The Business of Government Hour


About the show

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.

Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman interview

Friday, January 11th, 2002 - 20:00
Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman
Radio show date: 
Sat, 01/12/2002
Intro text: 
Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Arlington, Virginia

Monday, November 26, 2001

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the co-chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created the endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about the endowment by visiting us on the web at

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation today is with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, Program Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard's Deep Water program. Welcome, Admiral.

ADM. STILLMAN: It's great to be here with you.

MR. LAWRENCE: And joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Dave Abel. Welcome, Dave.

MR. ABEL: Thank you. Good morning.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, Pat, can you tell us about the Coast Guard's missions and its activities for our listeners?

ADM. STILLMAN: The Coast Guard is truly a maritime institution of this nation. If you had to describe it I think you could use three key terms. Certainly our essence is maritime, our character is military, and we unquestionably are multi-missioned in our focus. And by that I mean we use assets to perform multiple tasks to provide benefit to the taxpayer as well as the maritime community.

I think because of our complexity it's best to step back and just reflect upon the principal goals that we use to describe the contributions that we make to the maritime community. Maritime safety is perhaps the most common descriptor that is linked to the Coast Guard, search and rescue requirements, promoting maritime safety through marine safety offices, through marine inspection requirements to promote the safe and productive facilitation of commerce. That is very much at the heart and soul of the Coast Guard.

That's complemented by our role in terms of the guardian of America's maritime security and indeed the Coast Guard is responsible for the nation's maritime security. That is manifested through our efforts in the counter-drug arena, through our efforts in the alien migrant interdiction operations, through our efforts tied to homeland security and post-9/11 requirements as they are now defined and to be defined. Also fisheries protection, the Coast Guard is fundamentally involved in that and it's a key mandate upon our requirements.

You complement maritime security, maritime safety, with maritime mobility. We have regulatory responsibilities tied to the promotion of an effective marine transportation system. Once again we are involved in cooperative ventures in relationships with the private sector as far as promoting safety, as far as promoting the smooth and effective facilitation of commercial traffic in the maritime arena.

Also, as it pertains to maritime mobility we have an ice-breaking role, be it both domestic and international. The Nation�s icebreakers are run by the Coast Guard and that's a very demanding task, as one can well imagine.

In addition to those roles we also have a national defense role and unquestionably we provide support to the war-fighting CINCs, to the nation's defense needs in multiple venues be it through engagement international activities with maritime organizations throughout the world or be it through supporting of port security unit deployments as it pertains to incidents after the Cole or situations such as that.

So when you take these factors together, maritime security, maritime safety, maritime mobility, national defense, and complement that with the protection of natural resources, the fact that we're responsible for protecting the environment in the marine sector, oil pollution, hazardous materials, all that falls to the cognizance and the aegis of the Coast Guard. You've got a pretty broad plate and one that's rather demanding.

MR. LAWRENCE: Can you give us a sense, just quickly, of how big the Coast Guard is, in terms of the men and women involved?

ADM. STILLMAN: Sure. Well, we're the smallest we've been since the mid-'60s as far as size. Basically we're 35,000 active-duty individuals. We have 5,700 civilian employees, we have 8,000 reservists that complement that force, and then we have an auxiliary that is volunteer in nature that provides boating safety and contributions to multiple arenas as far as Coast Guard missions and they number a little less than 35,000.

MR. ABEL: The Coast Guard certainly has a multifaceted mission. We know that you recently initiated a recapitalization program called the Integrated Deep Water System program. Can you tell us a little bit about how Deep Water fits into this complex and multifaceted mission?

ADM. STILLMAN: Sure, Dave. It's very much I like to use the metaphor the center of gravity in the operational Coast Guard as far as our capabilities to perform services in these multiple missions that we discussed a moment ago. What we're trying to do is modernize and recapitalize our capability to truly serve the American public in these mission areas.

And it's very broad in its focus. It encompasses all our aviation assets, both fixed-wing as well as rotary wing aviation assets. We have about 200 aircraft that we operate and it will either modernize those aircraft or it will replace them.

In addition we operate almost 100 ships in the maritime environment that range in size from 110 feet in length to 378 feet in length and the Deep Water program encompasses the modernization or replacement of all those vessels. Now, those vessels are complemented by much smaller boats that people often see in the coastal community, if you will, the 47-foot motor life boat, the 41-foot utility boat, rigid-hull inflatables, Zodiacs, that provide coastal support and perform missions as far as the Coast Guard is concerned closer to shore.

