Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Coast Guard Example

Reading the CG blog I was alerted to the Naval Institute's Coast Guard Year in Review.  The smallest armed service with by far the smallest budget, the CG also has the most varied missions and provides a lot of bang for the buck if you will in regards to the services the public gets for their investment. One little tidbit that brightened my day was this:
The service also aggressively pursued Mayday hoax callers. In March 2010 a Holly Ridge, North   Carolina,  man agreed to pay $234,000 in restitution for costs associated with the Coast Guard District 5’s response to his hoax calls..
In another life I performed reserve duty at the First District command center, where I personally experienced how hoax mayday calls tie up resources and endanger lives.

It's funny that when I was in the guard didn't seem all the special and definitely taken for granted. Now that I've had the opportunity to compare it with other institutions my opinion of its abilities despite neglect has risen. The ability of the CG to get the job done despite limited resources was best demonstrated to the public during Katrina. The existence of such an agency gives lie to the quasi-religious axiom that "government can't do anything." The key is minimal bureaucracy, maximum flexibility and focus on operations and politics. Of course those very factors reduce the pork opportunities and voter awareness, the two things politicians pay attention to.

Ironically, the Coast Guard's failed attempt to revitalize its assets, known as the Deepwater Project, showed what happens when you outsource management (to Northrop Grumman in this case) of a government program with no oversight. One error in the 60 Minutes piece is that Deepwater began before 9/11 which goes to show the Clinton admin bought into the "privatization is best" mantra as much as the Republicans.

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