What’s the best way to coordinate a SpaceX rocket launch and landing? Or the extra traffic in a multi-use waterway that comes with ships servicing offshore wind farms? As America’s crowded ports and waterways wrestle with these and other new challenges, the Coast Guard is taking major efforts to meet them.
In July, the service launched the Prevention Workforce Planning Team (PWPT) as part of the Commandant’s 100-day initiative to safeguard the rapidly changing Marine Transportation System (MTS). Its goal is to transform prevention workforce development systems to better manage emerging risks that threaten the MTS, which accounts for $5.4 trillion a year, or 25% of the U.S. economy.
The maritime industry is conducting more, different, and increasingly complex things in our waters. “We’ve got to change to keep up with that.” said Lt. Cmdr. Amanda Styles, with the Office of Shore Forces.
The initiative will focus on modifying prevention officer career paths, with an emphasis on waterways management. In recent years, the MTS mission has expanded to include everything from autonomous surface ships and unmanned systems to boats anchored offshore during the supply chain crisis vying for space and safe passage.
But the training has not kept up. In February, Styles, notes, the Coast Guard held a workshop to assess workforce gaps created by the rising mission demand. A breakout group determined the career path was not preparing prevention officers for higher order decision-making skills needed in key leadership roles.
“What do you do when the cruise ship departure encroaches on a scheduled rocket launch exclusion zone,” Styles said. “You have to have the technical background and the judgment needed to make these decisions, or you’re not ready for the way things are today.”
The PWPT is also charged with assessing the scope of the marine science technician (MST) rating. They will identify policy barriers that might be keeping the enlisted portion of the prevention workforce from contributing their full potential to the mission and examine the role of the rating in emerging mission areas such as cybersecurity and environmental compliance.
“We recently published the MST Career Guide and set competency goals for the rating,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Bryan Griffiths, one of the chairs of the new working group. “But we need to continue to look at how the expertise and experience of the rating can be best leveraged to meet today’s mission demands as well as for emerging missions in the future.”
The prevention workforce is a combination of officers, chief warrant officer, enlisted members, and civilians, notes Capt. Matt Fine, Office of Shore Forces and team co-chair, “We need to ensure that a system is in place to properly train and equip all members of the Prevention workforce to ensure they have the tools and skillsets to operate at the highest levels and meet an ever increasingly complex mission set.”
The Coast Guard has done a lot to modernize the Prevention Workforce in recent years. To increase the proficiency of marine inspectors, a tailorable, on-demand training system called Marine Inspector Performance Support Architecture (MIPSA), was launched this year. Meanwhile the Enlisted Marine Inspector Training Program (EMITP) has grown from a pilot program four years ago, to being the primary path to chief warrant officer in the Prevention Program.
The service is also training technical experts earlier in their career, and they are becoming the subject matter experts (SMEs) in the field for the future. In addition, a focus on mobility has put mobile devices in the hands of many inspectors leveraging new technology with the INSPECT App.
“This is an exciting time to be part of the Prevention workforce,” said Cmdr. Laura Springer, a member of the team. “Not only are we on the front lines of building the maritime economy of the future, we’ve been given the freedom to be bold, think differently, and position the Coast Guard for success.”
But growing demand on the MTS and offshore waters still exceeds the current workforce. In addition to the work of the PWPT, the Coast Guard effort to transform our total workforce in line with the Commandant’s Intent is necessary to attract, train, and retain talent. In a recent hearing, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan underscored her willingness to do what it takes to rethink policies that make it challenging for the workforce and their families. “I am committed to making it easier for those who are serving to continue to serve,” she said, adding, “I have a sense of urgency about this.”
The PWPT will complete their initial tasks in less than a year, reporting to Coast Guard senior leadership quarterly to ensure the initiative stays on track.