But this Deep Water program, frankly, encompasses both the coastal arena as well as the offshore environment. Now, if you package those aircraft and ships together and then reconcile the fact that you have to have a command control, communications, computer, intelligence, and surveillance network that truly provides for a cohesive package you've got another fact of this Deep Water program.

We want to find the right technology and the right glue to bind these assets together so they're effective. And then you complement that with really a very important facet of the program and that is the logistics system necessary to truly ensure that these assets and individuals who operate them are capable of performing the mandates of the day, knowing full well that over time those mandates may change.

So we've taken what's called a system-of-systems approach and we've said we've got demanding requirements that define America's maritime needs. We've got a Coast Guard that needs to be modernized and recapitalized because our assets are aging and in many respects ineffective and our people and, I think, the public deserve the effective and efficient system that can best deliver services down the road.

So it's a big chunk, metaphorically speaking, that truly will honestly define the next Coast Guard in the twenty-first century in many respects.

MR. LAWRENCE: What's your role as the program executive officer?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, the program executive officer, to be honest with you, I'm the steward, if you will, of the undertaking. Unquestionably I'm responsible, accountable, for the overall performance of what we are required to deliver to the American public. So in that regard one has to stick to the knitting in that term as far as the basics and I'm responsible to ensure that the acquisition adheres to cost schedule and performance requirements as any acquisition would.

But in addition we're re-engineering the Coast Guard and by that I mean because of this system-of-systems approach we are probably going to have to change practices internal to the organization in terms of how we do business. Because of the mandates of change as the program executive officer I have to attend to that internally as well as the normal external demands that one finds with a large acquisition like this.

So to really answer your question I'm a manager, I'm a leader, but, most important, I'm a steward of the people that have committed their heart and soul to make this work. And I absolutely have to serve them in their best interests.

MR. ABEL: Let's take a step backwards for just a second and talk a little bit about you and your career and what brought you to the Coast Guard in the first place. Let's go back to your first days with the Coast Guard and what piqued your interest and what got you started.

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, you'd be pleased to know that I can even remember 34 years ago. Let me just say one thing before I give you a little summary of my career. I can tell you with no reservations the Coast Guard has done far more than I will ever do for it. I absolutely feel it's an institution of value and virtue and I was attracted to the Coast Guard because, well, I wanted to do good.

I really wanted to make a difference and because I was raised on the shores of Lake Erie I had an infatuation for the water. I read a lot of books about people that had taken ships to sea and in some way, shape, or form I think that captured my imagination and as a result I was afforded the opportunity by the good people at Coast Guard to go to the academy in New London, Connecticut, in 1968, graduate in '72, and ever since then I can tell you for the last 29 years it's been a true adventure.

And if I had to describe myself first and foremost I'd say I was a sailor. You know, I spent an awful lot of time at sea. I commanded three different types of ships, was the commanding officer of the square-rigged sailing vessel The Eagle, which is the tall ship that represents the United States the world over.

But in addition to those command responsibilities I worked my way through in terms of the requiem of learning that sailors must attend to, as far as junior assignments on other ships as well. That was complemented by the opportunity to do my graduate work in public administration and in political science and also contribute in the operational arena as far as planning and attending to many of the missions that the Coast Guard is responsible for. So in a way I'm a jack-of-all-trades but I guess I'm truly a sailor at heart.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's a good stopping point for a break. Rejoin us as we continue our conversation with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman of the Coast Guard. We'll explore the Deep Water program further. We'll find out why GAO described it as an innovative and aggressive program. We'll find out The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This morning's conversation is with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, Program Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard's Deep Water program.

Joining us is our conversation is another PWC partner, Dave Abel.

MR. ABEL: Pat, let's take a look at Deep Water in a little bit more depth. First of all, how was the program initiated and when did it start?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, it started back in actually early 1998 when the three industry teams were empowered to define what system best serves the needs of the Coast Guard over the course of the next 30 to 40 years and they were given an opportunity to do so. A restrictive document was issued as far as competition and those three teams were empowered to attend to this with the Coast Guard.

And for the past three years they have been working with the Coast Guard in terms of offering a system-of-systems approach that best serves the maritime needs in the nation and, as I said earlier, that system is very robust in terms of its definition, its ships, its aircraft, its C4ISR, the command control communications complement, as well as the logistics package that attends to that. It is a very ambitious undertaking, to say the least.

