The Reminiscences of Admiral John Briggs Hayes, USCG (Ret.), Commandant, USCG, 1978-1982
U.S. COAST GUARD ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Date of Interview: 1985
Admiral John B. Hayes enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the United States Coast Guard that culminated in his appointment to the service’s highest position, that of commandant. His story spans nearly sixty years through our nation’s history, beginning with his childhood and continuing through his last day in uniform. He led a varied and rich career while serving his country and his story provides a unique look at the United State’s oldest continuous sea-service.
Perhaps his greatest role was his term as commandant of the Coast Guard. He took over the helm of the service during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and completed his professional career during President Ronald Reagan’s first term. During that time, he fought and won numerous battles with the Executive Branch over the very existence of the Coast Guard. This oral history covers theses tumultuous years in great detail, giving researchers a beneficial insight to the workings of the Coast Guard, the federal budget process, and both presidential administrations.
Medals, Awards, and Campaign Ribbons
Individual Awards (14)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2; 1 with combat "V" device)
Meritorious Service Medal
Coast Guard Commendation Medal
Secretary of Treasury Commendation Award Medal
Coast Guard Expert Rifleman Medal
Proclamation of Merit Presented by the Division Medal (Republic of Vietnam)
Vietnamese Staff Service Medal First Class
Commandant Letter of Commendation Ribbon (2)
Combat Action Ribbon
Unit Commendations (5)
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with Palm) Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
Service and Campaign Medals/Ribbons (8)
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Medal (2)
Korean Service Medal – 1 Action Star
United Nations Service Medal – 2 Action Stars
Humanitarian Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon
CHRONOLOGY OF ADMIRAL JOHN BRIGGS HAYES’ COAST GUARD CAREER
July 14, 1943 Cadet, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
June 5, 1946 Graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and commissioned an Ensign; assigned to USCGC Comanche
March, 1947 Assigned to USCGC Mistletoe
September 15, 1948 Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade
May, 1949 Transferred to USCGC Chincoteague
March, 1950 Executive Officer, USCGC Aurora
October 29, 1951 Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant
November, 1951 Commanding Officer, LORAN Transmitting Station, Matsumae, Japan
November, 1952 Commanding Officer, USCGC Ariadne
October, 1953 Commanding officer, Coast Guard Base, Key West, Florida
July, 1957 Commanding Officer, USCGC Sagebrush
July 1, 1958 Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander
August, 1959 Attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island
August, 1960 Head, Program Section, Program Analysis Division Coast Guard Headquarters; later Chief, Long Range Planning Branch, Program Analysis Division, Coast Guard Headquarters
November 1, 1961 Liaison officer to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Investigation Group
June, 1964 Graduated from George Washington University, Master of Arts Degree in International Affairs
July 1, 1964 Promoted to the rank of Commander
October, 1964 Commanding Officer, USCGC Vigilant
March, 1966 Commander, Naval task group 115.4 and Commander, Division II, Coast Guard Squadron One, Republic of Vietnam
May, 1967 Chief, Shore Facilities Branch, Search and Rescue Division Coast Guard Headquarters
October 1, 1968 Promoted to the rank of Captain
1968: Chief, Planning and Evaluation Staff, Office of Boating Safety
June, 1971 Commandant of Cadets, Coast Guard Academy
August 1, 1973 Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral
June 1, 1973 Comptroller of the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Headquarters
July, 1975 Commander, Seventeenth Coast Guard District, Juneau, Alaska
June 1, 1978 Became the 16th Commandant of the Coast Guard; concurrently promoted to the rank of Admiral
May 31, 1982 Retired from active duty
Admiral Hayes passed away on January 17, 2001.
Interview Session Number 1 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG
Date: 8 October 1985
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: Sir, I'd like to start with some background prior to your entry into the Coast Guard Academy. First, when and where were you born, and second, what was your early education like?
Admiral Hayes: I was born in Jamestown, New York, which was a small city in the western part of New York State on Chautauqua Lake. I lived there for the first four years of my life, at which time we moved to Bradford, Pennsylvania. I remained in Bradford, Pennsylvania, for the rest of my early school years. My father was a doctor, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist, and he had gone into partnership with a doctor with similar skills in Bradford, which was the reason for our move.
I grew up in that town, which, had no more water associated with it than a small creek that ran through the middle of town. So I can't say that I was influenced greatly by my local environment as to my eventual future. My early schooling was that normal to those days, a general education through 12 grades, resulting in a diploma.
Q: Were you involved in any extracurricular activities, like Scouting or sports, speech, drama?
Admiral Hayes: I spent a number of years in Scouting, eventually became an Eagle Scout in, I guess, about 1939. I recall one of the very interesting parts of my Scouting life was attendance at the First National Jambouree in Washington, D.C.; that took place in 1936 or 1937, as I recall. Of course, I was involved in the usual clubs. I was editor of our high school yearbook in my senior year, participated in sports, and was an avid skier and outdoorsman, I spent a lot of time in the woods. I was never an athlete in the true sense of the word. I simply was moderately good at almost any sport and rarely qualified for the team.
Q: How did your two years at Randles Prep School go? Do you feel that gave you an advantage over the members of your Academy class?
Admiral Hayes: It was rather interesting. I suppose the first thing one might ask is why two years instead of just one. First of all, I graduated from high school in 1941, and at the time of graduation, I was still 16, becoming 17 the following August. That meant that I could not qualify for the Academy at that time. Now when I say "the Academy," you have to understand that in my formative years, I established a goal at about the age of 11 of becoming a naval officer. A chap across the street was going to the Naval Academy and came home in his midshipman's uniform, and that really was my first association with the sea. So I tailored all my academic efforts and everything I did, really, during the rest of my years in Bradford to that specific goal.
Since I couldn't enter the Naval Academy my year of graduation from high school, I talked it over with Dad, and we decided it would be useful to go to a preparatory school. And after investigation we found that Randles, in Washington, D.C., was probably the finest preparatory school for the Naval Academy in the country at that time. So I went to that school, did quite well, and took the Naval Academy exams. At the same time, the headmaster advised me to take the Coast Guard Academy exam as an anchor to windward, so to speak. I said, "No. I know exactly what I want to do, and I'm not interested in the Coast Guard Academy." And that was that.
So I took the preparatory examinations, did extremely well in those, obtained a principal appointment from the local congressman, through my father, and reported to Annapolis, Maryland, in the summer of 1942 to enter the Naval Academy. Much to my great horror and discomfiture I failed to pass the physical examination; my eyes were not quite up to the standards of those days. And a very disheartened young man returned to his home town and tried to decide what to do next.
So I returned to the same preparatory school for another year, acting as an assistant instructor and really wasting an awful lot of my time waiting to take the Coast Guard Academy entrance exams. I passed those and entered the Coast Guard Academy in July 1943.
A little sidelight. I entered the Academy approximately number 12 in my class; and there were almost exactly 150 who entered with that class, as I recall. And I graduated number 92 of 101 graduates, so I think I established a record for the person who lowered his class standing the most in three years.
