Friday, February 23, 2007

The State of the Coast Guard 2007.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has accussed the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security of being two ships of fools.

Aside from the Cadet Webster Smith affair and the Lt. Jessica Hill tragedy, what other problems of their own making can the Coast Guard be struggling with?
General Accounting Office Head asks for more aggressive oversight of the Coast Guard. Coast Guard is Plagued with problems. These problems are like sins. Be sure your sins will find you out. (Num. 32:23)

There is the sin against Lt. Jessica Hill. There is the sin against Cadet Webster Smith. Where is the Webster Smith Civil Rights Complaint?
What is the status of the Court-martial appeal?
( Smith was represented by a Navy attorney, Lt. Stuart Kirkby, and a civilian lawyer, Merle J. Smith. His attorney was not listed with any Bar Association in the United States! He never went to his attorney's office! Was he denied the effective assistance of counsel?)
Where is the Task Force Report on the Culture at the CGA? The Report was due out before the end of January 2007
Many of these problems — decisions regarding Deepwater, a move to court-martial a cadet and failed oversight of the service’s dive program — began before Commandant Thad Allen took over the service in May 2006. But Admiral Allen served as Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2006, and he admitted being aware of major contractual and program decisions and took responsibility for the service’s woes.

I am the commandant of the Coast Guard, I am responsible, I will do this right,” Allen said.
In his State of The Coast guard address on 13 February 2007 he said:
"I want to make the Coast Guard more responsive to the needs of our Nation.
The World is changing and America’s Coast Guard is changing.
We need to become more agile, flexible and responsive. I am talking about thinking, planning and acting with strategic intent. I am talking about setting priorities for the Coast Guard that address the emerging threats and hazards of an expanding global economy and changing world. My task is to explain the way ahead. As we move forward, we remember with great sadness the loss of our shipmates on HEALY last summer and the need to always focus on readiness to execute our missions.
But despite the tremendous work of our Coast Guard units all across the globe, much remains before us.

I can report to you today –
The State of the Coast Guard is strong but we have challenges before us.

We have never been more relevant and we have never been more visible to the Nation we serve.

Since becoming Commandant, I’ve had the opportunity to visit every Coast Guard District and talk with many of you personally. I have held All Hands with nearly 10,000 personnel."
Have you held hands with Cleon Smith, Admiral? Have you shook the hand of Webster Smith?
Webster Smith and the problems at the Coast Guard Academy did not receive any lip service in the speech. At least, Lt Jessica Hill rated one line in the speech.

The Coast Guard has a troubled $24 billion, 25-year fleet-replacement program known as Deepwater.

Contractors built patrol boats with buckling hulls and a large new cutter with structural flaws, but a U.S. Coast Guard review gave their performance high marks last year. They even extended their contract for an additional four years and paid them a multimillion-dollar bonus, government investigators have learned. This next-generation technology is expected to be part of the Coast Guard Homeland Security "virtual fence" at the border, called SBInet. The massive 418-foot Coast Guard ship "Bertholf" was christened on Nov. 11, 2006, hailed as a crucial new weapon in the war on terror. But a report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general says the "National Security Cutter" has significant design flaws likely to shorten its useful life, increase maintenance costs, and limit its ability to venture far from U.S. shores. And the cost of building just two of these ships has roughly doubled — to almost $1 billion.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has accused the Coast Guard of abdicating its responsibilities.
"We are relying on contractors in more areas, and we are giving them more discretion. And where there's more discretion, there's more risk," said David M. Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm. In a hearing Tuesday, 2 February, conducted by the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, he asked for more aggressive oversight.

Using a grading scale from A to F, the Coast Guard is failing. Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, OIG, said the Coast Guard, need to get a grip over these contractors. "I mean, that doesn't pass the straight-face test," Skinner said. "We said, 'You've got to fix that, because if you'd included that, they probably would have gotten an F,' " Skinner said. Despite the troubles, the Coast Guard has paid the partnership incentive awards totaling $16 million since 2002.
The OIG also charges that the Coast Guard and its prime contractor for the performance-based Deepwater program, Integrated Coast Guard Systems, stymied the OIG’s investigation by refusing to allow their personnel to conduct private interviews with auditors.
“This is the most troubling IG report I’ve read during my 11 years as a representative in Congress,” House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Jan. 30 during an oversight hearing.
The report is another blow to the Coast Guard’s usually impeccable reputation as an organized, “can-do” outfit. The service, which had been riding high following its performance during Hurricane Katrina, has been plagued in the last eight months by what Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., called a “tidal wave of bad news,” including the deaths of two Coast Guard divers last August in the Arctic and a court-martial for sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy, with a subsequent investigation into possible gender and race discrimination at the school.

