The Business of Government Hour


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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Admiral Thad W. Allen interview

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 - 20:00
"I think the Coast Guard has got it right in our core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 10/03/2009
Intro text: 
Admiral Allen was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 20 best leaders in 2005 for its America's Best Leaders issue.In this radio show interview, Allen discusses the: History and mission of the U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Coast Guard's integration...

Admiral Allen was selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 20 best leaders in 2005 for its America's Best Leaders issue.

In this radio show interview, Allen discusses the: History and mission of the U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Coast Guard's integration into the Department of Homeland Security; National strategy for maritime security; Assessment of post-Katrina New Orleans; The future of the Coast Guard; and his Career in public service. 

Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 



United States Coast Guard

Speakers: Albert Morales, Courtney Bromley, Admiral Thad Allen

>> ALBERT MORALES: Welcome to another edition of The Business of Government Hour. I’m your host, Albert Morales. With more than 218 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.

Facing new challenges has required it to organize more efficiently and manages business practices more effectively. With us today to discuss the critical missions of the organization he leads is our very special guest, Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the United States Coast Guard.
Admiral, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure having you again.

>> THAD ALLEN: Thank you for having me.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Also joining our conversation is Courtney Bromley from IBM’s Public Sector Homeland Security Industry Team.

Courtney, welcome. Good to have you.


>> ALBERT MORALES: Admiral, before we get started, could you share some of the rich and proud history of the United States Coast Guard, especially now as you celebrate its 219th anniversary?

>> THAD ALLEN: I’d be happy to. In fact, we’re kind of a unique product of the American revolution. Shortly after the revolution was over the country was mired in debt, and when the new government was established after the Constitution was ratified in 1789, Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, found himself with a significant number of problems, huge debt, and not enough money to run the country.

The only revenue stream we had at that time were tariffs and duties being paid by goods that were being important into the country. And that was mostly British, and they weren’t paying, and they were smuggling.

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: So being a very practice man, Alexander Hamilton thought the best way to combat that would be to create a fleet of very small, fast ships with what they called swivel guns at the time. They could go into shallow waters and run down British smugglers. So on the 4th of August, 1790 -- and we celebrate that this month -- a law was passed by the Congress that authorized the construction of ten Coast Guard cutters. They were cutters at the time. There was no Coast Guard, ‘cause that wasn’t created ‘til 1915, and that really was the beginning of our service, and we take that as our birthday.

>> ALBERT MORALES: That’s an incredible story. So even from its beginnings, the Coast Guard has had a -- is a unique organization in both a military and a law enforcement mission. So with this type of a broad mission, how do you optimize the organization to fulfill these roles, and can you perhaps give us an example of your ever-expanding mission suite?

>> THAD ALLEN: Sure, and you’ve really hit on the basic operational essence, or I would call -- the organizational genius of the Coast Guard, although I didn’t create it. And that’s the fact that we have what we call a dual character. We are at all times a law enforcement organization and a military service. And that really stems back from the post-revolutionary period. We disbanded the continental Navy after the revolution, and we almost had a quasi war with France in the 1790s. Those cutters that were built were the only ships, naval warfare ships that the country had. The Navy was reestablished in the late 1790s.
So from our early customs duties and our role as a military service, that has evolved for over 200 years, and that is the basis that makes us so valuable to the country. We have a peace time mission that is enduring, and we can operate with the Navy in times of war, and, in fact, in World War I and World War II we were shifted to the Navy for those combat operations.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So given these various roles, can you give us some of the core facts about the organization, perhaps the scale of the operations today, how you have it organized, size, budget, number of personnel, your geographic and global footprint?

>> THAD ALLEN: We have almost 42,000 people in uniform. We have about 7,000 civilian employees. We have a little over 8,000 Reservists. And one of our well-kept secrets -- and I’d like to probably publicize a little more -- is our over 30,000 volunteers of the Coast auxiliary who donate their platforms and time to help us. That said we have a rather large mission set. We have 11 statutory missions.

And while we hear a lot about border security and it’s very important, I am not sure it’s really well understood that if you take the rivers that provide access to the interior of the country, the Great Lakes and the coast, including Alaska, we’re dealing with 95,000 miles of Coast line, of which you can gain access to the United States. So if you spread 42,000 people across 95,000 miles, that’s still pretty thin.
That said, I think we provide an extremely high value to the country for the size of our force, so we are a multi-mission organization. Instead of having five ships to do five things, we have one ship that can do five things. But inherent in that is a little bit of a risk management process ‘cause you can’t do five things at once.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: So admiral, within your specific responsibilities as the 23rd commandant of the Coast Guard, how does that relate and split your time between specific U.S. Coast guard responsibilities as well as the DHS mission?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I don’t think I would distinguish them. If you look at homeland security -- and the way I like to describe it is there are five domains that we have to protect to make this country safe, air, land, sea and space, and they’re all surrounded by what I would call cyberspace. And we have threats to our nation that move through those. We just happen to work in the maritime domain portion of that larger set that the department has to worry about.

So we’ve got the waterside portion of it, and it’s very, very important that we keep a balance between all of those domains because if you’re talking about threats to this country, whether it’s a terrorist attack or whether -- or germs, they don’t respect organizational boundaries, and there’s always a maritime slice to them.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: So as you look to transition within the responsibilities between the Coast Guard and DHS proper, what are the three top challenges that you’re seeing that your agency’s facing and that you face as its leader?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I think the challenges I face as one of the components in DHS are the same challenges that all the component leaders would face as you put together an organization like this. I think the first one is when we transition for us out of the Department of Transportation, it’s to make sure that you’re able to continue to do all your statutory responsibilities.

