I have been in the marine industry for over 30 years, and I think I understand the rational behind the Coast Guard’s strategy of regularly moving personnel around.
I suspect that the reasoning behind it is to build broad experience, foster well-balanced officers, offer different challenges in different locals, and ensure that officers don’t become too comfortable in one location. I see two big issues with this policy. The first is the huge costs involved with constantly moving Coast Guard personnel around. The second is the lack of continuity that results from constantly transferring personnel to new billets.
Let’s look at the economic argument first. I don’t understand why, in a tight budget environment, the Coast Guard does not change its thinking on personnel transfers. In similar conditions, private companies would zero in and view this practice as wasteful and inefficient. Just think about the money the Coast Guard could save by placing a moratorium on personnel transfers when the budget outlook is bleak.
The other argument has more to with job performance than cost. It is obvious that the practice of regularly reassigning Coast Guard personnel creates an experience vacuum. Once Coast Guard officers or inspectors begin to get their feet under them and gain enough knowledge to do their jobs effectively, they are shipped out to meet new challenges. Coast Guard officers that do a great job often do not get to see the results of their labors. So much expertise is lost.
I feel that the Coast Guard should evaluate certain types of jobs, such as marine inspection, and devise a system that would preserve knowledge and maintain continuity without undercutting the career advancement of its personnel. While keeping inspectors in assignments longer would, for the most part, benefit the marine industry, I also believe that the experience gained by the Coast Guard would be extremely beneficial to them in developing expertise.