The U.S. Coast Guard is undergoing a “stem-to-stern” organizational and operation review to see which missions it should keep and those it should shed, says Adm. Bob Papp, Coast Guard commandant.
“We may need to reduce the number and range of some of the capabilities we’ve added since 9/11,” Papp said Feb. 10 during his State of the Coast Guard address. He says the Coast Guard needs to focus its people and equipment on its most important missions.
He says the Coast Guard’s “can-do” mentality in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks caused the service to saddle itself with more missions and responsibilities than it could handle — even with the boost in personnel and funding in recent years.
“Too often we pursued activities that we were not asked to do or tasked to do — or resourced to do,” Papp says.
As a result, Papp says, those flying Coast Guard aircraft or manning the service’s ship fleet have become too focused on trying to meet a growing list of qualifications for the ballooning agenda of missions.
In so doing, pilots and ship-drivers have lost some of the focus needed to best operate their platforms. “They’re not keeping their head in the cockpit enough,” he says.
And there are even greater potential risks with the service spreading itself so thin. Papp cites the growing number of aviation and ship accidents, some that took place during relatively commonplace missions.
The Coast Guard needs to focus more on proficiency and expertise in certain key-mission areas, he says. One example of mission-pruning cited by Papp involved the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs), which perform many anti-terrorism tasks.
What the MSST members should focus on, perhaps, should be training for basic small arms, driving tactical sea-craft and firing machine guns from their boats, Papp says.
Then the Coast Guard could look to possibly deploy the teams to develop and maintain security zones around high-value targets.
Reducing the tasks or missions for the Coast Guard likely would not change its acquisition needs, Papp says. The service still needs the same resources — it would just have to be more picky in how to employ or deploy them.