And the fact of the matter is we have a lot of mission requirements that are probably considered by most Americans to be outside the scope of what they would consider homeland security. For instance, ASA Navigation on the Mississippi River, breaking ice in New England in the winter, and providing access to polar areas with ice breakers -- not considered homeland security, but part of our mission set. So being able to sustain all the statutory responsibilities we have by -- while also being effective in a department -- focuses on security as a challenge.

The second one is bringing a lot of mature organizations into a new department and then starting to integrate how they work together. And the first part of that is operations. And so you have Customs and Border Protection. You have Coast Guard. You have Immigration and Customs Enforcement, creating a process where we have a one DHS approach, or a whole of department approach, how we work, I’d say would be the second, and the third is integrating -- and you guys are really well aware of this -- integrating all the backroom processes, human resources, financial management and so forth.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Certainly not an easy thing to do with an organization of that size, plus the 30,000 volunteers, which I didn’t know -- that’s almost about the same size as the organization.

>> THAD ALLEN: They’re a tremendous asset to us, Coast Guard auxiliary.

>> ALBERT MORALES: That’s great. Now, admiral, the Coast Guard obviously has a very strong reputation for leadership development. Could you give our listeners a sense of your career path and how the Coast Guard has helped you develop your leadership skills, but more importantly, how critical are the concepts of strategic intent and mission focus to your leadership approach?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I think my journey through the Coast Guard is not materially different than a lot of folks, and it’s indicative of how we raise our young and grow leaders. We try to give responsibility as early on in someone’s career as we can do that, and it doesn’t matter if you’re an officer or an enlisted person.

My first command in the Coast Guard was as a lieutenant junior grade in 1974 in a Loran transmitting station. That was an electronic transiting station. It was located 500 miles north of Bangkok in the Golden Triangle in Northern Thailand. We were providing navigational assistance for military operations in Southeast Asia.

I was in my early ‘20s, and I had 35 people working for me. You know, I was 500 miles from my nearest commander. That’s about as close as you can get to (laughter) complete autonomy. And it makes you make decisions about whether you’re going to follow or lead, what kind of leader you’re going to be. And I think we cultivate that in the Coast Guard.

And for an enlisted person, it would be no different. We have third class bosun mates and second class bosun mates as boat coxswains that are operating -- they’re not even 21 years old -- that are doing search and rescue cases out there that -- we put an immense amount of responsibility on their shoulders. So I think it’s engrained in our operational model to give people the opportunity to have those experiences early on, and it pays off benefits later.

Your second question about concepts of strategic intent and mission focus -- as I’ve evolved my own leadership style over the years, I’ve tried to move away from talking about specific strategies or plans, ‘cause the minute you write them down, especially if you put a date on them, they become shelf ware (laughter) and they have a half life to them. What I try and get my people to understand is what is it we’re trying to do.

And then every day when you go out, whether you’re conducting operations or making business decisions or investment decisions -- to act with strategic intent. And if you get everybody focused that way where they’re all acting in the same type of lanes, focusing on what the organization needs to do, you don’t have to really reduce it to paper, but it has to reflect commonly shared values and goals.

>> ALBERT MORALES: And is that a concept which is easily understood by your staff?

>> THAD ALLEN: It’s the one that I’ve been hawking since I became commandant.

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: When I became commandant in 2006, I laid out where I wanted the service to go. I didn’t tell them exactly how we needed to do it because, frankly, the details need to be sculpted by the people that have the responsibility if they’re going to have buy-in and be able to execute it. So I kind of said here’s where the organization needs to be and needs to go. You tell me the best way to do, and I may give you some course corrections, but frankly, the new, modernized Coast Guard that we’re building right now is being built by the people in the Coast Guard, and that’s the way it should be.

>> ALBERT MORALES: What about the Coast Guard’s modernization efforts? We will ask Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

Part B:

>> ALBERT MORALES: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I’m your host, Albert Morales, and with us today and in this segment discussing the Coast Guard’s modernization program is Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Also joining our conversation from IBM is Courtney Bramley.

Admiral, your effectiveness as a military multi-mission and maritime service depends in no small part on some of the idea ideas about the way you operate. Could you briefly outline for us the Coast Guard’s principles of operations?

>> THAD ALLEN: I’d be happy to. Actually, we have them codified.

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: We actually have a publication. We call it publication one, and it’s what we call our doctrinal pub, and it’s intended to be a summary of how we’ve evolved as a service with some of our history, but also how we operate. And I think there’s probably no better example of how we demonstrated our principles of operation probably than during Hurricane Katrina. One of the principles of operation is on scene initiative. And we expect people that have the capability and capacity to do something -- whatever the problem is. It could be search and rescue, law enforcement, or environmental response -- to apply everything they can on scene until they’ve exhausted all their means to do anything about it and then ask for more if they need it.

There are a couple other things that are involved in that too. We partner we stakeholders very well. And included in that is something we call the principle of restraint, and that goes clear back to the original tasking by Alexander Hamilton to the revenue officers that were created in 1790, and that’s understanding that when we’re working offshore boarding vessels we’re dealing with our fellow citizens, and they deserve to be treated with dignity.

And there was an admonition that he sent out to everybody to make sure that American citizens are always wary of government interference, and so we try and balance our need to conduct boardings into what we need to do out there with the fact that we are dealing with citizens and they do have rights. And so the principle of restraint’s very important to us.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So publication one -- there’s no doubt where that sits in the priority.

>> THAD ALLEN: That’s the reason it’s number one. Absolutely.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Now, the increase in maritime threats and the utilization of the maritime domain has required you to be more adaptive and responsive to threats and hazards. Could you give us an overview of some of the core areas of modernization, and what are the fundamental objectives of this modernization program?