Q: During the course of those three years, did you feel that the work you had done at Randles helped you?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, sure. It was interesting. There were two things affecting all of us at that time, I think, one of which was perhaps more influential on my actions at the Academy than any of the others. I had already been through 11 years of school and two years of prep school, and particularly the two years of prep school were very intensive and required a great deal of memory work. The second thing that was influencing the way we felt about ourselves and what we were doing at that time was the fact there was a war going on, and a great majority of us merely wanted to be a part of the action instead of being at a school. So we were there with mixed emotions. The reason I'm relating those two things is that I think part of my lack of interest in things academic was associated with that long period of time with no rest from academic stress and the fact that there was a war going on. So I didn't do all that well.
Also, there was a third influence I have to say, and that was a lovely young lady by the name of Elizabeth Bogert, who was going to Connecticut College for Women at that time, and whom I subsequently married.
Q: Do you feel that overall, the Academy prepared you well for a career in the Coast Guard? Are there any areas that you feel should be changed now from what you know of the Academy as it is today?
Admiral Hayes: I suppose that's a question that one could talk about for the next hour or two. First, yes, of course, the Academy prepared all of us extremely well. The curriculum, on the one hand, had to be abbreviated during the war, so we completed that curriculum in three years instead of four. That meant that a lot of the liberal arts subjects had to be left out, and we consequently did not receive a particularly well-rounded education. It was quite well done with respect to our professional subjects, the scientific and mathematical background that was required, but unfortunately, the subjects which would perhaps have given us a more well-rounded view of the world and life in general were eliminated. For my part, it took some time to recover from that. We can talk about that perhaps a little bit later. But yes, it prepared us well.
Would I change anything at the Academy? This we'll discuss, I suppose, when we get to a later stage of my career and my assignment at the Academy as Commandant of Cadets. I left there after two years feeling that I was just beginning to understand what happened at the Academy and that rather complex society there. I think one can play with a curriculum and fine-tune the way in which professional studies are taught, and how leadership is ingrained into the cadets; but by and large, I have to say that what is done there works, and the quality of our commissioned officers from the Academy certainly speaks for itself.
Q: What do you remember about your cruise that occurred between your freshman and sophomore years? I guess, if you would, maybe compare it to the second cruise.
Admiral Hayes: Really, we had three. The first, the abbreviated cruise, that took place during swab summer, I recall vividly, mainly because I had the great pleasure of sailing on Cornelius Vanderbilt's marvelous three-masted schooner, the Atlantic. But at any rate, it was an incredible experience. I remember that we encountered almost a full gale, and that ship was under sail at about 18 knots. For someone who had never sailed in his life and knew nothing of the sea, it had to be an experience that you would remember forever. I also remember how proud my father was of the calluses on my hands!
The next year, which was the first long cruise that I took, was taken on the old Governor Cobb, which was the Coast Guard's first helicopter capable cutter. It had a very large flight deck and Scotch fire-tube boilers, which were the opposite of the normal kind one finds today. The fire went through the tubes instead of outside the tubes. I remember it was 150 to 160 degrees in the fire room, and one could stay down there for a watch only 30 minutes at a time. Cruising down in the Caribbean, you can imagine what it was like. But I also recall cadets standing in formation on that flight deck, trying to keep their balance while standing at attention against the roll of the ship. It was an interesting cruise and one of the many early experiences that helped give us an understanding of the sea and how the Coast Guard worked.
The following year, we spent most of our summer before graduating doing things such as small-arms weapons qualifications, and two or three other training requirements. Bear in mind there was a war going on, so our activities were fairly intense and closely related to preparing us to walk right into wartime jobs.
Q: How did World War II affect your training? Primarily in that it made your training somewhat abbreviated and a little more specialized?
Admiral Hayes: Yes. For example, at the Academy, except during inclement weather, every Saturday we had field activity where we crawled around with rifles and played war in as realistic a way as possible in a wooded area near the Academy. An average week was a full five and a half days, and sometimes six, of work, which went on, year round, except for cadet cruises in the summertime. We had little free time and few thrills. It was just very intensive and accelerated academic and professional training to graduate us as quickly as possible with enough skills to assume immediately our tasks as commissioned officers.
Q: It sounds like you worked pretty closely with your father in planning your career, at least the initial part. Were they supportive while you were in the Academy?
Admiral Hayes: Very much so. Mother and Dad respected from the outset my decision and were always very supportive and proud of what I chose as my career. So there was never any conflict at home with respect to my future and what I planned to do. They made it a point to visit me regularly at the Academy to the extent it was possible during those years; and I spent my infrequent leaves at home in Bradford during those three years.
Q: When it came time for graduation, did you have a choice as to your first assignment?
Admiral Hayes: We were given the opportunity as first classmen to make a selection. I requested specifically the USCGC Comanche (WPG-76), a 165-foot A-class cutter. At that time, it was one of an "Indian-tribe" class of vessels that were the Coast Guard's first ships with design modifications for limited icebreaking capability. Comanche, when I selected her as my first assignment, was operating off Iceland. I felt that duty off Iceland would be an excellent place for me while I was waited for my wife-to-be to finish college. We planned to marry the year after my graduation, when she would graduate. So, I hoped by going to Iceland operations, I could save a good deal of money for a solid financial base to start our marriage.
Of course, as events subsequently turned out, the Comanche was not operating off Iceland; it turned up in Norfolk Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, and that's where I reported aboard my first Coast Guard "operating ship." It was a rather depressing experience, I assure you.
Q: Did you finally make it to sea on the Comanche?
Admiral Hayes: She was a fully commissioned cutter for 48 hours, and then reverted to "in-commission in reserve" status, which was her status when I initially reported. In those short 48 hours I sailed around the Chesapeake Bay, anchored overnight, came back to the dock, and that was it. There was a reason, of course. When I graduated in 1946, the Coast Guard was involved in tremendous retrenchment. People were leaving or had left in droves. What we had, really, was a skeleton of the Coast Guard from World War II. No one was quite sure what our peacetime responsibilities were going to be, nor how our organization would eventually develop in a peacetime environment.
Q: What were your duties at the shipyard?
Admiral Hayes: Well, the Comanche stayed in the shipyard for a short period of time. After I reported aboard, I assumed the usual duties of the most junior officer. I was first lieutenant, commissary officer, and communications officer. Unfortunately, once we left the shipyard and went over to our moorings in Berkeley, Virginia, which was right across the Elizabeth River from our small buoy depot in Portsmouth. COMANCHE became the headquarters unit, you might say, for those moorings. We had to run the mess for the entire little base there. All of the personnel ashore, therefore, were a part of our commissary operation. We also turned out to be the vessel on which prisoners-at-large who were awaiting court-martial were assigned. So you can imagine what kind of a crew we had. It was not a terribly happy circumstance or career inspiration for one who had prepared to go to sea and just couldn't wait to get on what I had envisaged a Coast Guard cutter would be like. Certainly not a rusty hulk that had paint peeling from its wooden decks and reciprocating steam engines that were of dubious value at that time. It was in some ways a rather depressing way to begin one's career.