MR. ABEL: Is it possible to boil down the specific problem or concern that motivated the initiation of Deep Water? I mean, what's the driving thing within the Coast Guard that needs to be addressed by Deep Water?

ADM. STILLMAN: Sure, I think, generally speaking, the ships and the assets that we operate are getting old and long in the tooth and, quite frankly, they're highly manpower-intensive. And by that I mean old ships require a lot of people to operate and that's not necessarily cost-effective.

The average of the cutters that we hope to replace is 28 years. That's fairly long in the tooth in sailors' terms. In addition, if you do a comparison of naval services today the Coast Guard is 37th of 39 in terms of age of its inventory.

So it's time and it's time because we're seeing problems tied to our operation safety issues that truly have to be corrected. When systems begin to fail and put your people in jeopardy you have no choice. It's time to reinvest and we've begun to see that so we've taken, I think, a very innovative tact in terms of finding the right solution to attend to this replacement program and that's what the Deep Water program is all about.

MR. LAWRENCE: The General Accounting Office and others have described the acquisition strategy as one of the most innovative and aggressive ways to acquire new equipment over the long term. Could you explain to our listeners why this program is so innovative?

ADM. STILLMAN: I'd be happy to. I think the best way to describe it is that it's a performance-based acquisition and by that I mean industry was not provided the requirement to replace this particular ship with a replacement ship and this particular aircraft with a like aircraft or one that's similar, quite the contrary. Because the Coast Guard has been very devoted to outcome-based performance, because, quite frankly, we took the Government Performance and Results Act back in the early '90s and embraced it and truly found that strategic plans, business plans, and performance goals helped people in terms of serving the public we were able to integrate performance specifications into this acquisition.

What we did is we gave industry 66 specifications of performance for this system and said design the most cost-effective and operationally effective mixture of assets that truly will serve the American public's needs in the maritime environment over the course of the next 30 years. That is innovative and I think that the President's Management Plan has the right answer in terms of truly focusing on the need to link budgets with performance.

Well, quite frankly, that's what this acquisition does. It is performance based and because of that it is certainly considered innovative and I think potentially a benchmark for other people to look to.

MR. ABEL: One of the other things truly unique about this program is that it essentially asks the prime contractor to do all the work. What types of oversight are you planning to use to ensure accountability for the results?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, let me just recast your question a bit. I don't think there's any question that fundamental to the acquisition strategy is a prime integrator and that prime will be given a five-year, award-term contract to basically become a partner with the Coast Guard, if you will, in terms of beginning to build out this system.

Now, I should qualify and state that we were realists about this. We were hoping to get 300 million in fiscal year '02. We are hoping to get 500 million in '98 dollars every year thereafter until this system is built out. That's realistic because function 400, where the Coast Guard is funded is, well, I would describe it as a tough neighborhood, if you will, when you're competing and working with FAA and the other modes in transportation, particularly in light of the mandates post-9/11. Let's be realistic here.

We cannot recapitalize the Coast Guard immediately with a major amount of money. It has to be sequenced over time and we designed the acquisition strategy accordingly but that said, we will have a partnership with a prime integrator and that prime integrator will he held accountable for performance as well as the total ownership cost of the system.

What we did is we tried to simplify the issue in some respects as far as the pillars of the acquisition. We told the industry teams to design the most effective system based on our performance goals but we also told them we've passed the CFO audit, we know where we're spending our money, you have $996 million to start with in designing on an annual basis to cover the operational expenses tied to this system. That's what the Coast Guard spends today in terms of attending to the operational requirements of all these missions in the offshore arena.

So the prime is afforded the opportunity to work with those pillars, if you will, control and attend to total ownership costs while at the same time advancing the operational effectiveness of the Coast Guard. And so that will be a partnership and, honestly, it's got to be what I would call a contract, not management by contract solely but management by, honestly, relationship and partnership.

And because we're using performance-based requirements I think the objective realities can work in our favor in that regard.

MR. ABEL: So the performance of the prime contractor will be similar to the performance measurements that you're going to measure yourself against?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, what we've done is we've incentivized the prime. And in that respect we've developed a share in savings programs with respect to the request for proposals and the award term will basically have an award-fee concept that, frankly, incentivizes the prime's ability to reduce or control total ownership costs. They will make a profit depending on how much they're able to make inroads in that regard. And by the same token in terms of measuring our operational effectiveness they'll be afforded the opportunity to encourage and experience incentives in that regard as well.