>> THAD ALLEN: When I became commandant in 2006, actually, before that in the fall of 2005 when I was interviewed by Secretary Chertoff to be the commandant, I proposed to him that if he proposed to the president to nominate me for commandant that I was going to undertake some sweeping changes in the Coast Guard.

That ultimately has become known as modernization. I started out by outlawing transformation --

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: -- ‘cause I thought it was used too many places and I’m not sure I knew what it meant. But we finally through exclusion came up with the term modernization, and it involves a couple of things. It involves taking a look at our command and system and whether or not that’s effective enough to support mission execution. And then it looks at mission support, and these are the business processes to make sure that they are enabling mission execution.

And for many, many years we’ve wrestled with some very, very tough problems, both in command and control and in logistics and maintenance and mission support, and my goal was to put that all together in a comprehensive plan on how to reposition the Coast Guard so we’d be more flexible and agile moving into the 21st century. And also, to be capable of sensing more nuanced changes in mission demand and demands for our services, which I think we had lost a little bit after 9-11 with the focus on security. So it really is an effort to create a change-centric organization that’s more adaptable.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Admiral, it’s clear that your strength is in your historic culture and the character of the Coast Guard that has made it simper paratus, or always ready for the past 219 years. It would be interesting to know -- how have you leveraged the rich tradition and history of the Coast Guard to maximize the effectiveness of your modernization effort today?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, there have been many times in the history of the Coast Guard where we have adapted to change and made significant changes in reaction to our operating environment, our introduction to technology. And I think sometimes after a couple of generations we forget it. And as I told my people, sometimes we lose the courage to believe ourselves.

And I’ll give you a couple of examples. One was in the late 19th century when we had a fundamental decision to make basically to shift from sail to steam. New technology. It was not well understood. A lot of people weren’t in favor of it. We kind of pioneered shifting the patrols off this coast from sail to steam.
Probably the biggest game changer short of what’s happened in the last 20 or 30 years with information technology was the introduction of wireless telegraphy. A lot of people don’t realize it, but we were the first to use wireless ship to shore telegraphy in support of law enforcement operations, and that was done in the late 19th century up in Puget Sound against the opium in Chinese illegal migrant trade.
We know how to do this. We have to create an organization in the future that continually remembers it and doesn’t have to reinvent it and lose a generation.

>> ALBERT MORALES: That’s interesting. So you’ve always been at the forefront of some of the major industrial shifts in our country.

>> THAD ALLEN: We tend to organizationally get comfortable in laps. You know, what I’d like to do is create a Coast Guard where we continually remember that are continually sensing our environment and changing incrementally rather than gathering it all up into every ten or 15 years, have to do chainsaw surgery.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: So admiral, to that point, with most modernizations that have been successful, the reason they’ve been successful is because the success criteria has been defined up front and in the beginning so that people know which direction they’re going. What’s the definition of success for you with your modernization effort, and are you -- how are formally tracking that in terms of the organization’s performance and progress?

>> THAD ALLEN: That’s a great question. I kind of used a nautical metaphor when I became commandant. I proposed what I wanted to do to Secretary Chertoff. He understood that. I was nominated by the president and confirmed, and when I became commandant -- when a new commanding officer comes on board on ship, he usually issues what’s called a commander’s intent.

And so I kind of used that metaphor. I issued ten commandant intent action orders that cover everything from looking at our acquisition program and how we’re managing the Deep Water project to achieving a clean financial audit, to taking a look at our reserve program. And I issued those ten intent orders to establish the top-level goals or framework that we needed to drive towards.

That ultimately was transformed into four basic organizational changes we had to make in the Coast Guard, had to do with our command and control system, our mission support system, and how we organize a Coast Guard headquarters support to field. So all that has been laid out with goals and milestones, and we’re well on our way to achieving it.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: You mentioned Deep Water, commandant. For our listeners’ benefit, the Deep Water program is the effort to upgrade an overhaul the Coast Guard’s Deep Water sea and air vessels. And as we know, with any contract for complex products, they are risky for both buyers and sellers in the acquisition of those products, such as ships, planes, helicopters. They require very sophisticated contracting approaches.

To that end, are there key lessons learned from such a large, complex contracting effort as Deep Water?

>> THAD ALLEN: Oh, I think there are a number of lessons to be learned. If I could give a little bit of a historical context, in the early 1990s we understood right then that we were looking at block obsolescence of a number of our assets and platforms in about ten or 15 years. This has to do with the age of our cutters, the current state of technology of our sensors and communications equipment and the aircraft that we were operating.

After a lot of thought and knowing that we were working in a very constrained fiscal environment regarding new capital investment, we came up with the idea to use a systems integrator and purchase an operating system, as opposed to a specific platform. And the term we used at the time was system of systems. And we said if you’re going to operate more than 50 miles offshore, there’s going to be some kind of a mix of sensors, aircraft and surface craft. If we gave you the problem statement of what we had to do out there, what would you build, they didn’t presume a one-for-one platform replacement.
And to that end, we ordered a contract-integrated Coast Guard systems, which was basically a joint venture of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. I don’t believe the concept was bad. I think we failed a little bit in execution. In fact, we failed in some cases very badly in execution.

One of the things that I learned out of this -- and I was a -- I was on staff at the time -- was in making decisions -- was that if you’re going to have an integrated Coast Guard systems and a lead systems integrator to do that for you, you really have to have an integrated Coast Guard. You can’t have stovepipes.

