GOA Releases New US Coast Guard Report

The GAO released its report, "Coast Guard: Deployable Operations Group Achieving Organizational Benefits, but Challenges Remain" (GAO-10-433R at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-10-433R ).

This report (which is mainly a briefing) was done at the request of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees' Homeland Security Subcommittees. The Deployable Operations Group (DOG) was established in 2007 as a new organizational command intended to manage and oversee all of the Coast Guard's deployable specialized forces, including the 12 Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs), among others. The report examined (1) To what extent has the DOG achieved its intended benefits? and (2) What challenges, if any, does the DOG face as it continues to mature?

GAO found that the unified command structure of the DOG has achieved its key organizational objectives, namely (a) standardizing tactics, techniques, and procedures; (b) standardizing the process used to track and allocate deployable resources; (c) implementation of an employment schedule that provides for dedicated training periods, among other improvements; and (d) enhanced management and oversight functions, including dedicated program managers and collaborative working groups. The recent deployments to Haiti demonstrated the DOG's ability to put together tailored force packages on short notice for real world events.

GAO also identified a number of ongoing challenges currently confronting the DOG. For example, deployable units face human resource challenges associated with assessing and selecting qualified candidates. Other challenges involve achieving and maintaining critical capabilities for maritime interdiction missions, such as vertical insertion from a helicopter onto a deck of a ship. The Coast Guard is generally taking, or has plans to take, actions to address these and other challenges that GAO identified.

While GAO's work was generally completed before the Coast Guard's fiscal year 2011 budget came out, the report does discuss additional challenges the budget created by reducing the total number of deployable units and/or their resources. Among other things, the budget proposes eliminating 5 of the 12 MSSTs -- including those in New York NY, Anchorage AK, San Francisco CA, New Orleans LA, and Kings Bay GA. According to USCG, they will use the remaining 7 teams as regionally deployed assets to mitigate the highest prevailing port security risks in the nation's critical ports. While these teams will still conduct some operations in their home ports, their ability to support their local Coast Guard sector with routine security operations (vessel escorts, critical infrastructure patrols, and other law enforcement) will likely be diminished. Some of the reduction in MSST billets will be used to enhance the Law Enforcement Detachments which USCG uses for drug interdiction and, more recently, anti-piracy operations. In addition, the budget proposes moving two H-60 helicopters from the Maritime Security Response Team in Virginia to the Great Lakes area. One impact of this is a reduction in helicopter hours available to train the team in vertical insertion (i.e., "fast roping") from a helicopter onto the deck of a ship.

The report has an enclosure II providing additional information on the various Deployable Specialized Forces location, personnel, and missions. Finally, it has an enclosure listing related GAO reports.