Q: Were you on the crew when she was decommissioned?
Admiral Hayes: No. I spent nine months on board Comanche, and then transferred across the river to a buoy tender called Mistletoe (W-237).
Q: Was your experience more what you expected once you got on board the Mistletoe? Did things get better?
Admiral Hayes: Well, yes and no. I remember pulling alongside the buoy deck of the Mistletoe in a Coast Guard launch which was bringing me from Berkeley Moorings across the river to my new ship, with my cruise box in the boat. I climbed up onto the buoy deck and got the cruise box up there, and this rather seedy-looking person on the bridge, with an old sweater on, a beat-up officer's cap, and a pipe clenched between his teeth called down and said, "Mister, what do you know about buoys?" He didn't say "aid to navigation." We weren't using that term too much in those days. "What do you know about buoys and lighthouses?"
I looked up and assumed that was probably the captain, so I said, "Well, not very much, sir, but I'm sure willing to learn, Captain."
"Well," he said, with a number of expletives and rather crude language, "you keep yourself down on that buoy deck until you know everything about that business, and then maybe I'll let you come up to the bridge." So that was the way I started on my second ship in the Coast Guard—basically as a seaman on deck!
And indeed I did stay on the buoy deck. I learned that business inside and out, and, later, it stood me in very good stead when I became commanding officer of a buoy tender doing aids to navigation work. But I was glad at last to be on an operating vessel of the Coast Guard. Although our skipper was from the old Lighthouse Service and took a dim view of some military ways, he let us junior officers, who had the Academy background, oversee military discipline. He oversaw the proper preparation and servicing of the aid to navigation in our area of responsibility, which ran from the middle of the Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River.
So it was a time when I learned a great deal, because he gave us a lot of responsibility. The Captain assumed that, as graduates of "that school" that we knew everything. He immediately put us on watch as officers of the deck. We stood our watches without any direct supervision and learned shiphandling from A to Z. So it was a tremendous experience from the standpoint of preparing a person for command and increased responsibilities.
Q: Was there any real difference between what a work boat did, such as you were on, and the patrol boat?
Admiral Hayes: Well, of course. I'm not sure what you mean by "patrol boat." Comanche, had she operated, would have been a search and rescue vessel, perhaps a law enforcement vessel, and certainly an icebreaking vessel during bad winters. Mistletoe was a much more special-purpose vessel, although we did occasionally get involved in search and rescue missions, as all Coast Guard vessels do. But she was about the same length, as I recall, as the Comanche. She was, I think, about 170 feet or perhaps 167 feet, twin screw. To turn the ship around, you'd go full ahead on one engine and full astern on the other and wait five minutes! Slowly but surely, she'd work her way around, using full rudder, to help. She, took, had reciprocating engines.
I think the thing to remember is that at that time, the Coast Guard had a number of relatively new ships built during World War II. However, the Coast Guard also had many old ships of the Lighthouse Service, which became part of the Coast Guard in 1939. Furthermore, the Coast Guard had a lot of other old ships that operated during the war and were continued in service at least for a little while. Now that last group of ships includes Comanche, and within two years of the war’s end almost all were decommissioned.
Q: So they weren't exactly first-rate vessels?
Admiral Hayes: They were fine sea boats. They were worn out and had obsolete engineering plants. Also they had poor capabilities for the kinds of missions that evolved after World War II.
Q: You mentioned the cruise box. Was that roughly the equivalent of a sea bag?
Admiral Hayes: Well, it's a wooden sea bag, if you want to put it that way. When we graduated every one of us was given a wooden cruise box. All our uniforms and service-connected clothing ended up in the cruise box. That’s what you took aboard ship. The cruise box would be stored somewhere down in the hold of the ship. I guess it's less used these days, although I've seen, even quite recently, some officers who continue to use something like that. It was a pretty handy way to handle the problem.
Q: Your next duty station was the Chincoteague (W-375)?
Admiral Hayes: Yes. I spent a little over--let's see--just about two years on Mistletoe, and I had reported on board around March of 1947. Mrs. Hayes and I married in June of that year, June 28, 1947. I stayed on Mistletoe until February of 1949. I then went down to Charleston Naval Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina, where a number of the 311-foot AVP's, ex-Navy seaplane tenders were being converted into Coast Guard weather patrol ships. The Chincoteague was one of those. We spent, as I recall, a month or two at the yard, finishing up the large number of repairs and alterations that were required to fit her out for that purpose. For example, the balloon shelter had to be mounted on the after deck, and storage for the large bottles that contained helium for the balloons, so there were a number of modifications that had to be made.
We then sailed from Charleston in either late spring or early summer and I think our first weather patrol was in August on the Ocean Station Echo that used to be east of Bermuda. I served on her for about a year had three patrols. Then I left the Chincoteague to go as executive officer on the Aurora (W-103) down in Savannah, Georgia. But the time on Chincoteague I remember well, as perhaps the only assignment I had in my entire career that just simply was rather boring and tedious. I think most of us who were involved in weather patrol in those days just plain got bored with it. Sitting on a ten-mile square of ocean for 30 days did, though challenged the utmost in our leadership to deal with the obvious morale problems. People really had a difficult time seeing what they were accomplishing while contending with the incredible bad wintertime weather that occurred on those stations.
Q: What turned out to be your best leadership technique that you developed as a result of that? How did you deal with the morale problems?
Admiral Hayes: I would not identify any specific technique. As is true of leadership generally, it's a quality that encompasses a variety of traits, skills, and actions. In those circumstances, clearly, one of the most important things to do was to keep everybody busy. The more time people had on their hands, the more likely there would be problems, and some of them extremely difficult morale problems. So I think perhaps if I could identify any one thing, that was of utmost importance, was to keep people busy. We would, on the bridge, for example, engage in all kinds of ship handling and different approaches to navigation, such as dead reckoning. We tried to refine the ways in which we were maintaining station, recognizing that during very bad weather, oftentimes you'd go days without ever seeing a celestial body; hence, that kind of navigation, celestial navigation, became unavailable for days at a time. We had to try to use the very poor Loran information that you would get. Oftentimes all you would get would be a nighttime sky wave rather than the regular strong ground signal, and so navigation became a substantial problem. It was not an unusual occurrence for the aircraft, whom we were supporting for the most part with weather information, would tell us where we were, rather than we telling them where they were.
Q: Was your tour aboard the Aurora as XO a little more satisfying than some of your previous tours?
Admiral Hayes: Well, bear in mind that each of my first three assignments were extremely satisfying to me professionally. You have to understand that during each of these, I learned the things that a junior officer is expected to learn in his early years in the service. I don’t want to give you the impression that the entire time during my first three assignments was depressing; that was not the case at all. The months on the Comanche were extremely productive in some ways, not the way in which, a young officer ready to go to sea wants to spend his time, but nevertheless, productive. And the Mistletoe was at sea a great deal of the time; the skipper taught me a great deal about seamanship, piloting and "buoy work." We probably spent at least 50 percent of our time under way. And Chincoteague was my first real Coast Guard cutter, captained by a fine skipper (later Rear Admiral James A. Alger) who had no problem trusting his junior officers with substantial responsibility. So those three assignments helped prepare me very well for the assignment on board Aurora in my first position of substantial responsibility as executive officer.
