Monday, May 21, 2007

Deepwater on 60 Minutes

Originally uploaded by Tidewater Muse.
I'd heard there'd be a segment on CBS's 60 Minutes.

I missed it, and then last night I received a an email with the subject line "60 Minutes." The email, from my brother, AAS, BS, MA, MLS, JD, and PhD (ABD) was simple and to the point, "My unsolicited advice to you is to resist all temptations to post any commentary on THAT."

Oh, come now, Phil. We know this is one I can't resist.


The Deepwater segment on CBS

While I didn't actually see the 60 Minutes segment, I did get a chance to read the article posted to the 60 Minutes website. I'm not sure there's truly any new ground here.

There were a couple of tidbits which, I'm sure, made for good television.
One of the first people to send up a warning flare about the contract was Captain Kevin Jarvis, who, until his retirement last fall, commanded of the Coast Guard’s Engineering and Logistics Center.

“People have told us, ‘Look, the people that were supposedly managing the contractors were, in many cases, the contractors themselves.’ The same companies. Correct?” Kroft asks.

“Correct. Correct. People say that this is like the fox watching the henhouse. And it's worse than that,” Capt. Jarvis says. “It's where the government asked the fox to develop the security system for the henhouse. Then told 'em, ‘You're gonna do it. You know, by the way, we'll give you the security code to the system and we'll tell you when we're on vacation.’ It was, in my opinion, it was that bad. And that's why we have some of the problems we have.”
While I've never met Captain Jarvis, I know his opinion is not unique. Hey, even I agree, and I've said it before. But there's no new news here.

What is news, however, is that there's a new sheriff in town, a sheriff who had zippo to do with Deepwater before assuming command.

Admiral Allen's Response

In the final 60 Minutes dig, they noted
Late last week, after our story had been completed, the coast guard finally offered to make Commandant Thad Allen available, but only for a live unedited interview, which we declined to do. In a separate letter the Commandant said he has changed the course of Deepwater, and that the program is turning around.
My suspicion is that Admiral Allen has always been available... for a live interview. Admiral Allen's no dummy; he knows that in a live interview he can provide his perspective unedited with no television shenanigans as we are likely to see in an edited production.

How do I know this? Because Admiral Allen went live this weekend on CNN to address the Deepwater issue. The man knows how to handle questions.

And, even more amazingly, he's not spinning, at least as I see it. Sure, he's providing his perspective, but he's admitting that the Coast Guard messed up, and he's going to set things right.

You can find a copy of Admiral Allen's letter to Mr. Kroft of 60 Minutes here. In it, Admiral Allen writes about the way ahead, and he offers to appear live on 60 Minutes, not that they'd actually take him up on the offer as it doesn't really meet their format... and they lose control.

No one held accountable

On Sunday, Maria Recio in the Seattle Times, wrote about the Deepwater project. In it, Ms. Recio interviewed Representative Gene Taylor of the House of Representatives. Representative Taylor is a Democrat from Mississippi's Fourth Congressional District and a former Coastie.
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., calls the failed 110-foot conversion program "the poster child" of what's wrong with Deepwater.

"They stopped after ruining eight boats," said Taylor, a former Coast Guard reservist who commanded patrol boats. "What angers me is we have eight ruined boats, $100 million spent and no one is held accountable. No one has been demoted."
No one held accountable. No one demoted. Well, that's simple: everyone who made the decisions which ultimately led us here have already left the service.

I remember a number of years ago when the Coast Guard started the Frontier series of operations in the Caribbean. As with most of these things, there wasn't really enough money to fund the operation, so the-then Atlantic Area Commander and his Chief of Staff saw a huge pot of money they could tap into: naval maintenance money. The thing about tapping into maintenance money is that deferred maintenance leads to one thing and one thing only: disrepair. But it takes years for the ramifications to show up, and when they do, the people who made the initial decisions have moved on and, in most cases, retired.

The same thing is at the root of the Deepwater debacle. Decisions which brought us to where we are today were made by people who are no longer with the Coast Guard. And, while they made the decisions in what they thought was the best interest of the Coast Guard, those decisions, when compounded with other decisions and other decisions (like a decision path leading to an aircraft accident) turned out to be poor decisions. A key difference is that with an accident, the decisions are fairly recent; with Deepwater, we likely have no idea who made what decisions.

While Admiral Allen has acknowledged that the Coast Guard has made some poor decisions, he's not willing to pin the blame on anyone. He's not willing to go backward to punish; rather, he's only looking backward in order to create a better way forward.

The way ahead

The way ahead is clear. Admiral Allen has the conn. He'll take responsibility for where we are today, and he'll get the Coast Guard on its way out of this mess. With the restructuring of the G-D and G-A staff elements (Deepwater and Acquisitions), expect the term Deepwater to die and expect future acquisitions to take on a more realistic and traditional approach.

And, expect the Coast Guard to guard the hen house.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post! I was able to see the 60 Min. segment, and it was, as you said, the same old thing. They kept pointing out the flaws of the program as if it was the current administrations (Adm. Allen) fault... I wish they would have done the live interview with him. Thanks again, and keep up the Caost Guard news- I got to get is somewhere! ~Ryan (formally

    P.S. With my free time, I'm trying to find something else to occupy it, I'll let you know if I find something.