And what we -- what happened was we weren’t able to interface with the contractor the way we should have and put the proper controls over -- and we are now changing that contract feel and kind of splitting it apart and becoming the lead systems integrator ourselves, which is in kind of keeping I think with the current political oversight we’re getting, and I don’t have any problem with that. And I think we’ve learned a lot from it, but a lot of the lessons from Deep Water are what I incorporated into those (indiscernible) and ten action orders are how I thought we needed to reorganize and modernize the Coast Guard.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So as a follow-up, how have these lessons informed your efforts to reorganize and reform the Coast Guard’s acquisition enterprise, and specifically, to what extent does the recent Sentinel project become a model for current and future Coast Guard acquisition programs?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I’m glad raised you the Sentinel contract award. That’s what we call our fast response cutter, which is going to be the place -- replacement for our patrol boats. Originally, under the Deep Water contract we were going to extend the life of our current patrol boat fleet in the -- some point by patrol boats in the future. That particular portion of extending the life of our patrol boat fleet did not work for some technical reason. We didn’t have performance out of the hulls, and actually, I terminated the program and laid the ships up.

That meant we had to accelerate the patrol boat replacement and do it rapidly, do it quickly, and do it correctly. We took the award of that contract back into the Coast Guard and basically assumed the role of the systems integrator ourselves and how that patrol boat would fit into the larger system. We recently awarded that contract, and it actually stood up underneath a protest to the general accounting office and actually a judicial review too, so we think we’ve got it right. We did it right. It was openly competed, and we’re in the process of building the first ships. So we think we’re moving on in the right direction.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Excellent. And when’s the first ship going to be put to sea?

>> THAD ALLEN: In about a year.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Oh, excellent. Good. Admiral, one of the persistent set of challenges across government has been the recruitment development and retention of highly qualified people in the workforce, and specifically in the acquisition area. How are you addressing these challenges, and what are some of the core strategies being employed to enhance your acquisition workforce?

>> THAD ALLEN: You’re hitting on a real key challenge and not just for the Coast Guard, but I think for the entire government. If you hear what’s been discussed with the new administration and the 2010 budget leading -- including the Quadrennial Defense Review and the 2011 budget. A lot of focus on how well acquisition systems are performing, what we’re doing about programs that have cost overruns and requirements that have not been checked. And a lot of that contributes to some of the earlier problems with Deep Water.

One of the things we had to do was basically change our human resource system related to our acquisition programs, and we’ve done that. And that includes a lot of things, first of all, includes just plain resourcing, putting enough people in there to do it, getting the people certified at the right program management levels, technical certification where you actually have acquisition professionals doing this. You’re not assigning people with good intentions and a lot of experience.

But retaining that workforce is very, very difficult because with the changes in the Department of Defense and elsewhere, everybody’s going after the same people in town. And you have the potential in some cases of having a bidding war for people. So you’ve got to do a couple things. First of all, you’re going to keep them if they have a good work environment and they have rewarding work, and I think we’re there with our acquisition directorate. The second thing is expediting some hiring authorities, and we’ve had some regulatory relief within the Department of Homeland Security that’s allowed us to do that.
But in the long run, I think what you have to do is have -- procure -- career progression, offer training opportunities, and make them feel they’re apart of a team. We’ve been successful in getting some very, very seasoned professionals that have been in the ship building community for quite awhile, and our Senior Executive Service in the Coast Guard in my view have been the major key to the turning around of our acquisition program and the maturation to the point where we can do things like the Sentinel contract award.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So do you see some of these lessons and practices extending to the other components within DHS?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I think across the acquisition programs -- I think you’re going to see it across government, ‘cause there’s a real premium being placed right now to bring a lot of contracting in-house, to take a look at the different acquisition programs and how well they’re being done.

But moreover, we’re seeing this across programs inside the Coast Guard. We’re having a similar issue right now with our Marine safety program where you really need technically qualified people to do ship inspections and make sure that ships and waterfront facilities and so forth are being operated properly. And we’ve -- developing a similar human resource plan to help us source that as well.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Great. How is the U.S. Coast Guard employing social networking tools to collaborate? We will ask Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

Part 3

>> ALBERT MORALES: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I’m your host, Albert Morales, and with us today and in this segment discussing the Coast Guard’s successful use of social networking tools is Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Also joining our conversation from IBM is Courtney Bramley.

Admiral, I understand you’ve been at the forefront of using Web 2.0 and social networking technologies to improve cooperation across government and to solicit greater public feedback on opportunities. Can you give us an overview of the Coast Guard’s social networking efforts, and how would you assess the organization’s use of these media tools?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I’ve been kind of following the evolution of both social networking theory and information technology for quite awhile, and a little over a year ago it became very apparent that our new digital natives were coming into the Coast Guard, were coming from a different social atmosphere, if you will. And I had a long talk with my staff, and we decided to start a series of -- I would say experiments that kind of took hold and became permanent operations.

A year ago -- April -- we actually set up a Facebook site for me just so I could experiment with what was going on. That became so popular that I needed an official face, not a personal face of the Coast Guard to do that. So we created an official commandant’s Facebook site where you sign on as a fan rather than a friend so we could manage that a little better.

The real breakthrough, though, came last fall when we completely changed the webpage where I’m representing -- they call it Commandant’s Corner, and we actually established a commandant’s blog called I-Commandant. And we’ve been up and operating on that, and we have well over 300 posts that have been made to that to date.

It is a way I can communicate with the general public and my own people on strategic issues while I’m traveling, trying to focus on things that are important, have guest people come in and post, and try and experiment myself and that prove to people that you can risk going out and doing that, and it really doesn’t kill you. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t much to the chagrin of some of my staff and probably my wife at the time, but --

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: -- we found out that it’s been a terrific way to expand the discussion, create more inclusiveness about what we’re doing, solicit stakeholder input, and move well beyond some of the traditional homepages that we had seen in the past. It’s still a work in progress. It’s still going to evolve.