During the course of that assignment, I did have one opportunity to take the ship out as acting CO, because the skipper was on leave and unavailable. We got an emergency call to handle a distress incident. That was my first time in command all by myself. It was, I recall, a time that I'd have to admit was a little bit terrifying. One is always uncertain how one is going to do when placed in that rather awesome position of being the person in command with no one else to turn to, making decisions. Until you're faced with that responsibility, you obviously never quite know how you're going to do. I came to enjoy the feeling and thoroughly enjoyed my subsequent commands, but that was my first taste of it. I remember it quite vividly.
Otherwise, Aurora was one of our 165-foot B-class ships, also a fairly elderly vessel, extremely limber in the sea. I think it's safe to say it had the most uncomfortable motion that I've ever experienced on any ship at sea. It rolled, pitched, and yawed in an almost indescribable way. It certainly made a sailor out of you, if nothing else. But she was a fine sea boat, and we were involved in a few search and rescue incidents that made it all worthwhile.
Q: Did the crew have quite a few complaints about the ride of the ship?
Admiral Hayes: Sailors always have complaints. If they aren't bitching about something, why, they aren't happy! I subscribe to that to a certain extent, quite seriously. But no, as a matter of fact, they were kind of proud of serving on a ship like that. They would tend to be quite critical of Coast Guard shipmates elsewhere who didn't have that kind of a rough ride to experience, at least in their view. So it was something they'd brag about, really. If we rolled 55 to 60 degrees one night in bad weather, why, that was something they could write home about and brag about to their buddies.
Q: Your next tour was your first official command, is that right, when you took command of the Matsumae LORAN station.
Admiral Hayes: Yes. My first command was a shore command. It was located near a very small fishing village in Hokkaido, Japan, called Matsumae. Matsumae is one of those places I hope to go back and visit. It was a marvelous experience. The assignment took place during the Korean War (1951-1952). We had to devise means of getting three large trailers with electronic equipment and power units ashore, through the village and out to the Loran station site. Just the logistics of accomplishing that was something for a young lieutenant (junior grade) to plan and execute in a foreign country, no to mention the language problems.
We used an LST to transport the Loran trailers because the tunnels leading from the docks at Matsume were not high enough to handle the trailers. The trailers were so large that we had to deflate the tires to get them off the LST that delivered them on a beach near this little village. We had to borrow the tractor--that is, the hauling vehicle--from the Army, and get it down to Matsumae over their little fourth-class Japanese rail line, which went through many tunnels. Just a host of things such as that that were part of getting all that equipment in place. We were trying to dig trenches for cables and electric lines between trailers, in frozen ground and adverse weather. The power units were damaged en route, and we ended up having to substitute for them with a makeshift arrangement. This was all being done in January, in the middle of Hokkaido winter, which certainly was as demanding as a winter, say, in the New England part of our country. So it was an experience and a challenge that tried all the leadership abilities of a young officer and his people. I had ten enlisted personnel and myself, and that was the whole command.
I recall perhaps one of the most interesting experiences that highlight the ingenuity of Coast Guard personnel and some of the fun one can have while on an arduous assignment. We were visited by our district commander, Rear Admiral Louis Perkins, greatly admired by all who have known him. He was called "Perky" by his peers. But I never dared call him that until later years when I became Commandant of Cadets at the Academy and we got to know each other all over again. But this is an intriguing story, because it does show the creativeness and the ingenuity of our people.
He was then Commander of the 14th Coast Guard District and was on an inspection trip. We weren't too sure how we were going to manage to get him there. He finally flew in on a seaplane from an Air Force base called Misawa, and landed in a harbor adjacent to Matsumae. I arranged for a little Japanese fishing vessel, which smelled to the high heavens of squid, to pick him up. I suspect that may be the first time a Coast Guard admiral was ever picked up by a Japanese fishing vessel. But in any event, we brought him ashore. When we arrived at the station, I looked up at the mast where our ensign flew every day, and darned if there wasn't a rear admiral's flag broken out at the yard. I knew we didn't have one, because I had asked the chief a few days before to find one. Of course, when you're putting a new station together, things like an admiral's flag are probably among the last that you think of in trying to make sure you have everything you need to operate. We really didn't have a rear admiral's flag to fly. What had happened was, my people had taken a pair of dungarees and some white skivvies and had transformed them into a rear admiral's flag, and it was proudly flying at the mast. I presented it to Admiral Perkins, who considered it one of his treasured mementos of his career. Later on, when I was Commandant of Cadets, I autographed it for him, and we had a lot of fun with it.
Q: Did that first command prepare you well for subsequent commands?
Admiral Hayes: Well, I think that would be a poor way of putting it. I don't think one command so much prepares you for another as it does to act as a next logical step in a progression of career assignments that altogether, I think, tend to prepare you for the next position of responsibility. I think it's a process of growing and maturing and learning that really never quits. I don't think one can point to a particular experience as preparing you better for the next something else or some other experience. I don't know whether I'm putting that well, but there is a tendency, I think, perhaps to ask that question and to expect that the answer is, "Yes, gee, my command experience there and responsibility I had really prepared me well for that next assignment." But since the next assignment was a seagoing assignment and command, I would say probably my experience as executive officer on the AURORA may well have prepared me more to be the commanding officer of the ARIADNE (W-101), a sister ship, than did my assignment ashore in Japan. On the other hand, the challenges that had to be overcome and leadership that had to be applied with a group of people in a rather isolated location certainly had to help.
I don’t wish in any way to diminish the importance of my assignment as commanding officer to Ariadne. My first love has always been command at sea—it is the epitome of the combined application of leadership, responsibility, commitment and independence of action. And this is particularly so in the Coast Guard, where we encourage independent action and thought. My first command at sea also reinforced the famous Truman axiom "the buck stops here!" One night in the Gulf of Mexico, en route home from a SAR call in bad weather, I awoke from a sound sleep at 0200, looked at the gyro repeater over my bunk, found we were 60 degrees off course, ran to the bridge in my skivvies, and after a quick look at the chart, fathometer, and asking the OOD some pertinent questions, I made a drastic course change. We would have been aground in another 15 minutes. The seaman’s sixth sense served me well. The OOD had disobeyed my night orders. He hadn’t wanted to bother me! He learned a severe lesson. But Ariadne was a great assignment which taught me much.
Q: By the way, why was your tour aboard the Ariadne so short? You were on just from January until October of 1953. Or did that seem short to you?