Four of the seven top U.S. Coast Guard officers who retired since 1998 took positions with private firms involved in the Coast Guard's troubled $24 billion fleet replacement program, an effort that government investigators have criticized for putting contractors' interests ahead of taxpayers'.
Deepwater dramatizes a new concern, current and former U.S. officials said: how dwindling competition in the private sector, mushrooming federal defense spending and the government's diminished contract management skills raise the stakes for potential conflicts of interest.

Deepwater also illustrates how federal ethics rules carve out loopholes for senior policymakers to oversee decisions that may benefit former or prospective employers. These include outsourcing strategies under which taxpayers bear most of the risks for failure, analysts said.

There is no sign that any of the retired admirals or former Lockheed officials did anything illegal.

But the connections between the agencies and the contractors have drawn the attention of the DHS inspector general, Richard L. Skinner. "That is on our radar screen," he said. "It's something we are very sensitive to."

Skinner told House members last month that the Coast Guard -- acting "under the dominant influence" of haste and inadequate staffing -- signed a Deepwater contract in June 2002 that improperly turned over key design and oversight decisions to contractors.

The Coast Guard failed to hold them accountable and left its own commanders "reluctant . . . to exercise a sufficient degree of authority to influence the design and production" of its vessels, Skinner said.

"The Treasury is being looted here. The taxpayer is being fleeced," Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) said in a House hearing into Deepwater earlier this year.

In dealings with former private-sector colleagues, senior U.S. officials may be too willing to yield "the benefit of the doubt, rather than look . . . with skepticism or even with a watchful eye," added Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy, who helped formulate Deepwater as the Coast Guard's commandant, said that to his knowledge "that array of players, either in their political positions, or civilian commercial positions, or in retired Coast Guard positions" has never been linked "to undue influence." Loy served two years as DHS deputy secretary, then joined Lockheed's board of directors in August 2005.
Government investigators said Deepwater went too far in empowering the Lockheed-Northrop consortium to award business to subsidiaries, self-certify the planes and ships it produced, and disregard Coast Guard experts.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., whose district includes the Northrop Grumman Pascagoula shipyard, says he’s dismayed by the ongoing problems with Coast Guard shipbuilding, among other things.
“I’m disappointed. There is no room for failure,” said Taylor, a former Coast Guard enlisted man.
"Somebody knew that there was a problem, and no one tried to fix it," says Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "They went right on through with performing their work, as if everything was fine."
"We had assumed that the Department of Homeland Security was shipshape, but in reality they're just ships of fools," says Thompson.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Admiral Allen is correct. In his State of the Coast Guard address he said,
"We have never been more relevant and we have never been more visible to the Nation we serve".
We are more visible because we have received more publicity. For some people craving recognition, all publicity is good. It is free advertising. Not for an old and venerated service. For an old public service, bad publicity can be dangerous and disasterous.
There was security in our obscurity. Publicity is a blessing and a curse. You can no longer be hidden and presumed to be ethical, and competent. Now you have to demonstrate that competence, and you have to demonstrate the high moral behavior that you claim to have and want to instill in those coming after you. You can not just talk that talk; now, you have to walk that walk.
The Smith case is the first court-martial of a cadet in the academy's history. The Smith case brought a lot of sudden attention..

The end of Van Sice's military career is more difficult news for the Academy. It has experienced a series of cadet run-ins with the law. The first and most prominent incident happened under Van Sice's watch. He is the father of the Webster Smith debacle. You would have gone a long way toward restoring public faith in the Coast Guard and in the Academy, if you had punished Van Sice more appropriately and if you had been more forthcoming with the details of his misconduct and the type of punishment.

9:39 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Coast Guard's massive rebuilding project is just one of its many problems.
By Angie C. Marek.(3/4/07)

