As 2010 winds down the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG’s) service-wide restructuring effort known as “Modernization” is, like the service itself, evolving. In September 2009, Coast Guard Outlook 2010 spoke with Adm. Thad W. Allen about the transformation he began. Eight months later, Allen retired, making way for Adm. Robert J. Papp, the USCG’s 24th commandant.
The service’s new leader has pledged to carry on Modernization, stressing the need for restructuring that not only improves mission execution but provides clarity of purpose for Guardians.
“Moving Modernization forward to completion is one of my highest priorities and central to my principle of steadying the Service,” Papp affirmed. “My desired end-state is to put in place an organization that everyone understands. Our people need to know who they work for, what their authorities are, and who to call to get the tools they need to get their job done. These are the basic tenets of a military organization that relate to responsibility, authority, accountability, and unity of command.”
The continuity of the effort is welcome, but as Modernization progresses, the commandant and Coast Guard leaders are fine-tuning it. In mid-June 2010, Papp made the completion of mission support Modernization priority.
The task involves realigning the Coast Guard’s current geographically based mission support organization around personnel service and asset product lines under a new Deputy Commandant for Mission Support (DCMS). Six DCMS Logistics and Service Centers (LC/SCs) future product lines will manage readiness of the Coast Guard’s personnel, ships, planes, buildings, and information technology based on the new Mission Support Business Model.
Mission Support Modernization 1.0 began under the USCG Chief of Staff/ future DCMS in October 2009 with the stand-down of the familiar Maintenance and Logistics Commands (MLCs) and Integrated Support Commands (ISCs). In their place, the LC/SCs were launched to implement the business model’s four cornerstones of modernized mission support: Configuration Management, Bi-Level Maintenance, Total Asset Visibility and Product Line Management.
The new mission support organization has worked well said Papp, citing the performance of the LC/SCs in real world contingencies such as the Coast Guard’s response to the Haiti earthquake at the beginning of 2010 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the spring. Nevertheless, the Service has listened attentively to its support community, soliciting internal feedback on the new model and incorporating lessons learned from the support of contingency operations.
One issue that emerged captured the attention of Coast Guard leaders. While contingency response support has been successful under the modernized mission support model, it’s only one aspect of the broader support mission DCMS oversees. Coast Guard members count on logistics and service support in the field to perform the gamut of Coast Guard missions every day.
“I’m not convinced that we optimally structured field support in the first go around, or what we call Version 1.0 of Modernization,” said Vice Adm. John P. Currier, Coast Guard chief of staff and director of the new mission support organization. “The work of the subordinate elements to the LC/SCs – Base Support Units [BSUs], Electronics Support Units [ESUs], Health Safety Work-Life Field Offices [HSWL FOs], Naval Engineering Support Units [NESUs], and Personnel Services and Support Units [PSSUs] – is exceptional and getting better all the time. However, a more effective support structure would mirror the command and control structure on the operations side.”
Modifying Mission Support
In the fall of 2009, Currier took a look at the Service’s field mission support delivery architecture to determine if it passed muster as the most effective and efficient support capability modernized mission support could achieve. To study the issue, Currier stood up a Field Mission Support Delivery (FMSD) Integration Team.
To help guide the FMSD team, Currier set nine precepts that better align the USCG support community and its operational partners.
- Ensure optimal support of operations;
- Identify efficiency opportunities for field support (sectors);
- Align structure with operations;
- Accommodate contingency and normal operations;
- Map resource flows and match to function;
- Establish career development pathways for military and civilian employees;
- Establish organizational constructs and business rules aligned with the mission support model;
- Retain DCMS Logistics/Service Centers (SFLC, SILC, ALC, C4ITSC, PSC, HSWL) product line management (bi-level); and
- Push operational logistics out of headquarters.
The USCG chief of staff maintained that better harmonization would provide operational commanders with proper logistics command and control (C2) support in steady-state and contingency situations. He also argued that field support should be structured to provide a single point of accountability for support delivery coordination at the Service’s areas and districts.
The C2 support structure would at once parallel that of operations and leave in place the principle of bi-level maintenance and service delivery (services provided by either a centralized service or logistics center or the operational unit). LC/SCs would retain technical authority for mission support and logistics.
The current mission support field structure under the LC/SCs might be thought of as Version 1.0 of mission support modernization or as Currier put it, “a bridging strategy that permits the Coast Guard to standardize processes and identify future improvements.”
A new mission support field structure is envisioned as Mission Support 2.0 and its basic thrust is shift the focus of mission support from Coast Guard Headquarters to the field, whether for day to day operations or contingency operations.
“A desired effect is to push operational logistics service and support leadership, and management, from the Headquarters staff out to the field for improved alignment with operational commanders,” Papp explained. “This new organization will fit seamlessly in the Coast Guard’s fully modernized construct, providing operational commanders with appropriate logistics command and control in both steady state and contingency situations.”
Mission Support 2.0
To illustrate the changes in field structure that will take place as Mission Support 2.0 is rolled out over the next two to three years, it’s necessary to examine the comments Currier made in June 2010 on the vision for the new version.
The first move will be the establishment of a new position to direct field support in daily and contingency scenarios. A “Director of Operational Logistics” or DOL will be created at the Flag Level.