Admiral Hayes: Well, it was short. Bear in mind that at the time I was assigned as commanding officer of Ariadne, I already had in my career about six straight years of either sea duty or isolated shore duty. I hadn't had any shore assignment at all, other than the Loran station in Japan. At that time I left my wife with three small children, two of whom were still in diapers, while I spent a year away from her. So the command of the base at Key West, where Ariadne, was located, was coming available, and I was asked if I was interested in taking that command. Obviously, it was a very economical way for the Coast Guard to solve the problem of identifying the commanding officer for that unit. My rank was close enough, at any rate, to the correct rank for the job that that was not a consideration, since my predecessor was also a lieutenant. And I just think it turned out to be a logical thing for the Coast Guard to do and one that fitted very well my desire to have a chance to spend time with my family for a change during some of the formative years of our children. It was a welcome break, and I must say also, again, a very broadening experience, because among my duties there was that of captain of the port. I learned, for the first time, a great deal about what we now call our commercial vessel safety program and our captain of the port operations. So it became another welcome assignment. I thoroughly enjoyed my first command at sea. I would have liked it to have lasted longer.
This was really a great assignment for us, because for the first time we were in quarters and we had a large family. By that time, we had four children, and it was a climate that didn't require a lot of clothing. Therefore, our expenses were down. And for the first time, I was beginning to do a little bit better than living hand-to-mouth, so to speak. So there was that aspect of it, too.
Q: Then in October 1953, you did assume command of the Coast Guard base at Key West, Florida. What were the major responsibilities of the base and what were your major functions as commanding officer of the base?
Admiral Hayes: That was, during the early stages of my career, I suppose, one of the most varied of the assignments that I had. I wore three hats. I was commanding officer of the base; I was group commander of an area that encompassed the Florida Keys from Dry Tortugas on the west to Alligator Reef Light Station, which was just off Islamorada, Florida on the Florida Keys. Finally, I was captain of the port of Key West, Florida. So for a young lieutenant I had responsibilities for search and rescue, law enforcement, aids to navigation, captain of the port, and commercial vessel safety.
I was a marine investigating officer. I recall one of my first cases involved a fishing vessel that had run aground, and I had the captain of the fishing vessel in my office, going through the questioning that is part of the investigation. I had asked him to bring his chart with him. When, during the course of the questioning, I asked him to produce his chart, he produced a highway map of the Florida Keys. That was the kind of navigation "expertise" that he had. Of course, that was true of almost all of those fishermen. They would get under way to go to the fishing grounds, and they steered one compass course out and the reciprocal compass course back. About the only other navigational aid they used was a fathometer. Well, it's little vignettes like that, that exemplify the kind of thing that I was experiencing in that job.
I recall that I was given the responsibility, as captain of the port, for a merchant vessel that had carried arms to Guatemala while that country experienced a revolution. I remember vividly a large group of fairly important people from Washington, D.C., arriving in Key West, and the acting commander of the naval base, a crusty old Navy captain, who expected all of these people to report to him. Instead, they reported to this lieutenant over at the Coast Guard base, where we had our arrival conference. I'm not sure that Navy captain ever did forgive me for that! But here was a Coast Guard lieutenant placed in a position, really, of having more authority and responsibility than his much more senior Navy counterpart. It was something, I guess, that helped identify at an early stage in my career the need to exercise great sensitivity as one exercised the very broad authorities that Coast Guard officers have under the law.
Q: A lot of responsibility goes to very young officers.
Admiral Hayes: Absolutely. Coast Guard commissioned officers, petty officers, and warrant officers are head and shoulders above their counterparts in the other services in exercising leadership and in decision-making skills. Among the things that cause this to happen is the very substantial responsibility which we place on the shoulders of our people, along with which is a very substantial authority to make decisions. A young lieutenant (junior grade) in command of a patrol boat is given a very substantial amount of authority to go with his or her responsibility and decision-making. People become used to operating in that sort of an environment. I really think that's what makes our organization so flexible and so able to respond to just a wide variety of very complex problems.
Q: I guess I sense a bit of pride in the feeling that that really makes our organization not only more flexible, but really more effective as well.
Admiral Hayes: I think there's no question about it, nor is it said in criticism of our sister services at all. It simply recognizes that in peacetime, they're basically trained for something that we all hope is not going to happen, and that much of their decision-making is made, basically, in a training environment other than the obvious national security contingencies and crises. Maneuvers, of course, decisions having to do with ship maneuvers and aircraft dispositions and tactical arrangements and strategic planning and that sort of thing, they take place, obviously, in a structured environment that may or may not present any relationship at all to what the real world of the next war may be. And I think if anything has been proved in the past, it is that one never can anticipate the future.
So the big difference is that our Coast Guard people, all the time operating in a real world environment, make decisions that respond to real life situations, and decisions can be immediately evaluated as to whether they were good or bad. Our people just get used to taking action and taking action effectively, or they wouldn't survive.
Q: You went back to sea on the Sagebrush (W-399). Was that primarily just a tour of routine tending of navigation aid, or did you get into some interesting SAR and law enforcement incidents?
Admiral Hayes: Well, rarely, if ever, I think, is any tour on a Coast Guard operating unit just routine. It doesn't work that way. My two years as commanding officer of the Sagebrush were exciting years. I think, perhaps, among the Coast Guard's many duties, none provide a better training ground with respect to learning seamanship, shiphandling and the art of piloting, than buoy-tending. I capitalized on my earlier two-plus years on Mistletoe with respect to the professional things I needed to know. Shiphandling training on Mistletoe stood me in good stead, even though the Sagebrush was a single-screw vessel as compared to the Mistletoe, which was twin-screw.
The so-called routine aid to navigation operations we had, I might add, were almost always undertaken when the trade winds blew from 15 to 20 knots. It was a rare day when we really had a flat calm and didn't have to handle the ship under moderately adverse conditions for a single-screw ship. We also had many other types of operations besides buoy work. We acted as a search and rescue vessel for that part of the Caribbean, and consequently, we had remained on standby during certain times on a regularly scheduled basis.
Q: What was the law enforcement environment like at that time?
Admiral Hayes: As is so true of the Coast Guard throughout its history, we were in one of the cycles that saw our search and rescue responsibilities and our workload increasing dramatically, while at the same time, our law enforcement responsibilities at sea were not particularly challenged. There was no such thing as substantial drug smuggling at sea in those days. The fisheries patrols were quite limited, and there was no 200-mile fisheries conservation zone. We did have the Bering Sea patrol at that time, and some fisheries patrols in the area of Georges Bank off Cape Cod. But basically, maritime law enforcement as a responsibility of the Coast Guard, was on one of its down cycles. So we were involved in that to a very, very limited degree.
Interview Session Number 2 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG
Date: 8 October 1985
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: How did your first three commands prepare you for your eventual command of the entire Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: The discussion we had earlier about what makes the Coast Guard so and how Coast Guard people, for the most part, are so able to assume increasing levels of responsibility, is the direct answer to your question. For me it had to do with the way in which each command, to a degree, was an independent command, requiring me to make decisions often without a great deal of guidance. Additionally, the Coast Guard ensures our commanding officers have the authority to go along with the responsibility. We place trust in our subordinate commanding officers and don’t constantly monitor them—we trust them to make decisions and get the job done. I think each of those steps of increasing rank and, to a degree, increasing responsibility had a part to play in preparing me for additional levels of responsibility and authority.