At the time, it looked like a triumphant moment for the U.S. Coast Guard. Last Veterans Day, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen and Michael Chertoff, the homeland security chief, in Pascagoula, Miss., to christen the first major cutter—or large enforcement ship—the agency had acquired in 35 years. Allen predicted the cutter would "be the most capable" the agency had ever had.
It was a heady time. The Coast Guard was still riding a wave of goodwill inspired by the service's response to Hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush had sworn in Allen—a popular admiral who took over the federal government's response to Katrina from Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown—as head of the Coast Guard in May 2006.
But now that November gathering is starting to look like a party on the deck of the Titanic. Audits have revealed that the cutter's cost has grown by millions of dollars since it was commissioned and that it has potentially fatal design flaws. And that's only part of the bad news. The 38,000-person military service has been accused of buying what one member of Congress called "a series of lemons" with a $24 billion megacontract to replace nearly all its ships and planes. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is also dealing with the shocking deaths of two rescue swimmers and allegations of assault at its academy. The Coast Guard's motto is semper paratus—or "always ready"—but its supporters wonder if even Allen can fix all this.
All that comes on top of other difficulties. Last summer, for the first time in its history, the service court-martialed an academy cadet for sexual assault. Then in August, two of the service's storied corps of rescue swimmers died during a routine training dive in the Arctic Ocean, the first such drownings since 1974. Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat overseeing the Coast Guard, has promised to investigate. The service's own probe revealed that some members of the divers' support team had been drinking and misinterpreted distress calls. The number of dive teams more than tripled after 9/11, causing oversight challenges: Some of their equipment was years overdue for inspection.
Allen, who's garnered kudos for a no-nonsense style, is attacking the problems vigorously. "We will not accept," he wrote to the entire Coast Guard in January, "preventable [life] loss or injury." In the days after the drownings, he halted all diving until every piece of underwater equipment in use was reinspected. To clean up troubles at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., he created a task force in September to study the climate there after reports of drinking and promiscuity. A related investigation has already resulted in the reprimand of a senior Coast Guard official.
"At this point," Cantwell says, "I think we need legal advice" on recouping contract costs. Rep. Bob Filner, formerly the ranking House Democrat overseeing the service, has urged dropping the contract arrangement altogether. "The first thing you do when you've dug yourself into a hole," Filner says, "is stop digging."

12:10 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Coast Guard Ship Ranks High Among Porkers. Pig book shows nearly $79 million For Deepwater project patrol craft. By Renée Dudley.
Published on 8 March 2007.
A Coast Guard patrol boat was No. 22 on a list of nearly 2,700 pork-barrel spending items.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government watch group, released its 2007 Congressional Pig Book Wednesday — as two live pigs ran around the conference room. The list details all pork-barrel spending in the federal budget.

Nearly $79 million has been authorized for the patrol boat, which is needed because the Coast Guard's huge new Deepwater fleet modernization program is running well behind schedule.

David Williams, vice president for policy for the watch group, said the way the money was appropriated for the patrol boat — by being anonymously attached to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act — qualifies it for the Pig Book.

“There is probably a need for the patrol boat, but it made the Pig Book list because management and oversight of Deepwater has been horrendous,” Williams said. “Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin (the joint venture that heads Deepwater) have been running a amok with taxpayer dollars.”
We're not opposed to them building the thing; there just needs to be more oversight,” Williams said. “There needs to be a budget request for it to be a legitimate priority.”

Pork-barrel spending a any ppropriation added to legislation, often anonymously, to fund constituent projects that otherwise might not receive government spending.
The anti-pork group has a broad definition of what constitutes pork. Anything not specifically requested by President Bush automatically qualifies. Others prefer the know-it-when-you-see-it test.
Lots of earmarks qualify under either criterion.
Williams said he hopes new House rules will help to identify who adds earmarks to appropriations bills. The House enacted rules in January requiring members to go on the record to sponsor earmarks. Under the new rules, they are prohibited from trading their votes for spending projects and are required to avow that they have no personal financial stake in their requests.

Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz said he hopes these changes become permanent. “Pork,” said Schatz, quoting a senator during the press conference, “is the gateway drug to wasteful spending.”

Sen. James DeMint, R-S.C., agreed the reforms need to be made permanent. “It's like killing a snake,” he said. “We're not really sure if it's dead.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime advocate of earmark reform, also agreed. “The Republican Party lost the last election because of our failure to control spending,” he said, alluding to the scandal during which former Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Calif., pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes.

McCain said he was glad to hear that President Bush announced he wants to cut half of all earmarks, but lamented, “I don't exactly know how to cut half of them — it's like saying get rid of half the drug dealers.”

4:31 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

The Commandant delivered his first State of the Coast Guard Address 13 Feb 2007. During this annual address to more than 40,000 Coast Guard members and the American public, Adm. Allen highlighted some of the Coast Guard’s most noteworthy accomplishments in the past year and outlined his priorities for the Coast Guard for the coming year. The Commandant also unveiled a new strategy for meeting the Coast Guard’s responsibilities for protecting and preserving America’s maritime safety, security and stewardship interests.

The U.S. Coast Guard Strategy for Maritime Safety, Security, and Stewardship describes how the Coast Guard will work to safeguard the nation against all threats, hazards, and challenges in the maritime domain, today and in the future.

The overall theme of his address was New Threats, New Challenges, New trategies.

Here’s a little of what he had to say:

There are three things the Coast Guard needs to do:
(1) We need to understand our dramatically changed operating environment;
(2) We must change to sustain and improve mission execution; and
(3) We must be more responsive to the needs of the nation.