So it's an innovative approach in that respect but, quite frankly, I think it's the right way to do business because what transpires is your cultures merge. The culture of the Coast Guard, the culture of the prime are going to merge together and we will be able to leverage the best practices of the private sector and, obviously, their agility to enhance our ability to do business.

MR. ABEL: Has it been difficult to be able to drive a culture of innovation within the Coast Guard as well as within the prime contractor?

ADM. STILLMAN: I would say that the honest answer to that question is yes and that as the program executive officer my responsibilities for partnership extend as much internally as externally. And by that I mean we will have to in many respects re-engineer the way we do business and that is not always embraced with expediency.

We, like any large organization, have habits and some of those habits are good. I would like to think most of them are but unquestionably when you begin to step back and say gee, should I contract out this logistics support requirement or do I do it in-house, when you begin to ask those kinds of questions, you've got to make some hard decisions and those decisions are not always easily arrived at.

So yes, the culture of the Coast Guard will be molded to a certain extent just as I hope the culture of government will be molded to a certain extent in that I'm convinced that this will be the right way to do business long-term.

MR. LAWRENCE: Tell us about some of the other lessons learned from the Deep Water acquisition.

ADM. STILLMAN: I think that there's the need to reconcile the fact, as I stated earlier, that if you want to embrace performance-based acquisition strategies you've got to reconcile the fact that simpler in many respects is better, that what you don't want is an RFP of 2,000 or 3,000 pages that is the epitome of management by contract. What you need is the ability to promote trust, communication, and partnership such that your private sector partner can truly embrace his or her responsibilities with objective reality.

The results have to be measurable, they have to be shared, and they can't be clouded. And that's where I think the lessons for me have come. You really have to embrace the fact that much of leadership is the art of simplification but when you work with the best in the private sector to truly improve the way the Coast Guard does business it's an empowering opportunity and one that I think is working.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, that's a good stopping point. Come back with us as we continue our conversation with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman of the US Coast Guard. We'll ask him how they manage contractors, other organizations in the diverse stakeholder group. Rejoin us as The Business of Government Hour continues. (Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and today's conversation is with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, Program Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard's Deep Water program. Joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Dave Abel.

MR. ABEL: Pat, let's spend a couple minutes talking about managing the Deep Water program.

ADM. STILLMAN: Okay, Dave, sure.

MR. ABEL: We know that Coast Guard is contracting with numerous organizations in the US and internationally to implement Deep Water. How are you going to manage the logistics of a massive multi-billion-dollar international program?

ADM. STILLMAN: That's an excellent question and, once again, I think it falls to three basic principles, performance, people, and partnership, and let me just briefly talk about partnership first because it was tied to the last question that we ended with earlier.

We're going to have a common office with the systems integrator. We're going to co-locate with the systems integrator in town here somewhere within 25 miles of Washington and we will work together in the same spaces to make this work. I'm convinced that co-location is absolutely essential in terms of assimilating cultures to truly make this a successful undertaking.

In addition, because it is so complex and because you have so many interests coming together you have to use what, well, the common lexicon is integrated product teams. Basically what you're talking about are teaming arrangements with the integrator and stakeholders, subcontractors, the prime, the Coast Guard, the Navy, perhaps other interested partners, where teams will be formed and will truly work together to solve problems as well as to attend to common systems, engineering requirements of cost, schedule, and performance.

That's the way ahead for us and that requires some stakeholders to let go to a certain extent because obviously cycle times in terms of decisions and requirements in terms of resolving complex problems are always not necessarily easy to attend to, so you really have to be forehanded and you have to anticipate and you have to be innovative. You're going to use what's called a common data environment where we will share everything with the integrator and the subs where appropriate so that people real-time know where the problems are and have an opportunity to contribute to the solution.

There are some acquisitions in government that have been successful in that regard. GAO has done some studies as far as integrated product teams and how they can contribute to these complex undertakings and I'm convinced that teaming arrangements are fundamental to success.

Let me also say that we will obviously have to draw upon the expertise of other circles of government. And by that I mean where it makes sense to do so as far as aviation assets we will work with NAVAIR to attend to technical and operational test requirements with respect to those assets.

