Friday, September 02, 2005

Trying to speak with one voice

As somebody noted -- perhaps it was in that glowing positive essay the Village Voice published earlier this week -- the Coast Guard is a decentralized agency. Sure, we are a military with chains of command and lines of communication and all that assorted organizational "stuff," but we are very decentralized... or at least we like to think we are... ;-)

Two examples: Yesterday on NPR I heard an interview with an official Coast Guard spokesperson. He was a petty officer. Show me another military service that would allow an E-4, E-5, or E-6 to serve as the official spokesperson for the entire service to a national news organization. I know; you're saying it was just radio and just NPR. Well, perhaps, but that's standard SOP. Here's a quote from a message -- about something other than Katrina, but it plays well here -- about this very thing:

MEMBERS MAY SPEAK ABOUT THEIR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, GENERAL
RESPONSIBILITIES, MILITARY SKILLS AND BASIC ROLES IN SUPPORT OF
OPERATIONS, BUT STAY WITHIN YOUR LANES OF KNOWLEDGE.


Free reign, baby, free reign.

Okay, and this is where I remind everyone that while I'm a Coastie, I do not blog in an official capacity and do not speak to represent the Service; see my disclaimer on the right.

Another example is who's in charge of our boats. All of our Coast Guard vessels less than 65 feet are "capn'd" by an enlisted member. Actually, the Coastie in charge of the boat is the coxswain. He's the man; or, she's the woman. But you get the picture. No "boat officer." No gold. Just a coxswain... who more than likely is some kid who's no older than 22 and grew up in Kansas.

Anyway, one of the problems with a decentralized organization is that often times the organization doesn't provide a unified voice.

Wednesday, our sector command center -- here in southeastern Virginia -- received a number of calls from citizens trying to get the Coast Guard to go to a specific address and rescue their relatives or friends. I found out about this at the end of the day when checking out with the controller to let him know I was headed home. ((Sidebar: Duty... means we're on the tether 24x7.)) Anyway, we're shooting the... well, you know... and he said he'd gotten these calls. I asked what he did with them.

"Forwarded them up to district. I didn't know what else to do." Well, good call, but not the right call...

So, know, here's guidance from on high; they want all Coasties to speak with one voice.

R 022018Z SEP 05 ZUI ASN-A00245000020
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
TO ALCOAST
BT
UNCLAS //N05230//
ALCOAST 438/05
COMDTNOTE 5230
SUBJ: GUIDANCE ON COAST GUARD INTERNET WEB POSTINGS AND HURRICANE
KATRINA
1. AS WORK CONTINUES IN THE RESCUE OPERATIONS AS A RESULT OF
HURRICANE KATRINA, IT IS VITAL THAT THE COAST GUARD PROVIDE A
UNIFIED VOICE. THEREFORE ALL UNITS WITH AN INTERNET SITE SHALL
POST THE FOLLOWING LINKS ON THEIR HOMEPAGE TO DIRECT THE PUBLIC
TO INFORMATION REGARDING HURRICANE KATRINA. NO OTHER LINKS ARE
AUTHORIZED. ALL INTERNET HOMEPAGES SHALL BE MODIFIED BY COB 6 SEP
2005. CHECK YOUR LINKS AFTER POSTING. YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED WHEN TO
REMOVE THESE LINKS.
A. FOR HURRICANE KATRINA SEARCH AND RESCUE - IN ORDER TO ASSIST
THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD IN HURRICANE KATRINA SEARCH AND
RESCUE EFFORTS, SUBMIT A MISSING/STRANDED PERSON REQUEST AT HOMEPORT
B. FOR HURRICANE KATRINA MEDIA - FOR NEWS ABOUT HURRICANE
KATRINA VISIT USCG STORM WATCH.
C. THE HURRICANE KATRINA OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT WEBSITE FOR PUBLIC
INFORMATION ON FINDING LOVED ONES, WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE A VICTIM,
HOW TO HELP VICTIMS, OR DISASTER CLEANUP AND AGENCY RESOURCES,
VISIT FIRSTGOV.GOV HERE.
2. INTERNET RELEASE IS AUTHORIZED.
3. MINIMIZE CONSIDERED. RELEASED BY RADM RONALD T. HEWITT,
ASSISTANT COMMANDANT FOR COMMAND, CONTROL, COMMUNICATIONS,
COMPUTERS, AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SENDS.
BT
NNNN


So, while I'm not an official site, and I'm not one to usually speak with the voice of someone else -- unless I happen to agree -- I'm still posting this...

The three sites provided are excellent sites to get information. My only beef is that the StormWatch site doesn't get new stuff added frequently enough.

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