With more than 220 years of service to the nation, the U.S. Coast Guard is a military, multi-mission maritime organization that safeguards the U.S. economic and security interests. From the oil platforms of the northern Arabian Gulf to the interior rivers, to an increasingly open and accessible Arctic, the Coast Guard ensures the safety, security, and stewardship of our maritime domain.
Demand for the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities has never been higher. Facing new challenges has required it to organize more efficiently and manage operations more effectively. What is the U.S. Coast Guard strategic direction? How will steadying the service make the U.S. Coast Guard ready for today and prepared for tomorrow? Admiral Robert Papp, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, joined me on The Business of Government Hour to explore these questions and so much more.
On the History and Evolving Mission of the U.S. Coast Guard
“I like to describe the Coast Guard as a series of mergers and friendly takeovers over a course of two centuries,” declares Admiral Papp.
On the Importance of Steadying the Service
“It’s not just the ships and the aircraft, it’s also the people. We’d been through 10 years of rapid growth since 9/11 with increasing responsibilities. In addition to increasing responsibilities, both my predecessors had embarked upon major structural reorganization within the Coast Guard,” admits Admiral Papp.
On Leading the Nation’s Maritime Engagement in the Arctic
“We’ve operated in the Arctic before, primarily with icebreakers and doing research. There’s been an absence of human activity year-round in the Arctic, but that’s changing now,” explains Admiral Papp.
On Being a Sailor and Leader
"There are many people that make a lot of money writing fancy books talking about leadership theory. To me it’s all seemed very simple. You’re given a job and you’ve got to get a job done. Every leader should have clearly defined responsibilities, the authority to carry out the job, and then be held accountable. When I joined the Coast Guard all I wanted to do was to go to sea and be a ship captain. I was fortunate to be able to get that opportunity for a major segment of my career. It formed my view of life and how things worked because when you’re on a ship if you’re a captain, you quickly realize you can’t get the job done by yourself. You’ve got to work through your officers. You need to make sure they are all aligned with your philosophy, goals, and objectives, and then use them to manage the crew and your resources to get the job done—[leading] is working through others. Recently, I was sent an essay on leadership with all kinds of fancy diagrams. I sent it back and said you have to simplify it. I couldn’t understand it, yet I can understand simple concepts like authority, responsibility, and accountability. I don’t think it has to be more complicated."