And by the same token where it makes sense to do so we'll look to partner with NAVSEA, which is responsible for shipbuilding in the Navy and their contracting requirements. I'm not in the business of manufacturing overhead. I'm in the business of trying to do this in the most efficient and effective way possible.

MR. ABEL: One of the things that you mentioned as a significant challenge was stakeholders. In the first segment you talked about the Coast Guard's mission being involved in maritime safety, law enforcement, environmental protection, national defense. With such a broad scope of work for the Coast Guard who do you consider to be your stakeholders?

ADM. STILLMAN: That's a great question and in reality, honestly, the answer's found in public administration and the multi-mission nature of the Coast Guard. I have both external and internal stakeholders.

Externally I'm committed to two facets, one, the American public. We are working to bring value to the table as far as the American public's concerned in the maritime arena. And if we can't do that then we ought to be fired. How do you measure value? Through efficiency and effectiveness. Performance-based results matter in that regard.

And by the same token I've got a keen obligation to the practitioner of the Coast Guard and by that I mean the young man and woman who flies the aircraft or takes the ship to sea or sits in that operation center for long hours and serves the American public. I have an obligation to equip them with the best possible equipment to empower them to do their jobs effectively.

But then internally, within the Coast Guard, I have an obligation to serve the engineers, to serve the IT experts, to serve the multiple facets that comprise the structure and processes of the Coast Guard such that we are making progress as far as improving the organization and being innovative in the process. And then, of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Department of Transportation, which has been extremely supportive of this undertaking and truly has embraced, I think, the Government Performance Results Act and the need for strategic plans and the absolute necessity for performance-based acquisitions. Secretary Maneta and Mike Jackson, the deputy secretary, have been absolute leaders in terms of promoting this type of business methodology.

But you've got to look to Congress and GAO and the DOT IG. All those are stakeholders and I think leaders simplify. My dictum is you've got to live in the light. We are here to hide nothing. If we make mistakes then we ought to share those mistakes and you learn from them. But the last thing I want to do is re-baseline every year. So I need to hit home runs early, often, and ensure that success in carrying the mail metaphorically is what marks this acquisition from the start and join GAO and others as far as a learning experience that truly all from government can benefit from.

MR. LAWRENCE: As part of the effort to deliver value you've chose to contract out some services and I think if we imagine the President's management agenda going forward more of that might be done. And yet some agencies are reluctant to do that, I think, and so, given your experiences, what lessons learned would you share with them about dealing with contractors in contracting out services?

ADM. STILLMAN: Sure. Well, it's not an easy issue and it's particularly complex in an organization like the Coast Guard because you have personnel systems that obviously are woven and interlocked with the delivery of services. So if you decide to contract out, let's say, a major facet of the organization, for example, food service, if you will, the cooks, you've got to keep in mind that you have ships that take to sea and those are manned by military individuals and those individuals have to have billets ashore to rotate to after they've served their two or three years on board a ship.

So it's really a complex undertaking to try to resolve what areas you truly can do this with or where you should do it. I think that the acquisition strategy for Deep Water promotes a fair assessment of those issues and I don't think that there's any question that you will see the integration of technology, innovative ways of attending to the missions that define the Coast Guard.

For example, unmanned aerial vehicles, there is no question in my mind that long-term that is probably a very, very appropriate way to surveil the maritime arena and to do so with a cost-effective foundation. Now, there is nothing that says the Coast Guard has to own those unmanned aerial vehicles. Quite the contrary, I think that power by the hour, and by that I mean basically paying a private provider for the services, the data that that asset or multiple assets can bring to the table, is a good way potentially to attend to the overall cost of systems.

And by the same token as it pertains to, for example, logistics support for these Deep Water assets will we have all the maintenance provided by Coast Guard personnel? Or would it make sense in some circumstances to contract out some of that maintenance to subcontractors such that you can give people (a) more time off in port and (b) provide for greater expertise, perhaps, over a longer continuum as it pertains to having to retrain people and all the facets of providing for a stable work force.

So all those issues will come into play as you balance the total ownership cost of the undertaking with the need to be effective operationally.