I think it is also perhaps useful to go back and at least play upon that one other particular aspect that we haven't covered, and recognize that even though command in the Coast Guard (for the most part) is not the awesome size of a DID command, nor does it encompass the incredible fire power available to a DOD commander. But that’s not our job. Our commanders routinely use their forces and power, not only to effect decisions, but to influence events for a wide variety of operations that have international, national, or regional impact. They exercise great responsibility with great judgment and prudence. Whether stopping a potential smuggler at sea or successfully carry out a highly complex and difficult search and rescue incident such as the Prinsendam cruise ship in Alaska, our commanders exercise awesome responsibility for such a small service. Small in size but not small in responsibility or impact! Our people are particularly well prepared at the levels of command required to make very difficult decisions, and to make those decisions quite well. In talking about command and the sequence of events in one's career, it's important to recognize that the progressive preparation we give our people to assume increasing positions of responsibility is key to our leaderships success.
Q: So you felt that your career was well molded by your progression of commands.
Admiral Hayes: Yes, and some of them obviously not related to prior experience nor prior responsibility. I have to recall something that I didn't mention when we were talking about the Loran station in Matsumae. I remember at the time my orders were classified, because the Korean War was going on. When I was ordered to the job of commanding officer of Matsumae Loran station--it was called ELMO I(Emergency Loran Mobile I)-- one of three original stations in the chain. And I didn't even know when I got my orders where I was going, although I had a suspicion. Each of the commanding officers of those three stations were brought to Coast Guard Headquarters to be briefed by the top staff in headquarters on generally what was expected. I'll never forget Commander Zeke Brunner, one of our standout electronic experts and a brilliant man, was in charge of this particular program. The Chief of the Office of Engineering was a captain by the name of J.W. Ryssey, who, incidentally, later on was my group commander in Puerto Rico, when I had command of the Sagebrush.
I remember I asked Commander Brunner a question, as a young, not quite dry behind the ears junior grade, "Commander, you know, we're going to this assignment, and because of its importance and the immediacy of the assignment, we're not even going to go to Loran school. How much are we expected to know about this whole business as the commanding officer?"
I'll never forget his response. He looked at me, and growled, "Mister, you said you're going to be the commanding officer, didn't you?" I remembered his question for the rest of my career. So that's, I think, the essence of what the whole business of being a commanding officer is about in the Coast Guard. We expect our commanders to carry out their responsibilities, and use their authority in a responsible fashion. I think for the most part, they do.
Q: Shifting, then, if we could, to your assignment at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, what was your primary course of study while you were there?
Admiral Hayes: At that time, I was what was commonly called a middle-grade officer or staff officer, which is how the armed services describe majors or lieutenant commanders. So I went to the Command and Staff School. The principal thrust of that particular school was to educate an officer in the fundamental responsibilities of command and provide a strong introduction into staff officer responsibilities. How do you do a staff study? How do you present a briefing? What kind of visual aids should one use? What are the significant responsibilities of a staff officer? And from that, obviously, came the title Command and Staff School. For the most part, the people who attended were lieutenant commanders in the Navy and Coast Guard or majors in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.
When I went from 1959 to 1960, the school did not yet have its master's degree program. Our academic year principally centered around writing papers for presentation and conducting significant research for those papers. It was a year of academic learning and entirely free from any operational or staff stress. There was plenty of time to study and think.
The interesting thing to me that occurred--I may have alluded to it a little earlier in the interview--was that up until that time, which was some 13 years of service, I had had nothing but operational assignments. Furthermore, if you recall, during my Academy years, I had little in the way of broadening through liberal arts subjects such as philosophy, history, and government. I had become a person pretty much looking at every problem as having a black or white solution. There was very little gray in my thinking or in the way in which I approached problems.
The year at the War College helped to modify that rigid way of thinking. But it was my follow-on work at George Washington University in pursuing my master's degree in international affairs that really changed by style of decision making. I attended George Washington because the course at the Naval War College provided about half of the credits needed for a master's degree. So I went to George Washington to get the rest of it off duty.
One of the turning points in my whole career was my exposure to liberal college professors, exemplified by a George Washington University professor, who taught a course in comparative government. He walked into our class, composed entirely of male military officers, and said, "Gentlemen, how many of you think it's a good idea to sell wheat to the Russians?" Mind you, this question was asked at the height of the Cold War. And most of us thought rather poorly the Soviet Union, and anything that smacked at all of helping that country was anathema. No one raised a hand to support the professor's viewpoint; he then proceeded to decimate all of us by quite correctly pointing out that selling wheat to the Russians would be a very excellent way of furthering our national security by making the Soviet Union more dependent upon the United States. The professor’s thinking jolted me out of my usual mode. Although this was just a single incident and no single incident ever has complete influence on one's life, it certainly caused me to expand my thinking for all possible solutions and find the one that would serve best. And if I could not use the perfect solution, then it was perfectly all right to compromise.
My year at the War College and the follow-on study at George Washington played a very, very substantial part in helping me to become more flexible in my subsequent assignments. I have to tell you that when I went to the War College, there wouldn't have been any conceivable way in which I could have considered giving women equal opportunity with men in the Coast Guard. It just simply would not have occurred to me. Yet as Commandant I made a significant decision in that regard. Exposure to liberal ideas didn't necessarily make me a liberal by any stretch of the imagination, but it did make me recognize that simple answers to complex questions were usually inappropriate and almost all questions were never black and white issues. Decision making in an operational environment tends to be more simplistic or "black and white." As one’s responsibility increases, the problem solving is more complex.
Q: Did the majority of your peers feel the same way about women in leadership roles?
Admiral Hayes: At what time?
Q: Prior to your experience at the War College.
Admiral Hayes: Oh, well, when I attended the War College in that era, I doubt any of us who would have supported women in the service in the role that they presently have.
Q: What did it take to change that, if, indeed, it did change in your mind?
Admiral Hayes: Well, that's an interesting question. I recall when I was Commandant of Cadets, the Superintendent directed me to conduct a study on whether or not there should be or could be female cadets at the Coast Guard Academy. I, together with a number of my fellow officers, conducted such a study. It probably occurred about 1972. We concluded that there was simply no basis for excluding women from a technical or mechanical perspective. I then went on to say that philosophically, I was not as convinced that this was the right kind of course for the nation to take, and I've said, frankly, to women's groups in years since that I'm still not absolutely convinced that in the long run of our civilization, that this has been a good move.
On the other hand, what convinced me to make the decision concerning women in the Coast Guard that I did while Commandant—my belief that they should share equal opportunity and responsibility with the men. Once the political system had made a decision to include women in new ways in the Coast Guard, then there was only one right way to go about implementing that decision. That is to remove all bars to career assignments and opportunities for women. So that's a little bit of background that we can perhaps explore further when we get to that point in the interview.
Q: Prior to your time at the Naval War College, did you view yourself as a generalist or as a specialist, at least in how your career was beginning to emerge? And did your time at the War College change that view of your own career?
