Case Study: Mobilizing for Deepwater

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Mobilizing thousands of individuals for the Deepwater Horizon response

The U.S. Coast Guard is a multi-mission agency with unique authorities for law enforcement, pollution response and national defense.  Like the other branches of the military, the Coast Guard has a Reserve component that is mobilized in times of National Defense, Natural and Man-made Disasters and Contingencies.  Unlike other reserve components, the Coast Guard Reserve is mobilized as individuals – individuals who’s particular skill set matches up to a specified need.  Identifying the right individuals and getting them where they need to go at the time of need is a challenging role.  This function is called “Contingency Staffing” and responsibilities are distributed both geographically and across functional areas.

Just as we find those in the commercial sector who are good – and few who are great at a particular job function, we find the same phenomenon in the public sector.  Through observation and interview with the best contingency staffing managers in the Coast Guard, we were able to identify those actions on the job that resulted in faster identification of the right people with the right skill sets – and who were also able to get those responders on scene at the time of need.  Some of the key highlights about these star performers were:

  • They foster relationships with the key persons they have to rely on in time of contingency response.  The result is that the email request or phone call that comes in the midst of a contingency response – comes from a known individual where trust has already been established.
  • They use software tools and databases to their advantage. They know which databases have more reliable data.  They know where to go when one system isn’t providing sufficient information.
  • They create their own spreadsheets to “fill the gap” where existing databases have  not provided sufficient information.