But we’re very encouraged by where we’re at right now.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So you used the word risk. From your perspective, to what extend does -- these -- do these tools, such as a Facebook and/or a Twitter perhaps introduce new issues in terms of how they’re used or the policy implications of their use?

>> THAD ALLEN: Oh, there are a couple of different facets to that. One of them is when you have these tools, how does it apply to people in terms of ethics, what you can legally talk about, protecting personal information? And then there’s a separate issue related to information systems technology and security in how you want to protect your systems.

Regarding the former, in the Coast Guard we have generally had a policy in the past that -- where we’ve said if you know about it, you can talk about it. And that means that if you walk off of a small boat and you’re a coxswain, you just did a search and rescue case and somebody wants to interview, you’re good to do that. You’re not good to talk about the budget in Washington because --

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: -- you don’t know about that.


>> THAD ALLEN: And the same thing with all of our people. That’s pretty much the way we do a social media. There’s a couple of differences though. The Internet is forever. It’s like plastic. It doesn’t biodegrade. Once it’s there, it is there. And there’s a premium placed on anybody that gets on the Internet. The responsibility for validating the veracity of what you’re seeing lies with the reader. You really don’t know how this stuff gets on there. And so there’s a -- there’s some differences about how you deal with it.

We put out some guidance to our people. We have not stopped them from using social media. The only time they’re constrained about using social media are the business rules associated with it, and you can’t use, you know, personal names, identification and so forth. There are some operational security issues. There’s some things you can’t talk about.

The real issue in the Coast Guard right now, the one I hear about most, is they can’t to places like Facebook from their work stations at work. And the fact of the matter is we operate in the dot mil domain, not the dot gov or the dot com domain. And because of that, we have some significant security issues about malware being introduced into our operating networks. And so there are going to be some places where we’re never going to be able to sit at our computers and go directly to Facebook, but we can create ways to do that and still have -- people have access to that.

So the way I do it is -- you can find my content inside the dot mil domain, but we also roll that over and post it on Facebook so you can see it both places.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Interesting. So you really -- you’re not restraining its use at all. You’re actually embracing its use and putting some business rules around it.

>> THAD ALLEN: Business rules and then the whole issue of network security.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Now, along those lines, you’ve recently released your C4-IT strategic plan for 2009 to 2013. And it highlights a number of challenges. Included among them is increasing threats to networks and information. Could you tell us more about your efforts around cyber security and the protection of your network and information assets?

>> THAD ALLEN: Sure, I’d be happy to, and it kind of relates back to the earlier statement about social media and the ability to access those. We have a very efficient, well organized and well operated network operation for the Coast Guard, and we manage that ourselves. And again, it’s in the dot mil domain. Having said that, with the issues we have with cyber security right now, the entire Department of Defense is actually moving towards an integrated approach to cyber security, and we’ll be establishing a separate command to focus on cyber security under the U.S. Strategic Command.

We have to follow the lead because we are part of that organization, and that includes taking our points of presence on the Web and making those what we would call trusted Internet connections and also make sure that we’re providing a level of security that is commensurate with everybody else, ‘cause if you get in one place, then you’re in everywhere. And we are doing that as well.

That holds us probably to a higher standard than other folks that are working on the Internet, but it’s necessary to maintain the security of our systems, and we’re focused very much on that and aligning with -- this is one of those cases where we’re aligned with the Department of Defense because we are in the dot mil domain.


>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: Admiral, switching gears -- the Arctic region’s a prime example of the importance of the world’s oceans. Could you tell us more about the Coast Guard’s efforts in the Arctic region, and specifically, what value does the Coast Guard operating in that region bring to the country?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, we’ve traditionally operated in Arctic regions, but the requirement for our services is changing dramatically. The biggest change we’re seeing right now is the retreat of the ice in the summer -- is retreating further to the North Pole than it ever has in recent history. And in the winter it’ll freeze back down through the Bearing Straight, but we’re seeing more open water where there didn’t used to be, and there’s significant implications to that for the Coast Guard.

First of all, we have authorities and jurisdictions in the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone. To the extent that those are up there and no longer ice covered, any problem we would have down in the lower 48 we would have up there as well. And that includes things like managing fish stocks and enforcing fisheries laws, search and rescue, environmental response, law enforcement and so forth.
So the challenges we’ve seen in the last three years is a more expansive, open water up there in the summer and the need to be able to have some kind of a way to respond. And what we have done for the last two years -- and are doing it this year for the third year -- is moving helicopters, small boats and cutters up to the north slope of Alaska to provide not only a presence, but to start testing the capability of those platforms in that environment to see whether they’re the right ones.

And we’re finding out that what we’ve got that operates down in the lower latitudes isn’t necessarily what we need up there. So this is an ongoing process, and it’s also going to inform us about where we need to go with our ice breaker fleet. We operate three ice breakers for the United States. We are the only ones that operate them. Two of them are over 30 years old, and there’s a public policy question looming about what to do with the current status of those ice breakers or whether or not they should be replaced.

In addition, our ice breakers that operate up there are supporting scientific research that ultimately will be used to support claims on the continental shelf for oil and gas for the United States.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: So I understand, you just came back from a trip to that region with members of the administration. Could you tell us what you’ve learned?

Over the past three years we've been deploying units to the North Slope of Alaska and over into Nome to test the capabilities of our platforms, our aircraft and our small boats because we have open water up there in the summer and we also have our statutory responsibilities that we have to carry out.

This summer was a little unique in that we had an extraordinary opportunity on two accounts. I was able to engage members of the new administration and got on qualified interest in going up and learning more about the Arctic. And that was combined with the fact that the President in June signed a memorandum that created an interagency task force on ocean policy. And the two kind of came together as we planned our trip to the Arctic.

