Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trouble, trouble, boil, and blunder

Somebody screwed the pooch. Once again, the Coast Guard has felt that all that political stuff was, well, beneath the service. Perhaps that's what we get for having no political appointees among ANY of our personnel; I wager we are the only agency in the federal government without a single politico.

Anyway, the NY Times is reporting that senior Coast Guard officials knew about severe structural flaws in a Deepwater asset, but withheld this information from Congress. The New York Times article is scathing, to say the least.
The Coast Guard withheld from Congress warnings raised more than two years ago by its chief engineer about structural design flaws in its new National Security Cutter, a $564 million ship now near completion in Mississippi, Democrats and Republicans said in interviews this week.

The lack of full disclosure about that and other problems in the Coast Guard’s $24 billion modernization effort, known as Deepwater, has created a credibility gap that some members of Congress say now jeopardizes the endeavor.

“The Coast Guard clearly does not understand that transparency and accountability are essential to a program of this magnitude,” said Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, the chairwoman of the Senate panel that oversees the service’s operations.

Ms. Snowe and other Congressional leaders said they were unaware until this past week that the Coast Guard’s chief engineer, Rear Adm. Erroll Brown, had written in March 2004 to the Coast Guard official in charge of the Deepwater program, Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman, to warn him that the design for the National Security Cutter had “significant flaws” and that construction should not begin until they were addressed.

“Importantly, several of these problems compromise the safety and viability of the hull, possibly resulting in structural failure,” said the letter, a copy of which was posted on The New York Times Web site last Saturday as part of reporting on the Deepwater project.
Now, the following is just one man's supposing...

I'm not surprised. Some senior officials have, in the past, played it fast and loose when it came to transparency. And, some senior operators have put current operations above fleet integrity. I remember a couple of years ago when one of the senior engineer flags "but sir'd" the Atlantic Area Commander when the Vice Admiral wanted to shift maintenance money to fund current operations.

That engineer, by the way, paid for his integrity by getting ditched in the flag continuation process.

Anyway, if there is one person who can bring transparency and who can set things straight, I put my money on Admiral Allen. The last sixty days have been, at least to this observer, something remarkable: an acknowledgment that the 123 refurbishment was a disaster and the replacement of the apparently ineffective superintendent of the Academy. Unprecedented, at least in my more-than-a-quarter-century memory.

A key, however, is for all the rest of the Coast Guard, those who have not previously bought off on the whole notion of transparency, to get behind THE BOSS and tow the line. This is a new mental model; this is a new paradigm. Frankly, this is a new way of doing business.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree. But I fear many of those working on the CG side of this Deepwater mess still haven't gotten transparency. The 123s are the only problem child within this acquisition and those at senior levels know it. Might be better if they give the COMDT the heads up now rather than see anothe NY Times article.