Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Petty politics and a view from the outside in

In my earlier post, I didn't mention that the Commandant was at the EXPO today. He spoke this morning; I think the reason I didn't mention it was that it was the same ol' thing & he read the speech that some HQ staffer wrote for him. The Chief of Staff, however, spoke off-the-cuff about stuff that's actually important.

When the Commandant finished his speech, he stepped off the stage and was met by his aide, a Lieutenant Commander, who whispered in his ear. The next thing I know, the Commandant is striding out of the hall while Vice Admiral Allen is being introduced. And, when the Commandant strides out, so does his "entourage." His aide. A few senior officers. A couple of Coast Guard special agents in dark suits. I figured something had urgently come up and he had to beat out of the hall to take care of some burning issue.

I was told, this evening, that I was wrong. Seems the Commandant isn't too fond of the Chief of Staff and wasn't going to hang around and listen to his talk. That simple.

Too bad. Perhaps the Old Man might have picked up a thing or two.

A year from now we'll know who the next Commandant is going to be. This one is generating a great deal of discussion. As one flag's aide told me today, "Everybody wants to talk with me about it and give me their opinion. Suddenly people think I need to be included in the calling of the race."

And, quite a race it is going to be. The favorites are Vice Admiral Allen, current Chief of Staff, and Vice Admiral Crea, the current Commander of Atlantic Area.

Quite a horse race... why? Well, aside from what I've already alluded to (the current Commandant, or so the scuttle goes, doesn't particularly like Allen), selecting Vice Admiral Crea would be another first for the Coast Guard. We were the first military service to have women at our academy; the first service to open all ratings to women; the first service to have a woman command a ship of war; the first service... And we'd be the first service to have a woman as the Service Chief.

Now, I'm not saying Crea isn't qualified. Not at all. But, Allen, well, the man is damn smart and knows a thing or two about leadership and management and organizational change and politics. He can stand up in front of a thousand-plus people and talk, intelligently, off-the-cuff about strategic issues. He did it today. Crea can talk too, but not to the same level & degree. Four years in the Chief of Staff's chair would make her the perfect candidate.

In the mean time, I'm stuck with the image of the Commandant making a beeline out of the hall, his entourage following in his wake.

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