  • That we were not interested in Marine Environmental Protection because resource hours have dropped to 0.41% of our total.
  • That the Coast Guard is neglecting its traditional missions because for the eighth consecutive year, the Coast Guard dedicated more resource hours to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) missions than to non-homeland security missions, confirmed because the gap between DHS and non-DHS missions performed by the Coast Guard increased from 10 percent in FY2008 to 12 percent in 2009.

The utility of  the resource allocation information provided is questionable at best. Frankly, I think it is a fraud perpetrated on the Congress at their own behest. That they accept it in this form doesn’t reflect well on Congress, and that it is offered in this way suggests that the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard have a low opinion of Congress’ attention span.

This report claims to address the annual review of the United States Coast Guard’ s mission performance required by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. When the Department of Homeland Security was created, there was a concern that traditional missions would get short shrift, so an annual report was required to make sure non-Homeland Security missions were not being neglected. A laudable goal, but is the percentage of resource hours as provided a meaningful measure?

  • Resource hours, as used here, lump together utilization of cutters, boats, and aircraft as if they were interchangeable.
  • It gives no credit to work done that doesn’t require an aircraft, cutter, or boat.
  • Apparently hours for small boats and some small cutters, are not included (see below).
  • It simply doesn’t reflect how the Coast Guard  uses its money or manpower.

Here is how the report defines “Resource Hours”:

“Resource Hours.  The Coast Guard uses resource hours— generally, the number of flight hours (for aircraft) and underway hours (for boats and cutters) used to carry out a specific mission— to determine the amount of time expended on each of its non-homeland security and homeland security missions.  During our review, we obtained data on the total number of resource hours reported by the Coast Guard from a baseline of pre-September 11, 2001 data, through Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.  The Coast Guard– calculated baseline is an annual average of resource hours based on eight FY quarters preceding September 11, 2001.  We did not verify the resource hour data reported by the Coast Guard, nor did we validate whether the Coast Guard accurately classified resource hours used for each mission.  We assessed total resource hours for the 11 individual missions in order to identify the changes in each.”

Notice there is no definition of which units are included, yet it leaves the impression that all boats are included.  The report, however, indicates that the Coast Guard expended approximately 700,000 resource hours in FY2009.  That sounds like a lot, but if you divide by the number of hours in a year you get only about 80 resource years.  We have over 200 vessels 87 feet and larger, and over 200 aircraft.  They alone should easily account for 80 resource years.  This means that our approximately 2,000 boats and cutters smaller than 87 feet are unaccounted for and were not considered.  That leaves a lot of the Coast Guard’s work uncredited.

I will be revisiting this subject to discuss the resource allocation indicated by the report and the measures of effectiveness.