Admiral Allen’s Blue Tsunami

Art Pine has a look at the Admiral Thad Allen in the August issue of Proceedings, the journal of the U.S. Naval Institute. For those of us who have an interest in the Coast Guard and its future, it offers an insight into the current leader and where he plans on taking the service.

The Coast Guard’s dynamic, no-nonsense Commandant is roiling the waters at Headquarters off Buzzard Point. Can he succeed in steering the Coast Guard into the 21st century?

The Coast Guard is quietly undergoing its most dramatic restructuring since before World War II. Over the past two years, the nation’s oldest sea service has begun thoroughly revamping its basic headquarters structure and major field-level commands, redesigning its logistics and maintenance systems, streamlining its bureaucracy, and replacing its antiquated budgetary and financial processes. It has been modernizing its approach to writing doctrine and ensuring readiness. And it has been strengthening its traditional “surge” tactics for handling emergencies by establishing a new Deployable Operations Group that resembles the adaptive-force-package approach long used by other military services.

It is also expanding and solidifying its role?and influence?in the Department of Homeland Security, increasing its day-to-day involvement with other services, becoming visibly more active in international maritime security efforts, and slowly repairing its relations with Congress, which were damaged during the 2006-2007 Deepwater uproar.

Behind this gargantuan new effort is Admiral Thad W. Allen, the service’s 23rd Commandant, who assumed the post in May 2006 as a military superstar after bailing out the federal government’s foundering rescue and recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina, which decimated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

Although the Coast Guard emerged as the hero of the Katrina debacle?its personnel rescued 33,000 people who had been stranded or left homeless by the storms and flooding?Allen saw its performance as having “raised some red flags” that displayed some of the service’s weak points and vulnerabilities as well as its strengths. When he was tapped for the Commandant’s job five months later, he immediately began laying the groundwork for the restructuring. The government’s response to the next Katrina will be much more efficient and more effective, his supporters assert.

A short version of the article is available online or you can get a pdf copy of the article as printed in Proceedings. I recommend the pdf copy as it contains a lot of information not in the online version.

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