Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Did the USCG Overplay its Political Hand?

Few things are as hamfisted as Flag Officers who think they have become part of the DC machine and manage to overplay their hand in a way obvious to everyone but themselves.

There is a thin line between getting in alignment with the CINC and being a sycophant. One should and must be in alignment with your CINC, but it takes close attention and a good staff to stay in your lane - as others will encourage you to drift out of your lane for their own political purposes.

The seduction is easy to fall for; from Casey to Hoss to Mullen and Roughead - we've all seen it in its eye-rolling counter-glory.

It is one thing for a GOFO to do it in a way that internalizes the frag pattern, but it can cause significant damage to the service as a whole when we see a leader fly too close to the sun while dragging their service with them.

Did the USCG do that recently? In the latest edition of Proceedings, CAPT Steven Vanderplas, USCG (Ret) outlines a good argument that it did;
Aligning an armed service with the domestic policies of the President requires a sensitive touch because getting too cozy with one administration can make it difficult to thrive under the next. With reports emerging that President Donald Trump is weighing significant budget cuts to the Coast Guard, it appears the service overplayed its support of President Barack Obama’s policies. To avoid painful cuts the Coast Guard must lose Obama administration-era vocabulary and develop a new rationale for its priorities.

It is understandable that Trump’s election surprised Coast Guard leaders. The service, however, should have realized more quickly the peril of being “all in” on Obama’s priorities in its budget and strategy documents.

For example, the number one priority for sustaining mission excellence in the Coast Guard’s 2017 budget fact sheet is “enhanc[ing] Coast Guard military justice capabilities, including the handling of sexual assault allegations.” The Coast Guard was obliged to implement the Obama administration’s policies on sexual assault, but it had no obligation to present its compliance as its most important mission performance initiative. This makes it harder to plead any readiness shortfalls, because all problems are, by the Coast Guard’s admission, less important than this issue. This is an unforced error.

Another unforced error was associating major acquisitions with partisan issues. The “Commandant’s Strategic Intent 2015-2019” and the “Implementation Plan for the U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Strategy” link new icebreakers and other polar capabilities to one side of the climate change debate—the side not supported by the new President. It was unnecessary to create this political liability because the need for polar capabilities is not contingent on climate change. It would have been more persuasive and less contentious to justify icebreakers in terms of increasing energy exploration, economic activity, and regional competition without predicting the presence of more, less, or the same amount of ice.
Read it all ... but yep'r.

Live by virtue signaling, die by it.

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