Admiral Hayes: No, I think that throughout my entire career, I viewed myself as a generalist. I had mixed emotions over that particular debate but eventually I became absolutely convinced that a generalist career path has best served the Coast Guard. Now, the problem with the term is that, as is so often the case with a complex issue, one tends to view it as black and white--generalist and specialist. If one really looks at the Coast Guard--then and today--everyone in the Coast Guard is both a generalist and a specialist. For example, a Coast Guard boatswain's mate not only has to be able to coxswain a boat but must enforce laws. The same boatswain’s mate will serve on the buoy deck of a buoy tender followed by duty as a waterfront facility inspector for a captain of the port. Right down from the commandant to our key enlisted personnel in the Coast Guard, we really expected--and do expect--our people to have a broad understanding of all our missions and to have at least adequate knowledge to carry out the duties of a particular assignment. And yet at the same time, we have pursued a policy of subspecialization. Almost every commissioned officer, almost every enlisted person, particularly today, is sort of rotated in and out of jobs that relate to a subspecialty. If a boatswain's mate has proved to be highly competent as an aide to navigation subspecialist, it's likely that that boatswain's mate is going to get frequent tours in that subspecialty. Or a commissioned officer is likely to have a number of engineering assignments if he or she attains a degree in engineering postgraduate study, as is true of a lawyer, a comptroller or management specialist. So it's important to think about this question in its broadest context. Coast Guard officers are both generalists and specialists. So are Coast Guard enlisted personnel. The trap to avoid is not to develop single specialties that one follows throughout a whole career. To my mind, that's stifling and counterproductive.
Specializing in a particular mission area basically provides detailed knowledge of that area. While at the same time as a career progresses one does not broaden sufficiently to permit one’s self to deal with complicated issues in many mission areas. The narrower the career the more stifling it becomes in regard to making the correct decisions in the future. We need multi-talented officers.
As we think about this particular issue--and it's a significant one, because it's a part of the whole heart and soul of the Coast Guard -- it's a significant factor of why I think our organization has been so successful. It's inefficient, but extremely effective. You will find that over the years, as I came to understand the meaning of those two terms, I argued frequently that the Coast Guard is an inefficient organization but an extremely effective organization. And one of my great problems with specialists is that they tend to become very efficient, but as they proceed to higher management jobs, they often are not effective managers. One of the prime examples of that kind of thing is the lawyer or the engineer who, after many years in that specialty area, is placed in a management leadership position; he or she is often unable to divorce himself or herself from the details of managing that particular job, because its been their hallmark of success...the absolute command of detail in their specialty which makes it more difficult for them to delegate and not master every detail. To me, the thing that really makes our Coast Guard people very effective in command is that we don't let them spend all their career, or a major portion of their career, in a very specialized area and then turn them loose all of a sudden into a major management or leadership job.
Q: In light of that, do you feel it's disadvantageous for an officer to pursue a particular career path that doesn't offer a lot of alternate assignments?
Admiral Hayes: Not as long as the officer is given the opportunity of having an assignment out of specialty. Of course, this applies to our people in our commercial safety program, engineering, and the legal profession, and so on. There are many who argue it's a terrible waste of talent to take these people, particularly in an increasingly complex world, and rotate them out of that subspecialty into a general duty job, whether it be aboard ship or in a group command. The reason given is that you're wasting their time because when they return to their subspecialty, they have an awful lot of catch-up to do since the world is moving so fast these days.
Well, that particular criticism may be valid with respect to the specialty, but the thing about it is that the officer or enlisted person, having been exposed to a much broader field and to a different responsibility, is going to come back to his or her specialty far better prepared to do that job and to be an advisor or a staff person in that specialty.
I can't help but think about the lawyer in the Coast Guard. Now, it's interesting that if one talks to other agencies of government, they have a tremendous respect for our lawyers. They are regularly impressed over the ability of our lawyers to look at a problem not only in a highly analytical way, which all lawyers are supposed to be able to do but also to factor in operational considerations--making them better able to analyze problems. And the reason our lawyers can do this is because they have had training and responsibilities in the real world of operations. Hence, they conduct their job understanding what the Coast Guard is trying to accomplish.
I do have one other thought about the use of lawyers. Unlike the Coast Guard many other organizations frequently permit their staff lawyers to become policy makers when their real function should only be counsel and advice. They become policy makers without experiencing operational broadening assignments.
I look at the way in which many organizations of government and the private sector, including our own Department of Transportation, give policy authority to their general counsels. My view is that the general counsel, the senior legal person in any organization, should never have a line policy responsibility. Their responsibility is to provide advice. In Alaska, for example, right now there's substantial controversy under way that the Attorney General of the state of Alaska ought to be elected. To my way of thinking, that would be the worst thing that this state could ever permit to occur, because once that happens, the Attorney General has become a separate political figure who will have tremendous policy influence over the course of events and possibly be running for political office while in the office of the Attorney General. And that's wrong. There's no way in the world a governor can exist without adequate legal advice, and it shouldn't be tainted by the personal politics of his attorney general.
Well, the same thing is true in an agency of the government such as the Coast Guard. If the chief counsel of the Coast Guard has never been anything but a lawyer, he or she really has no direct knowledge of operations, then, in my view, that person is going to be more and more politicized by the Department of Transportation and by the broader political side of government. It will be very, very difficult for the Commandant to be able to deal with that kind of a situation. So the seemingly nice situation of having a permanent civilian chief counsel appointed by the Department of Transportation, to my view, is the wrong way to go.
It is much easier to be efficient than it is to be effective. Efficiency requires a lot of attention to detail but it does not necessarily require a comprehension of the larger "scheme of things." But to be effective, really effective, you have to comprehend just a multitude of things and deal with them in a broad fashion. You can’t go into the efficiency detail if you are going to be completely effective. There are just too many problems to deal with, to many things to do. It just doesn’t permit a person to that. In order to be effective, you have to broaden the way in which you trust people, delegate to people, and have an organization that is tailored to making decisions all down the line and not having constantly to refer them up for review by everybody. As people in industry and government are less willing to trust, they build bigger bureaucracies which become not only less effective, but less efficient as well.
It's a very complex issue, but it's all tied up in this whole idea of efficiency and effectiveness and whether or not it's best to have general duty officers or special duty officers. As you can see, I think I have resolved this issue in my own mind over the years very positively in favor of the general duty approach, even in today's world.
Q: Do you feel this approach will be preserved within the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: I think that if the Coast Guard remains its current size and continues to have a complex number of missions in support of national objectives, it will be very difficult to find a way to do all those things effectively without continuing that policy. We're too small to have a Supply Corps or a Corps of Engineers. It's an illogical way for is to go. We can’t have highly specialized groupings. Furthermore we need officers to experience command in their career to ensure their full development. The number of the commands in the Coast Guard are obviously insufficient to permit everybody to serve as a commanding officer during the course of their career. However, command still should be an organizational objective for as many as possible.
