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.

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.