It is also time to remove the distinction between our Atlantic and Pacific Coast Guards. Drug trafficking organizations and other transnational threats don’t recognize our organizational boundaries. Our structure at times works against us in operations with Joint Interagency Task Forces and Combatant Commanders whose Operating Areas are not the same as our Area boundaries. It’s time we have one commander in the field responsible for Mission Execution – one single point of accountability completely focused on planning and executing operations. We will do this by combining our Atlantic and Pacific Area command functions into a single Coast Guard Operations Command.

As we navigate the Coast Guard in the 21st Century, we must understand that change is not something that occurs every 5 or 6 years when we are prompted by external events. It is something that is happening every day in our operating environment. We must build a Coast Guard that continually senses change and continually adapts.

Here is what I need from the Coast Guard men and women here with us today, and for all the men and women serving around the world. I need your commitment. I need you to commit to the idea that we need to change and that we can change, together.

You need to understand where the Service is going and how I intend to make the case for change before Congress and the American people. That information is clearly spelled out in two important documents. The first is the Coast Guard Strategy for Maritime Safety, Security and Stewardship that was unveiled here today. The second is the Budget in Brief, an overview of our Fiscal Year 2008 budget request. Everyone needs to read these documents closely.

The past decades have taught us in the Coast Guard to
Respond without question to saves lives and protect property
Use the resources you have
Depend on strength of those who have gone before
We will continue to do that, but we need to have a broader conversation with
America about what we mean when we say port security and maritime
security. I urge to review our strategy and let us know what you think.

The success of this endeavor will be measured not by my commitment, but yours. My challenge is not to force change on the Coast Guard, but to make the Coast Guard understand that change is necessary.
The World is changing and America’s Coast Guard is changing.
I invite you to join me in the journey.

The complete State of the Coast Guard address is available from the Coast Guard website.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

capt. wisnicewski should be let go

7:37 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Thursday Apr 12, 2007
By Patricia Kime , Navy Times.
The Coast Guard Academy has lost sight of its purpose as it focuses on academic credentialing and its collegiate sports program, a 13-member task force studying the school has concluded.
The Task Force [has] found a collegiate university experience that has eroded its connection to the very things that the Coast Guard holds dear .. its uniqueness as a military service and a law enforcement agency as well as membership in the national intelligence community,” members wrote in a comprehensive study of the 130-year-old school.
The report cited students’ attitudes toward issues such as pornography, sex in the barracks and underage drinking as examples in which cadet behavior is incongruent with Coast Guard core values. In a schoolwide climate survey, 55 percent of cadets who responded — more than 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 students — said they don’t think viewing pornography is a disruption to good order and discipline; 73 percent said cadets “at least occasionally engage in sexual relations at Chase Hall,” while 34 percent said they don’t believe that underage drinking undercuts military order.

All these activities are prohibited on academy grounds.

Those familiar with the academy’s history say they are not surprised by the findings, which were released nearly 10 years to the day after then-commandant of cadets Capt. Bruce Stubbs was fired by the school’s superintendent for a number of reasons, including his attempts to improve military order and discipline at the school.

Then-superintendent Rear Adm. Paul Versaw said he dismissed Stubbs because he wasn’t a “team player.” But insiders say Stubbs and Versaw didn’t see eye to eye on Stubbs’ role as commandant and his efforts to instill a sense of military service in the student body.

Stubbs’ work was cited by the task force, but he declined to comment on its findings. Those familiar with his case and the academy say they see how leadership doctrine might get shortchanged in today’s collegiate environment.

The panel was formed following the court-martial of 1st Class Cadet Webster Smith on rape, extortion and sodomy charges. Smith, who is black, served five months in prison and has filed a discrimination complaint against the school and academy officials, saying he was charged for the same kinds of offenses that garnered administrative punishment for white students. The school has had other high-profile discipline problems in the past year, including a cheating scandal and the dismissal of three cadets for alcohol-related infractions.

11:48 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Bill OK'd to increase Blacks at Coast Guard Academy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The House voted overwhelmingly for a bill that includes a provision giving members of Congress a say over who is admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard's 1,000-cadet service academy in New London, Conn.

The measure — part of a multi-billion-dollar authorization bill that passed 385-11 on Friday — was sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who argues that congressional nominations are needed to help increase the number of Blacks enrolled at the CGA and graduate as commissioned officers.

The CGA is the only service academy that does not have congressional nominations and has no requirements for geographical distribution.

Four Blacks graduated in the spring. More recently, five Blacks were admitted for the Class of 2013. At present, its four classes include 25 Blacks.

5:00 PM  

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