It actually came about when I had met Carol Browner at a social event in town and we started talking about the need to go to the North Slope. The people that went on the trip with me were Nancy Sutley is a chairman of the council on environmental quality; David Hayes, a Deputy Secretary of the Interior; Jay Reich who is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Commerce; Jane Lubchenco who's under Secretary of Commerce and administrator of NOAA; and Heather Zichal who's a Deputy Advisor to the President for energy and climate change. To be able to get those people in one aircraft, get them up there and have a concentrated week to be able to look at the implications of climate change and what's going on in the Arctic was an unprecedented opportunity.

Well we'd already known a couple of things from our prior deployments, about some of the limits of our operating assets up there. Helicopters that don't have deicing capability, small boats that are hard to launch and point barrel and things like that. This time we learned some new things and I think it was a very eye-opening experience for all of us.

Went out to some very small isolated villages in Alaska where we had been deploying them by helicopter and bringing in physicians, a dentist, veterinarians to take a look at some of the animals that were there, and the impacts of erosion on some of these coastal communities where they were previously protected by ice are now subject to large wave heights and wind-driven waves clear from the top of Siberia to Alaska to the point where it's threatening villages along the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: As we know, the Coast Guard must combat the potential threat of hostile watercraft coming close to the U.S. ports. How is the Coast Guard tackling these types of threats in securing our ports, and what technologies factor into this threat remediation?

>> THAD ALLEN: You’re talking about one of the really daunting challenges I’ve had as commandant. When I became commandant, I kind of told Secretary Chertoff at the time -- and I’ve told Secretary Napolitano as well -- we need to have a discussion about what constitutes an adequate maritime security regime for the country. We talk a lot about the land borders and we understand that. We talk about container security.
But if you take a look at the water-borne portion, we have immense amounts of coastline that are basically unsurveilled and are open, and how are even to tackle the problem? We’ve done it sequentially since 9-11 in a couple different ways. Prior to 9-11, if you were a commercial vessel calling on the United States, you had to give a 24-hour advance notice of arrival. That would allow us to take a look at the crew list, the cargo, vet it, and see if we needed to do anything like boarding offshore. Customs was doing that too.

Following 9-11, we created a requirement for a 96-hour advance notice of arrival, and simultaneously now the crew list, the cargo, the manifest, and all the information about the vessel and its cargo and crew have to be submitted and are screened between Coast Guard and Customs, and we can actually target vessels for boarding offshore if we think we need to do that.

The problem is this really only applies to vessels that are greater than 300 gross tons ‘cause that’s the cutoff for international regulation of shipping. And we’re talking about vessels that are somewhere -- anywhere between 65 to 75 feet in length. And they are governed under -- by the International Maritime Organization, which is a subset of the United Nations.

The challenge -- in my view, the biggest challenge we have right now is what to do with the vessels that don’t fall within that category. They’re required to carry transponders, tell us where they’re at, and give notice of arrival. And those are classic small boats, and they come in three categories: recreational boats; fishing vessels; and small, unexpected tow boats and work boats.

We’ve been having a conversation for the last two years with the American public about what to do about that, and this is probably one of the most vexing and complicated issues I’ve dealt with as commandant because these are communities that are not used to having regulations or constraints put on their operations, and this is a very, very fundamental issue for them freedom of movement on the water.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: So a follow-up, will you tell us more about your efforts to develop that comprehensive, small vessel safety aspect, and specifically, how does it factor in to your efforts at enhancing the Marine safety program?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, the discussion is how to create awareness of who’s operating in and around our waters, and then be able to sort and determine if there are any targets of interest out there that you want to deal with ‘cause they present a threat. If you look at the concentration of recreational vessels around let’s say the Port of Miami on a summer day, or even up in Great Lakes off the upper peninsula of Michigan, the challenge to understand what is out there, if there is a problem and deal with it, is fairly daunting.

And again, I talked earlier about the principle of restraint that goes clear back to Alexander Hamilton and respecting the rights of our citizens. So we’re trying to have a balance there. One way you can do that is talk about -- should you carry locator beacons? And there’s been significant resistance by these communities to doing that because it’s -- they feel it’s an invasion of their privacy and their autonomy on the water.

You will find other countries in the world that have carriage requirements for transponders, very much the same way we would for small aircraft, other parts of the world, but that is a very, very tough issue to talk with out recreational boating community about. But the other areas about -- other areas where you shouldn’t have small boats at all because there’s reason to recreate there.

And I think those are the conversations we need to have moving forward. I would tell you also there’s an enduring issue about the safe operation of recreational boats. We don’t have uniform licensing standard between states, and in some cases, there are no licenses required. And I think it would be very, very -- a good idea to have the same type of standards applied to all the states and territories about who can operate a boat and how they should be certified to operate a boat.

>> ALBERT MORALES: I would imagine there’s a cost component of this also in terms of -- when you talk about the locator beacons, that folks are resisting the incremental costs associated with that.

>> THAD ALLEN: The cost is raised, but I think ultimately, just like GPS receivers, which are now embedded in our phones and everything else, I think if there was a requirement -- develop a -- I don’t think cost would be an issue. I think the real issue is privacy, the ability to move on the water, and people want to go out and be by themselves on the water, and it’s a strongly held value in this country, and I understand that.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So earlier we talked a little bit about the modernization of the Deep Water vessels. We talked a little bit about the in-shore boats and the ice breakers. It’s been said that the Coast Guard has become over the years an aquatic holding company with many facilities dating back to the 1915s. What are your plans to evolve and transform the shore-based infrastructure and forces?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, that’s an interesting question, and the first time I ever heard aquatic holding company, what you obviously have found as well was -- a consulting company did a review of the Coast Guard on what to do with all the vessels we had after prohibition was lifted. (laughter) It was a fundamental transformation the Coast Guard had to go through ‘cause we had taken Old Navy to storage. We were doing everything to stop rum-runners, and all of a sudden there wasn’t a mission anymore.
The fact of the matter is no matter what needs to be done on the water, if it’s not defense related and it’s wet, we usually get it.