MR. LAWRENCE: Let me dig a little bit deeper because you mention cost savings only in the last answer just a little bit so I'm curious. It used to be when you looked towards contracting out everyone said that were there were tremendous cost savings to be had and yet you've mentioned it seldom but you've talked about expertise and services. So I'm wondering is the dialogue changing now as to how people thing about contracting?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, I think that there are some services that are inherently governmental and there are some services that, quite frankly, a partnership is probably most appropriate with respect to

the public/private sector. I don't think that the issue is necessarily easy to truly define at the very roots.

It takes a lot of forethought and insight on the part of not only the organization that's looking to contract services but also the provider. I think it's often familiar for us to say well, we can easily contract out the simple provision of services, the running of a base, but unquestionably you have to be attuned to just what the impact of that contracting may have upon the overall personnel processes of the organization, particularly with respect to military organizations, as well as how you may have to assimilate that contract within the construct of your training and education systems.

It's a really complex undertaking but one that I think you have to kick the tires on constantly to find the best way ahead and you can't be adverse to doing so.

MR. LAWRENCE: That's a good stopping point. Come back with us when we continue our conversation on the Deep Water program with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman. We'll ask him to look out to the future and share his vision of the program and the Coast Guard. This is The Business of Government Hour. (Intermission)

MR. LAWRENCE: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, Program Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard's Deep Water program. And joining us in our conversation is another PWC partner, Dave Abel.

MR. ABEL: Well, Pat, the Deep Water program is a two-decade-long initiative. I think you've even mentioned 30 to 40 years. And I have a sense you're not going to be around for all of it based on how you described your career. So I'm wondering if you could tell us where you are today and what the goals are for the next couple of years.

ADM. STILLMAN: Generally speaking we're evaluating the industry proposals and we look for an award in the third quarter of the present fiscal year, fiscal year '02. Source-selection teams are evaluating some key areas. One is the system's ability to attend to the operational effectiveness of the Coast Guard. They're also evaluating the total ownership cost of the industry solution. So those key areas are being assessed and we hope to announce an award during the latter part of the third quarter.

Thereafter basically you have the opportunity to join with the systems integrator, the prime, and develop that partnership that is essential to making this work long-term. We will agree upon performance plans, we will agree on management plans, we will agree on the whole litany of issues tied to truly doing this together such that it's a workable and productive undertaking. So the hope is to absolutely hit the decks running metaphorically, as a sailor would say.

That is exciting in many respects and, of course, it's humbling for me to think that well, indeed, it may take up to 28 years to build out this entire system depending on how much money we're appropriated every year. Sustainability is a key point of focus for this particular undertaking and when you think about that in terms of the longevity of the undertaking you've absolutely got to integrate good habits that endure.

And those habits, I think, come as no surprise. It's going to be found in measuring performance constructively and embracing the private sector such that you absolutely share an avid desire to make improvements in that regard. So I'm optimistic about it. I think it's the right way to do business.

MR. ABEL: In one of our earlier segments you mentioned one of the critical success factors for this program for the Coast Guard overall is the capability of the contractor's work force and of your work force as well. And we've heard a lot about the coming government retirement wave and the expected impact on federal agencies. What kind of challenges does this present to the Coast Guard and what type of solutions are you considering as far as addressing the retirement wave?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, I think that the challenge is absolutely inescapable and I think Mr. Walker has articulated it very carefully. I think the human crisis in government is tied to human capital and it's very much a concern of this program as every other acquisition program in government.

When you step back and reflect upon the fact that conceivably over 50 percent of your work force may be leaving over the course of the next five years obviously expertise and acumen are very valuable commodities. We're looking at new or innovative practices to keep the work force intact, part-time employment options. I'm optimistic that working with a systems integrator long-term will in part compensate to a certain extent for the technical requirements tied to this undertaking.

Unquestionably I hope to author what I call a learning organization such that people will feel that this is a great place to work. And if you can manufacture and mold that environment then attrition may not be a disabler. I think that absolutely that's a critical facet of this undertaking. You've got to encourage an environment and provide people with the opportunity to embrace innovation and be satisfied.

MR. ABEL: That drive to embrace innovation

and to attract new people, how is that going in relation to being able to bring in technology-savvy folks? You mentioned people being attracted to the contractor but to the Coast Guard as well and it seems to be a problem across a number of federal organizations and within the Department of Defense as well.

ADM. STILLMAN: That's a great observation and a good question. Paul Light's book, The True Size of Government, I mean, the reality is that contracting for technical services in many respects is a state of art today. And unquestionably if you can't find the technical expertise in-house there are contractors that hopefully can provide that expertise. That's just one facet of the undertaking.

