C-Span Briefings

C-Span recently had an interview with Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, Governmental and Public Affairs Director (Nov. 10, 2011, 41 minutes) . There were no surprises in the interview, but he did an excellent job of providing an overview of the Coast Guard’s organization and missions, including recognizing the contribution of reserves and auxiliary. He did a great job speaking off the cuff in response to telephone questions and comments, very impressive, but if you have followed Coast Guard news closely you may not hear much new.

Actually. following a link on the page, I found an earlier interview with RAdm Paul Zukunft, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety and Security (March 22, 2011, almost 44 minute) more interesting because it was more detailed.

What I did not hear in either of these interviews was a clear statement that there is an urgent need to replace our ships.



Public Perception of the Coast Guard

Raymond Pritchett, who writes under the pseudonym, Galrahn, over at “Information dissemination” recently wrote a post contrasting the Navy’s poor Gallup poll numbers with the high numbers recorded for the Marine Corp with respect to two metrics:

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(Note: The Coast Guard was not included in the survey in 2001.)

That the Coast Guard is not considered “most important to national defense” is certainly not surprising, but I thought we might have done better with regard to prestige and status.

Pritchett attributes the disparity between perception of the Navy’s failure to tell it’s story in a compelling way, and to take on tasks the public sees as relevant.

“The story must discuss the positive benefits of the US Navy, and by extension actions must align with words. The mismatch of budget, actions, and words by the US Navy is the single most obvious discrepancy the US Navy must overcome if they wish to be seen as more relevant by the American people.”

The Marines seem to do it better and at least part of that is the fact that NCOs rather than officers are most frequently the face of the Marines.

Marines also take on whatever job they are given and do it well, while,

“…the surface fleet refuses to take on the difficult challenges of this era (stuff like piracy and narcotics submersibles) and is instead focused on meeting some enormous threat that may or may not materialize in the decades ahead. The surface fleet is the most distributed, thus visible force in the Navy, and the refusal by leadership to use the surface fleet today in the actual protection of commerce (see piracy) or in coastline defense (see narcotics smuggling) puts the Navy visibly out of step with what they say when explaining their strategic concept – 21st Century Seapower.”

It is an interesting dicussion, and while I recommend the article, it fails to explain the CG numbers. The CG is constantly taking on and dealing with new missions and frequently the “Coast Guard spokesperson” is the enlisted on the scene doing the job.

One thing the discussion over at Information Dissemination did suggest to me, is that, we need to find a way for the Coast Guard enlisted engineers to tell the story of what the Coast Guard’s aging fleet is doing to them.

I do think a lot of the “status” figure is due to public perception of who sacrifices and places themselves in danger on our behalf.

The public knows Marines and Soldiers are getting shot at on a daily basis, so they deserve our respect. Most people still see the Coast Guard as “safe.” For the most part it is, but you could say the same for the Air Force, the Navy, and for large parts of the Army and Marines.

What could elevate perception of the Coast Guard as a profession? The humanitarian and environmental conservation aspects have to be appreciated by some. The degree of authority and autonomy given our junior people is remarkable compared to the other services. Ultimately, the Coast Guard’s small size may make it impossible to communicate as well as the other services have. We simply don’t have as many veterans returning home and telling their stories.

D-Day, 6 June 1944

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A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach. USCG photograph

The Coast Guard historian has an excellent collection (broken link) of stories about the Coast Guard’s participation in the invasion. Virtually all the American made video footage you may see of the Normandy invasion was done by the Coast Guard. The Army Signal Corp lost their footage overboard.

Famous Film maker John Ford, who also filmed the attack on Midway, was in the Navy, but he landed on D-Day with Coast Guard Cameramen. The following is from: “We Shot D-Day on Omaha Beach (An Interview With John Ford)” by Pete Martin, the article first appeared in The American Legion Magazine, June 1964.

Ford was head of the Photographic Department of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under General “Wild Bill” Donovan. The cameramen in his unit were attached to the Coast Guard and trained for every sort of action. They could drop by parachute, land with raiders, commandos, infantry. They knew about amphibious landings. All Ford had to do was name it. They could do it. He’d hand picked his group of helpers. They were a superb team. Ford was told to head that team up and get both color and black-and-white footage of the invasion of Omaha Beach from start to finish.

“I take my hat off to my Coast Guard kids. They were impressive. They went in first, not to fight, but to photograph. They went with the troops. They were the first ones ashore.”

Changing US Naval Institute Mission Statement

Hopefully, many of you are US Naval Institute members. The board is recommending changes to the organization’s mission statement. Members will get a chance to vote on the changes.

Reservations about the proposed changes are not so much about what they add, as what they seem to exclude.

There are discussions of the proposal here and here.

What is it all about? An open letter from world famous naval columnist, author, and theorist Norman Polmar: Continue reading

Strategic Communications?–Coast Guard Can Do

Strategic Communications? Its a new label for me (sounds a lot like common sense–writing with a purpose–in a new wrapper), but some people in the Coast Guard are apparently we are already doing it.

Another blogger gives props to the First District PIO, ESCANABA (WMEC-907), Cdr. Westfall and his crew and a backhanded slap to the Navy for doing it wrong.

Deepwater Horizon, Transparency and ABC

On June 3, ABC News accused the Coast Guard of acting in collusion with BP to minimize the estimate of oil being discharged from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon. I learned about the report from a blog I visit regularly.

While there is much to talk about regarding ABC’s report, including how statements were taken out of context, whether initial estimates of the discharge rate would have any effect on the fines ultimately levied against BP; whether the inaccuracy of those estimates had in any way reduced the urgency of our response, whether this was about a cover up or simply a media outlet sulking because they were not given access to the best available video.

The thing I found truly gratifying was the view of the blogger and of those who commented on the blog. They trusted the Coast Guard because we had been honest in the past, even, and especially when, it wasn’t pretty.

“I am having a seriously hard time believing that the US Coast Guard, which was at the time under the command of Admiral Thad Allen, was the responsible party withholding this information from the public for BP.”…..”US Admirals, Navy or Coast Guard, don’t put companies before citizens during crisis and emergencies – which is what ABC is basically trying to imply with this reporting.”