>> THAD ALLEN: And the issue is to create multi-mission capability that can be applied in different operating scenarios to produce mission effects for the country. And what we’ve tried to do is keep maximum flexibility in our operating assets. And as I said earlier, we like to have cutters, people, aircraft and sensors that can do more than one thing, that can be diverted to a new mission, should we need to do that, or a higher priority.

So we put a very high premium on designing in to our platforms no matter what they are. The capability would be used across a wide range of mission sets. And that is a hallmark not only of our ships and aircraft, but our people.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Switching gears a bit, but somewhat related to this topic of flexibility, how has the integration into DHS impacted the Coast Guard, and specifically, what have been some of the critical macro issues related to this integration? But I’d be more curious on -- how has the unique leadership style of the Coast Guard influenced the broader DHS?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I think it’s a really great question. When you talk about the Coast Guard and where we’ve been over the lifecycle of our organization, we’ve actually been in three departments. We were created in Treasury in 1790 and stayed there until 1967 when we moved to the Department of transportation and then moved from transportation to Homeland Security in 2003.

What we have found out in the course of our history -- and I can go -- you can go back and read this in the history books. We’re never a perfect match. If you took our mission set and put it in a VIN diagram -- and then our department -- there’s always -- there’s never going to be two concentric circles sitting on top of each other.

I believe, however, in homeland security is the closest fit we have found in the history of the organization to the bulk of what we do out there. But it has not been without some controversy. A lot of folks feel that the transportation related work that we do for the maritime transportation system, our marine safety mission, things we do to make sure that commerce moves in and out of this country somehow might not be addressed properly with a focus on security.

That’s the reason we recently instituted a marine safety improvement plan to take a look and make sure that we weren’t losing connection with our stakeholders, and we -- done a lot of work on that in the last couple of years. But I think one of the great benefits -- and I was actually asked this in a hearing a year or so ago. I was openly questioned by a member of Congress so what was so good about being in the Department of Homeland Security? And I looked -- I say up to my full height. I looked at him. I said, well, we get our budget on time.

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: Now, that may seem like a small thing, but in the past there’s been a political premium to be paid by not funding the Department of Defense, and Homeland Security has been there. And we have gotten our budget on time more often in the Department of Homeland Security than we have any time that I’ve been in the Coast Guard. So there is a benefit there.

I would say the other thing is I think we bring a lot to the table in terms of the maturity of our organization. I was asked after Hurricane Katrina at a hearing one time about FEMA, and what I say is FEMA is a better organization ‘cause they’re in a department with the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard is a better organization ‘cause they’re in the department with FEMA, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of synergy.

>> ALBERT MORALES: What does the future hold for the U.S. Coast Guard? We will ask Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

Part D

>> ALBERT MORALES: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I’m your host, Albert Morales, and with us today and in our final segment discussing the future of the Coast Guard is our very special guest, Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the United States Coast Guard. Also joining our conversation from IBM is Courtney Bramley.

Admiral, I’m sure collaboration is critical to the Coast Guard’s mission. So with this, how is the Coast Guard enhancing coordination and collaboration among the components of DHS and DOD and, in particular, with the U.S. Navy?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I can tell you unequivocally that there’s no finer partner in the world to operate with than Gary Roughead, the chief in Naval Operations. And I would tell you the same relation existed with Admiral Mike Mullen before he became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We’ve had an evolving relationship with the Navy for over 200 years, but I would tell you in the last ten or 15 years it has never been stronger.

A lot of it had to do with my predecessor, Admiral Jim Loy and Jay Johnson when he was the chief of Naval Operation coming up with something they call the national fleet concept, which -- when you look at the naval forces of the United States, you don’t look at a Navy and a Coast Guard and a Marine Corps. You look at all of them as a combined naval force. And so you need to look at high-end Coast Guard cutters and low-end combatants, and how does that all come together in a national fleet concept?

That has played out over the years. We have routine meetings with the Navy -- I mean, with Gary Roughead -- quite a bit, but we’ve actually expanded that now, and it’s not only Gary Roughead, but it’s General Jim Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, and we have -- actually have a -- three-way conversations. That culminated, at least on my watch, in the fall of 2007 at the International Seapower Symposium in Newport, Rhode Island where the three of us stood on a stage and rolled out a 21st century maritime strategy for the country that for the first time had all three signatures on it, and that was a first -- that was a precedent in the history of the United States.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So staying with this theme regarding your international partnerships, how does the Coast Guard bring unique value to this collaboration?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, in two ways. First of all, we’re in high demand from the geographical combatant commanders to assist them in what’s called theater security cooperation. And what I would say there is that when you get down below the ten or 15 largest countries in the world, most of those nations aren’t trying to project naval sea power. Most of those nations’ national security concerns -- at least in the maritime area -- have to do with fish stocks, illegal migration, drug smuggling, oil and offshore oil, gas exploration offshore.

Those all call for the requirements of a Coast Guard or a Coast Guard-like organization. I have never seen the relevancy of the Coast Guard or Coast Guard-like agencies hire globally than I do right now. And there’s a great demand for us to go out and work with nations that have emerging requirements to create Coast Guard-like functions.

The second issue would be -- we have over the years developed two very, very successful collaboration foray. One is the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum. The other one is the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum. The Pacific Forum is over ten years old. It includes the United States, Canada, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China. We recently hosted the -- a meeting last fall in San Francisco. It was our turn to host.