“The DOL will supervise subordinate field support commands and units that will be aggregated into base commands,” Currier revealed. “The DOL will be the focal point for standardization and doctrinal compliance of support delivery. The DOL [staff, located in Norfolk, Va.] will maintain close liaison through a small, co-located logistics cell embedded in each area staff and will continue to provide a centralized 24-hour, 7-day-a-week DCMS staff element (in the Atlantic Area Command Center). Additionally, the DOL will serve as chairperson for the LC/SC’s Directors Council. A direct report to DCMS, he or she will be fully responsible for the coordination of operational planning efforts and execution of operational logistics.”
In the event of a national-level contingency operation, the director of logistics will serve as the area commander’s DCMS staff element. Boiling down the DOL’s role, Currier stated that the flag-level officer would integrate support components through base commands, conduct operational and strategic planning in support of operations, and ensure compliance with established doctrine throughout the support organization.
The base commands Currier refers to will be stood up in three phases in geographic areas that are already home to significant support elements (Boston, Mass.; Miami, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; Alameda, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Kodiak, Alaska; Portsmouth, Va.; Elizabeth City, N.C.; Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; Cleveland, Ohio; Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.; St. Louis, Mo.; and Ketchikan, Alaska). At the outset, base commands will be formed in 14 locations with at least one base command per district. The respective base commanders will coordinate DCMS activities, present a common point of interaction with the district commander and take on the role of DCMS staff element for district commanders during contingency operations. The greater Mission Support Organization will interact with Base Commands in their respective districts via a small district DCMS staff element. This staff will be a base command component physically located in district offices to provide logistics awareness for district commanders.
Currier noted that the base commands envisioned under Mission Support 2.0 are not echoes of past logistics systems such as the ISCs whose commanders often had peculiar and often divergent ways of providing logistics support.
“The role of the base commander differs in that we now have Logistics and Service Centers that will maintain control of the flow of service and logistics resources and technical authority. Their product and service lines will define standardized support processes. The DOL will ensure compliance with established doctrine.”
Sector Logistics Departments, that perform unit-level maintenance and organic engineering, personnel, medical support, and finance/supply functions for USCG sectors, are organized in two categories under the 2.0 structure. Co-located sectors (those co-located with a base command) will receive a portion of mission support shared services from the base command. Stand-alone sectors will continue to receive support from their organic Logistics Departments supported by product lines.
“Adequate resourcing of Sector Logistics Departments is a DCMS priority,” said Currier.
Another priority, according to Currier, is the transition of the duties and authorities currently carried out by Primary Support Officers (PSOs) (previously responsible for coordinating mission support services in their area of responsibility as ISC commanders) to base commanders.
“From my perspective, these changes represent the steady progression of increasing authority incrementally granted to today’s PSOs.
“Currently, PSOs are responsible for coordination of shared services between geographically co-located mission support field units and serve as the local mission support representative to the operational community. Under the current lay-down, the PSO is charged with responsibility without authority, creating a void in standardizing functions necessary to the current field support construct.
“With the envisioned base command construct on the horizon, we leaned forward this hurricane season with codified roles and responsibilities of the PSO designed to ensure greater support standardization across the Coast Guard. Effective June 2010, the new PSO roles and responsibilities will reduce duplication of effort and improve lines of communication for our operational partners. With the PSO serving as the primary point of coordination among the co-located DCMS field elements, organizational confusion will be minimized. Upon full stand up of base commands, the PSO roles and responsibilities will transition to base commanders. These authorities will enable more effective and efficient support delivery during normal and contingency operations.”
Implementation of the new field support structure as outlined in Mission Support 2.0 will go forward with the holistic approach. For the first time, the Service is considering three components: command and control organizational structure, human capital strategy (military and civilian career management), and business process (how the support community functions and interrelates) together.
Currier reports that the DOL and 14 Phase-1 base locations will be established in fiscal year 2011, along with a review of subordinate legacy support command structures. The transition is to be completed in 24 to 36 months as other potential base locations are evaluated.
The chief of staff also stresses that before the base command construct is fully established, authorities, rules for interaction and mission support career paths will be well defined. The effort to provide Guardians with a full understanding of the implications and opportunities that come with Mission Support Modernization mirrors the commitment to clarity Papp has made a goal.
When Mission Support 1.0 was put into motion the Service produced the “Mission Support Handbook Version 1.0” to ensure the entire workforce would be familiar with the new support construct. As Currier described it, the handbook was designed to help operational units obtain logistical solutions for the wide variety of support challenges faced in the field.
The book contained a full description of the Mission Support Organization, points of contact, frequently asked questions, and index of support services to help ensure that all Coast Guard personnel were aware of what support services are available and how to obtain them. It’s not hard to imagine a Version 2.0 coming out soon.
Finally, Papp expressed his dedication to the completion of mission support modernization.
“I am committed to seeing this plan implemented with minimal personnel impact; however, some is inevitable. It is incumbent on each of us to help each other through this transition, focus on the future state, and move forward smartly to fully realize consistent and robust field mission support. …”
This article first appeared in the Coast Guard Outlook 2011 Edition.