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Thursday, February 29, 2024

GAO Investigates Coast Guard’s Merchant Mariner Credentialing Process

Over the past several years, the Coast Guard has taken steps to improve the credentialing process by, for example, streamlining part of its review process. GAO found that the Coast Guard is also taking steps to modernize its information technology to help improve its overall timeliness in processing credentials and responding to mariners.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published a report regarding the U.S. Coast Guard’s merchant mariner credentialing process. Merchant mariners are civilian sailors that the Coast Guard certifies to work on U.S. commercial or private cargo ships. To serve on certain merchant vessels, mariners must possess a merchant mariner credential. The credential indicates the holder does not present a threat to national security and has met the qualifications necessary for the mariner’s position. 

The Coast Guard merchant mariner credentialing process involves multiple levels of review to ensure the mariner meets the professional qualifications for the position. A mariner may request a credential for the first time (original), renewal, duplicate, raise of grade (i.e., change in position), or new endorsement (i.e., proof of qualification for a position). For applications received from January 2018 through June 2022, the Coast Guard processed about 75 percent of credential applications in 60 days or fewer. 

GAO found that the Coast Guard’s processing times varied due to the complexity or completeness of the application, the number of applications received, and the availability of the Coast Guard’s human capital and information technology resources. For example, it generally took more time to process original credentials than other types. Also, the Coast Guard required additional information from 57 percent of applications it received, which added to the overall processing time.

Over the past several years, the Coast Guard has taken steps to improve the credentialing process by, for example, streamlining part of its review process. GAO found that the Coast Guard is also taking steps to modernize its information technology to help improve its overall timeliness in processing credentials and responding to mariners.

The Coast Guard’s key performance measures for the credentialing process which include the monthly volume of applications in progress, the monthly ratio of applications finished divided by number received, and a subset of the processing time help partially support one of its Marine Safety strategic goals of improving service to mariners, the maritime community, and the public. However, GAO said the Coast Guard does not measure the performance of its overall processing time, which reflects the time from application submission to the time the Coast Guard issues the credential. Instead, the Coast Guard measures the time spent actively processing applications and does not count the time the National Maritime Center may need to wait for information from applicants, including time allowed for applicants to complete testing requirements. 

GAO is recommending that the Coast Guard establish a performance measure for assessing the overall processing time, and use it to regularly assess and report on the Coast Guard’s credentialing efforts. The Department of Homeland Security agreed.

Read the full report at GAO

Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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