Through that foray, we collaborate multinational operations. I’ll give you a good example. Last year we actually seized a vessel that was illegally fishing in the Pacific, long gill nets that are basically outlawed internationally. That was accomplished by Japanese and Canadian aircraft patrolling, queuing up sightings, passing that to a U.S. Coast Guard cutter that had a Chinese ship rider on board that was empowered to enforce Chinese law that resulted in the detention of the ship and escorting it to China.

>> COURTNEY BRAMLEY: Admiral, I know you’re a proud graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy. Can you talk about how valuable you believe these service academies are in building the strong and competent future leaders that we have across the military services and their training to meet the challenges and threats of this ever-changing world?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, I think academies have a great role to play in all the services, and, in fact, we have a good collegial relationship. As you know, there’s a lot of rivalry between the service academies, but in general -- they were originally established, frankly, as engineering schools to produce engineers for the services. West Point was originally established to create Army engineers.

We draw a lot of talent in the engineering fields from our academies. Now, that said, I think we have a larger challenge today, and that’s the diversification of our officer corps. And when I talk about diversity, I’m talking about ethnic and gender, but I’m also talking about -- by backgrounds and accession points.
So we need the Coast Guard academy to produce people that have a strong background in engineering disciplines, but we also have an officer candidate school. We take direct commissions for lawyers and so forth. And we have some programs with universities where we take folks that are entering their sophomore year and we actually bring them into the Coast Guard as enlisted people, pay for the last two years of school, and then bring them into the Coast Guard.

What that creates overall is what we like to call cognitive diversity, and that’s a variety of viewpoints that can be brought to bear, increase fidelity and the robustness of what you’re trying to do as an officer corps. And the other part of it is the fact that we are trying very, very hard to increase the diversity at the Coast Guard Academy.

We are doing well at increasing minority representation. We’re doing very well with the representation of women, anywhere between 25 and 30 percent, any particular year there. But the under represented minorities at the Coast Guard Academy are a challenge for us right now, and we have taken that on as a significant cause, that we need to increase the number of minorities at the Coast Guard Academy.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Now, admiral, I understand that your four-year term expires in May of 2010. How would characterize the evolution of the Coast Guard and envision the Coast Guard over the next few years, and what would you like your legacy to be as you look beyond your tenure?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, it really relates to repositioning the service to be more flexible and agile in our current operating environment. And as I mentioned earlier, the modernization that we’re going through right now is not intended to achieve a specific goal, although there’s a set of objectives that has to do with maintenance and logistics, command and control, finance and so forth.

Those are only the work items at hand. What I’m really trying to do is create a change-centric organization that continually adapts to its environment.

And that really is a much more daunting task that what it would appear. You can go through a work list and complete it, but to take an organization, say we’re going to change how we think, how we act, how we interact with our environment, and fundamentally change our business processes is really what we’re doing right now.

If there was an enduring -- any legacy that I would like to have in the Coast Guard, it would be that we moved substantially towards creating a Coast Guard that was capable of sensing changes in demand signal and reacting to that and being proactive and out in front in not dealing with latent indicators that need us to realign our resources and do what this country needs us to do.

>> ALBERT MORALES: So admiral, you’ve enjoyed a long and distinguished career serving our country. What advice would you give to a person who’s out there perhaps thinking about a career in public service, but in particular, maybe a young person who may be interested in the Coast Guard?

>> THAD ALLEN: Well, for public service in the Coast Guard in particular, I think there are a couple of things. First of all, in public service you have to have a propensity to serve. That may sound like a trite statement, but you have to have an orientation where the satisfaction you’re going to get in life moves beyond just the salary, which is always going to be modest in public service, but extends to something where the psychic income you’re getting is because you’re attached to something that’s much larger than yourself.

That’s not to say you can’t do that in the private sector, but particularly in the Coast Guard it only takes one time reaching down to that hand that’s sticking out of the water and pulling that person onto a boat and you’re pretty much hooked at that point on our mission set, running the gamut from law enforcement to search and rescue and what we call all threats and all hazards.

The profile of our mission set added to a pre-disposition to -- for public service really, really is a significant draw. We’ve had a couple of really good years in recruiting. People really want to get in the Coast Guard ‘cause they understand this notion of public service and being connected to something larger than yourself, and then moving that into a maritime environment with a propensity to operate on the water and having a -- you know, a -- just liking to be on the water I think is very, very important. You put those two together, the Coast Guard makes a very, very, very attractive career.

I didn’t think I was going to stay in. I was going to do my five years and get out. I just kind of kept hanging around and you never know what’s going to happen.

>> (laughs)

>> THAD ALLEN: But -- well, you hang around because of the mission. And it doesn’t take too many of those successful search and rescue cases, and even the ones that don’t come out the way you want to -- when you talk to families that are putting so much on the line in hopes that you’ll be able to do something and create the art of possible where none exists for their family -- it doesn’t take too much of that to hook you.

>> ALBERT MORALES: Admiral, unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Courtney and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country over your 38-year career at the U.S. Coast Guard.

>> THAD ALLEN: Thank you. We were talking about social media earlier. If anybody wants to keep involved and understand what’s happening, there are two places you can do it. My blog is I-Commandant. If you just Google that, it’ll come up. And we also have a commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen, Facebook account that automatically feeds over through an RSS feed what’s on the blog. So we’re out there on the Web.

>> ALBERT MORALES: That’s great. Thank you. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. My co-host has been Courtney Bramley, leader within the IBM Public Sector Homeland Security Industry Team.

As you enjoy the rest of the day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad, who may not be able to hear this morning’s show on how we’re improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I’m Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.
* * * * *

Admiral Thad W. Allen interview
"I think the Coast Guard has got it right in our core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty."

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