Facing ever-higher demands to support a broad range of missions, a new strategy aims to strengthen the Coast Guard Reserve through recruitment and making the most of Reserve capabilities and deployability.
“Our strength comes from the diversity of experience brought from both civilian employment and proficiency in the competencies required for conducting operations in the Service’s operational mission and mission support programs,” Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan wrote in the new plan. “Our next emergency may be an oil spill in the Pacific Northwest, a mass migration crisis in the Caribbean, or a cyber-attack on the marine transportation system — our reservists need to be trained to mobilize to support any location and meet the unique needs of a variety of missions.”
The Coast Guard Reserve Component Action Plan focuses on three lines of effort and, developed with the Deputy Commandant for Operations and Deputy Commandant for Mission Support enterprises, works within the National Defense Strategy, the Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan, and the Coast Guard Strategy.
“The Coast Guard Reserve trains locally and deploys globally to provide skilled personnel to meet operational requirements. Our extraordinary members accomplish this by training and augmenting the Service’s day-to-day missions while standing ready for mobilization in times of crisis,” the action plan states. “As the landscape of our workforce transforms to keep pace with mission demands, the Service must ensure there is a focus on the technical proficiency of our reservists to support the Coast Guard’s six operational mission programs.”
Those are defense operations, maritime security operations, maritime law enforcement, marine transportation system management, maritime response, and maritime prevention.
“We must overcome the shortfalls within the total workforce by acting now and prioritizing time, training, and funding to ensure this crucial force is robust, prepared, and resourced to buy-down risk for the Coast Guard at large,” the plan adds.
With investments in the reservists, USCG says, “the Reserve must transform to be a global adaptive force and an operational asset that nimbly adjusts to changing operational domains, shifting uses of the maritime environment, and the evolving geopolitical landscape.”
The first focus of the plan is on the workforce, with an “imperative to restore the Reserve Component’s end strength to 7,000 members.”
This line of effort includes the objectives of increasing recruitment and retention by developing policies to make it easier to join, affiliate, and transfer to the drilling Reserve, developing a recruitment plan, and reducing barriers for reservists to efficiently and effectively drill, advance, and execute orders; optimizing talent management by offering opportunities to support missions outside of rank or position assignments, developing career paths in high-demand mission sets, and adjusting Reserve assignment policies to advance member growth in specialized and emerging fields; and advancing benefits parity for the total workforce by providing opportunities for non-monetary incentives and paid benefits, advocating for duty status reform “to ensure members who are doing the same job in the same location receive the same pay and benefits,” and championing “reliable and consistent access to medical, dental, and healthcare services for reservists that prioritizes readiness.”
The second focus of the plan is on maximizing reservists’ capabilities as “the need for support now expands beyond traditional mission sets.”
Objectives in this line effort are aligning capabilities to prioritized missions and emerging requirements by articulating acceptable levels of risk to determine mission prioritization, establishing “tools for input and analysis to measure Reserve effectiveness and align capabilities to mission areas,” and proactively engaging in “re-alignment of Reserve capabilities to support prioritized missions”; accelerating operational readiness by aligning and prioritizing attainment of billet assigned competencies with capabilities to meet mission activities, spreading operational opportunities across the Reserve workforce, and seeking “expansion of authority to involuntarily recall reservists for pre-planned missions”; and sharpening the skills of the mission-ready Reserve by increasing the number of Fully Mission Capable (FMC) reservists, expanding learning opportunities, and exploring processes to “leverage additional civilian skills that reservists volunteer to make available to the Coast Guard.”
The third line of effort focuses on preparation by enhancing Reserve deployability and resilience. To achieve this, the plan aims to “relocate underutilized training capacity to facilitate recruiting and retention and enhance training and competency attainment,” “improve infrastructure of key locations to increase training capacity within geographic centers of mass,” and “cultivate a geographically stable workforce at units closer to where reservists live to increase return on the investment of training.”
These objectives also include enhancing field-level service delivery by enhancing program FTS management “processes, training, and systems to support data analysis to readily adapt to future Reserve Component changes,” refining rules, procedures, and policy to optimize the resourcing and placement of current and future FTS personnel, and streamlining activation, employment, force rotation, and demobilization plans and procedures.
“The growing national demand for contingency response capability requires leaders to proactively adapt force posture to account for uncertainty that exists in the changing global strategic environment. The Reserve must be resourced to maintain a high level of readiness that provides the strategic mobility required to surge capability and capacity to protect the homeland and support armed conflict wherever and whenever necessary,” the plan states. “As demands on the contingency workforce increase, they must be prioritized, resourced and tempered within the capacity and restrictions of our part-time workforce, to ensure time and resources are invested to best effect.”
The plan says that USCG will “define realistically maintainable personnel management, training levels, and readiness standards to measure and improve deployability,” “optimize data analytics to develop a Reserve risk register as a tool for planning, decision-making, resourcing, and communication,” and “maximize mobilizations by leveraging adaptive force packages tailored to actual operational requirements.”