Coasties on the move

Usually I don’t write much about the US Coast Guard, but lately they have been releasing press releases with some interesting tidbits. As a matter of fact I must say, I caved in since I usually don’t give much exposure to military matters, as they get plenty of exposure elsewhere. They have a very well refined PR machine, with blogs twitter feeds and lots of exposure, so its hard not to ponder the developments they herald about, especially if there is something to learn from.

The first press release that caught my eye was about the keel laying of the USCG cutter Stratton, which is the third ship in a series of new National Security Cutter being built for the USCG, under the Deepwater Program banner, which is a program to revitalize the USCG’s aging assets. The Legend Class vessel is being built in Mississippi at the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s Gulf Coast shipyard in Pascagoula.

The interesting part for me, is that the sponsor is none other then the first lady, Michelle Obama. Although she was not present at the keel laying ceremony, in person, I think its admirable that such a high profile is associated with the Coast Guard and its missions, which don’t always have to do with guns and wars. In addition, the vessel’s namesake is Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, a pioneering women in the service, and the military, in the1950’s.

I think the Coast Guard in any country is very important service. I know here in Canada, it certainly does not enjoy anywhere near the positive public exposure that our neighbours to the south have. Ok, so the comparison is a bit like apples and oranges, but I think with regards to the Canadian Coast Guard, it would be nice to see a management proud of its efforts and perhaps come up with a better quality of public relations. It seems the CCG is always trying to hide under a rock. A little pride might not be out of line, maybe even Laureen Harper could sponsor a new coast guard icebreaker. That is of course, if we could figure out how to prevent the plans from developing deadly allergies to shipyards.

Here, you can see some pictures of the Bertholf, the first ship in the series.

Secondly. With Russians subs lurking close by and Canada releasing yet more plans for the Arctic, the US is sending a high profile delegation to Alaska to sightsee and try to get a better handle on what their arctic policy should be. The USCG’s number one, Admiral Thad Allen, will be in the driver seat, with a White House envoy in the passenger seat leading the party (if you are not married, you might not understand the analogy). The USCG press release described the efforts as…

“…high-level interagency visit, facilitated by the U.S. Coast Guard, will improve whole-of-government collaboration to address the challenges and seize the opportunities present in the Arctic and contribute to the quality of national policy recommendations from the OPTF, as well as overall implementation of the national Arctic Region Policy.”

From my perspective, the US government’s arctic file seems to be gaining exposure by the day, a sort of cold war, literally, is brewing, with many arctic players involved. With the US’s ratification of UNCLOS being a priority, it should be interesting to see how various disputed claims will pan out.

The USCG is casting a wide PR net on this, and you can read about it on the Admiral’s blog.

Thirdly. Something whose time has certainly come, and I hope would propagate through all the licensing authorities, is the ability to check the validity of a US mariner’s credentials online. I must say I was quite impressed and appreciative when the French government, and its European partners launched Equasis. That website is a valuable source of information for any person involved with ships. I can’t help to think how you could meld the two types of databases; I don’t think it would be far fetched, and it would be a very powerful tool, accessible to all. Mmmmm.

The USCG has taken numerous steps to connect with the people it deals with predominately. Considering the size of the organization, I think they should be commended for having the ability to shift focus so quickly once realizing their failings, and implement strategies to fix it. Its nice to see that although national security is important, its not the sole “raison d’etre” for them.

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