The Coast Guard released the Strategic Foresight Project Evergreen V Final Report Nov. 30, 2022. Drafted by the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) at the RAND Corporation, this report is the culmination of four years of workshops, strategic gaming, research, and analysis from more than 300 Coast Guard members and HSOAC experts.
The Evergreen team channeled ideas from members of the workforce to identify key trends and develop recommendations for Coast Guard leadership to mitigate future risk and exploit opportunities that may arise.
What is strategic foresight, and why is it essential?
Imagining and trying to predict the future is an inherently human trait. So is getting it wrong; we’re still waiting on those hoverboards and flying cars that the movie “Back to the Future II” promised. Entire sub-genres of popular culture thrive on the infinite possibilities of the future, and people dedicate their lives to predicting it. The future is also unforgiving; history is replete with the lessons of organizational failures directly linked to the refusal (or inability) to plan and adapt to the demands of plausible futures.
Naturally, it is challenging to prepare for the unpredictable or uncertain. For the Coast Guard, however daunting or opaque these futures may seem, the needs of the nation demand that we prepare for the unknown. If we do not, we will be managed by the future rather than taking control of our own destiny.
One tool that helps the service grapple with the uncertain future is called “strategic foresight.” Strategic foresight teaches people how to think, not what to think. It’s about training leaders, researchers, and analysts to challenge their assumptions, identify possible trends, and plan accordingly. Or, as former president and World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower put it, “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Project Evergreen, originally called “Long View,” was chartered in 2002 and uses strategic foresight to look over the horizon, identify potential risks or opportunities, and advise Coast Guard leadership accordingly. It also works with programs to develop plans to address these strategic challenges. Evergreen is executed in four-year cycles; the most recent just concluded with Evergreen V. The Evergreen V Final Report can be found here. You may read an executive summary here.
Evergreen V harnessed the experience and insights of more than 300 service members and dozens of representatives from government, think tanks, academia, and the private sector. The Evergreen V team hosted several workshops that covered the Coast Guard’s role and responsibilities in areas including outer space, the future of the marine transportation system, and workforce challenges. The results of these workshops and research directly informed landmark service documents such as Ready Workforce 2030, as well as the 2022 Coast Guard Strategy.
Adapting to the needs of the service, Evergreen V created the first strategic game designed specifically for the U.S. Coast Guard, Paratus Futurum. Developed by the Homeland Security Operations Analysis Center (HSOAC) at the RAND Corporation, Paratus Futurum forces players to consider the tradeoffs required to seize opportunities and mitigate risk given limited resources. Team Evergreen hosted two rounds of the game. One senior leader who played the game reflected that Paratus Futurum provided them one of the most unique and eye-opening experiences in their career to seriously think at the 30,000-foot level.
How you can support Evergreen VI
Evergreen V is concluded, and its results available for everyone to use. Meanwhile, Evergreen VI is picking up right where Evergreen V left off. Over the next four years, the Evergreen team will work with units and programs to address some of the issues identified in the Evergreen V report. Additionally, fiscal year 2023 (FY23) will see four rounds of Paratus Futurum.
Looking ahead, the Evergreen team is excited to take strategic foresight to the wider Coast Guard audience. Strategic planning is critical to the service’s efforts to remain Semper Paratus for an uncertain future. We all have ideas about how the service can better prepare for the future, and participating in Evergreen is a great way to make your concerns heard. It’s also a forum for programs to tackle issues they foresee on the horizon.
Interested in getting more involved in strategic planning? If you would like to host a round of Paratus Futurum or a workshop on a focus area, or wish to get involved in general Evergreen VI efforts, please contact the Evergreen Program Directors in the Office of Emerging Policy (DCO-X), Zachary Schulman and Cmdr. Ryan Kelley.