In the Coast Guard we've stepped back and reconciled the fact that, honestly, we have to re-engineer our processes and structure tied to our work force. We call it Future Force 21, where we're really stepping back and absolutely taking our processes to parade rest metaphorically to find out if in fact we have to change the way we do business as far as the long-term requirements of the organization.

For example, the military's always been hierarchical in its structure and you've never had lateral entry opportunities in the uniformed service. Perhaps you should consider that. Now, in certain specialties we do. For example, lawyers are afforded the opportunity to enter the service as lieutenants. Perhaps we need to expand those opportunities across technical grades.

You could say that if you're going to partner with a systems integrator for an extensive period of time perhaps you could arrange a program where individuals in the Coast Guard could actually go and work for the private sector for a period of time and then come back to the Coast Guard. There's a number of, I think, best practices in that regard that you find in government as far as giving people the opportunity to truly test the water on the other side of the fence. I think those kinds of things are very much part and parcel to how we'll have to do business long-term.

I also think technology will help to a certain extent. By that I mean in terms of trouble-shooting electronic systems. In many respects those systems are becoming mature enough where actually they'll do some trouble-shooting for you and tell you exactly what the problem is and when you begin to use open systems, architecture and modularity, and you take black-box replacement concept, you're not going to be in there soldering. You're going to remove components and replace with like components. It perhaps makes for a little bit easier lift long-term.

But make no mistake about it. The technical requirements tied to taking ships and aircraft to sea aren't getting any easier. They're far more complex.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, let me ask you to put your future hat on and what do you see for the Coast Guard in the future over the next ten years? What's your vision?

ADM. STILLMAN: I think the vision is that we absolutely will continue to embrace innovation in transforming ourselves to serve the needs of the American maritime public. I don't think there's any question that post-9/11 homeland security requirements as they are manifested in the maritime arena will challenge the Coast Guard yet, that said, I think Alexander Hamilton had it right and that the Coast Guard was aptly named over two centuries ago.

Hamilton said that the people that attend to the business of the Coast Guard have to do so with prudence, with good temper, and with moderation. And those were the values that he ascribed to the individuals who chose to wear the uniform. Today we say that our core values are duty, honor, and respect and respect for everyone that works internal to the organization as well as the stakeholder who receives our services.

So we will integrate technology to the maximum extent possible. I think we will be avid in attempting to find ways to do business better. I don't envision that we're going to be growing leaps and bounds notwithstanding the fact that the homeland security requirements on the nation obviously are going to manifest a more active Coast Guard in many circles.

I think that it's safe to say that this Deep Water enterprise is absolutely fundamental to that as far as giving people the assets and the common operating pictures and data necessary to make good decisions. So it will be a Coast Guard that, frankly, continues to be multi-mission, that probably works even to a greater degree with the Navy as far as homeland security issues as well as the inner agency.

I do think that obviously customs, border patrol, INS, the Coast Guard, DOD, FBI, the whole litany of inter-agency contributors truly have an opportunity to step up to the plate here.

MR. LAWRENCE: And my last question is what advice would you give to a young person who's interested in joining the Coast Guard?

ADM. STILLMAN: Well, I'd say: "do it!" I would say absolutely do it because you get to embrace the world's greatest teacher and that is the sea. And I'll tell you why I say that. The sea is the Good Lord's most magnificent gift. It's a metaphor fit for every occasion. It is it's a solace and it's a thief. And by that I mean it can be as comforting and as placid and as beautiful as anyone could envision and yet a few hours later it could be a thief that turns your courage to water.

So you truly develop a profound sense of humility by embracing the Good Lord's teacher out there and I can't think of a better way for any individual to mold their sense of character and their aspirations. And for me, I stuck with it longer than I originally envisioned but hey, four years, however many years, I think it's a great way to embrace the fruits of life.

MR. LAWRENCE: Well, I'm afraid we're out of time. Dave and I want to thank you for spending this time with us.

ADM. STILLMAN: You're welcome.

MR. LAWRENCE: This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman, Program Executive Officer of the US Coast Guard's Deep Water program.

Be sure and visit us on the Web at There you can find out more about our programs and research. You can also get a transcript of today's very interesting conversation. Once again, that's

This is Paul Lawrence. See you next week.

Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman interview
Rear Admiral Patrick Stillman

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