Our people perform very well in high level assignments that are characterized by ambiguity and conflict which is a key hallmark of our government system. They do very well in that arena because of the series of conflicts that they've had to constantly resolve in their own lives: the conflict of special duty versus general duty, of operations versus staff assignments, of being the sea-going policeman (bad guy) versus the rescuer (good guy), and having to learn about a new job at the time they're assigned to it in order to survive.
Q: If we could shift to your next assignment, you were assigned as the head of the program section of the Program Analysis Division at Coast Guard Headquarters. What were some of the major programs that were implemented while you held that position?
Admiral Hayes: This was my first staff assignment after 14 years of straight operational duty notwithstanding the Naval War College. It was a time when the Coast Guard was engaged in the periodic self-examination and external evaluation required by the [Treasury] Department or Congress. One of my most interesting and challenging tasking was that of staff officer on a of Coast Guard roles and missions study. Admiral Richmond was the Commandant when the study was commenced. The new Secretary of Treasury, Secretary Dillon, ordered the study when he came in to the office and said, basically, "I simply don't understand the Coast Guard, and I'd like to have it looked at and be told where the Coast Guard ought to go in future years under this department." And from this lack of understanding came the study of the Coast Guard's roles and missions.
The study began, as I recall, in 1962, about two years after I had been assigned to the Program Analysis Division, as it was called in those days. Captain Land was the chief of the division. A commander by the name of Hugh Lusk was the next senior person, and he basically handled the operating expense programs of the Coast Guard. My responsibility was the acquisition, construction, and improvement program or the capital budget of the Coast Guard. Really, we were the two principal staff officers assigned to that division to review programs for the Commandant and his deputy chief of staff, Captain Walter Capron. We had no admiral chief of staff at that time. Captain Capron was a highly competent person and a very interesting guy.
I'll never forget the sage advice he gave me that I carried the rest of my career. This was early in the roles and missions study. He said, "Jack, you and the people from the Department of Treasury and the Bureau of Budget (predecessor to the Office of Management and Budget), you all are going to come up with some great ideas on how to change the Coast Guard or how to improve things. I just urge you to do one thing before you propose to the Commandant a significant change. Try to go back and find out why things are being done the way they are right now that you want to change. Go back and see if you can't determine in the files or in history why particular policies are in effect or particular approaches or ways of doing things are in effect, because what you have to understand is that some very bright people were your predecessors, and they were just as smart as you are." I thought that was a pretty good piece of advice.
At any rate, the four years in that job, gave me a tremendous appreciation for everything the Coast Guard was doing and an understanding of the relationship of the Coast Guard to other agencies of government. It also gave me an understanding of the budget process and how it worked in the Coast Guard, the Department, and the Bureau of the Budget, and also with the Congress. I helped produce the statements which the Commandant would use in presenting the Coast Guard's budget to the congressional committees responsible for authorizing and appropriating funds to carry out our missions. It was an incredible experience and a very, very significant one which then led me to recognize that every officer in the Coast Guard must not just pursue operational jobs, but have staff assignments and learn how the management side of the Coast Guard works.
It was a very exciting and productive time in my career, highlighted by my participation in the roles and missions study. I was particularly influenced by the Commandant who took over midway during the course of the study, Admiral Roland. He became one of my heroes; one of my principal mentors during the course of my career, an absolutely marvelous person. He managed to handle that study with an even hand, with a sparkle in his eye, and with a great deal of wisdom. Coupled with Captain Capron’s, brilliant staff work, they kept the study on the right track. It turned out to be a very, very productive study for the Coast Guard. Out of it came major expansion of our icebreaker program and, a solidification of the Coast Guard's missions.
Its legacy to the Coast Guard was threefold. It greatly facilitated resolving future budget issues with the Treasury Department and the then Bureau of the Budget. It also gave the Coast Guard a charter for the future by outlining key mission responsibilities. Finally, within the Coast Guard, it triggered the inception of a new long-range planning system.
An entirely different atmosphere, I might add, prevailed at that time with both the Department of Treasury and the Bureau of the Budget than was true while I was Commandant. For the most part, it was less of a hostile conflict situation. The people who were representing the Bureau of the Budget and Treasury -- in the Bureau of the Budget, two very capable people by the name of Bill Boleyn and Jim Scott, and the Department of Treasury, was ably represented by a fellow by the name of Norman Simms, -- forced us to think and to justify, but they were quite prepared, also, to believe. As we will discuss later on during the interview, I simply have to say that was not the case during the later years of my time as Commandant. I was very disappointed in the kind of people with whom I became associated in both the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget. Not that they weren't competent, but rather, they simply were not intellectually honest, and that was not the case in the days of the roles and missions study.
Q: Honest with themselves?
Admiral Hayes: Simply intellectually honest in the study itself. In the later roles and missions study, which occurred while I was Commandant, that study was being used for only one purpose, and that was to attempt to achieve particular goals that both the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget had established to substantially reduce the Coast Guard's roles and missions. So it was an entirely different sort of study. It will be interesting to explore that when we get to that point.
Q: Do you feel like the roles and missions progressed the way you foresaw that they would between the time that you made the 1962 study and the time that you became admiral?
Admiral Hayes: Well, first of all, let me respond by saying not entirely, no. At the time, a number of us felt very strongly, for example, that there was an opportunity to combine the then-Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Coast Guard. I think we felt that the charting function of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was so closely related to our aid to navigation function and general sea-going capability that it just made a great deal of sense for that organization to be melded with the Coast Guard. The commissioned officer corps of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was really a group of people who didn't have a particularly good home. There were not very many who were looking out for them. They were not a member of the armed forces of the United States, but they were among the uniformed services of the United States. And I think at the time, both they and we felt that that would be a good move. Unfortunately, some of our own people in the Coast Guard and others in government were too conservative, and that viewpoint simply never got any farther than discussion.
On the other hand, the ocean station program was justified to the extent that it would continue for another dozen years or so. The various missions of the Coast Guard at that time were supported by the study. The transfer of Navy icebreakers to the Coast Guard resulted from that study. So I think one can say, that most of, what we envisaged did occur over the next dozen or so years. I don't think any of us envisaged the emergence of the environmental protection program, for instance, since that certainly was not in evidence at that time. I think the demise of the ocean station program was privately acknowledged by all of us, recognizing that would occur once technology bridged the gap that this program was trying to serve. Indeed, that did happen. I think the recognition that the Coast Guard should be a maritime law enforcement agency was amply demonstrated as things progressed in the unfortunate aftermath of the Vietnam War and increased drug use by our nation.
So I think at that time in the history of the Coast Guard, it served a very useful purpose, and indeed, had we remained in Treasury a little bit longer, I'm not so sure that the Coast Guard budget wouldn't have improved dramatically because of that study beyond what it did. Bear in mind that the study was finally concluded in, I think, 1963, and we transferred to the new Department of Transportation only four years later, in 1967. So there was a relatively brief period of time for the rather significant conclusions of that study to be implemented. I think one can go back and look at what happened to the budget during the aftermath of the roles and missions study and recognize substantial budget support for study conclusions.
Q: Did you agree with the movement of the Coast Guard from the Treasury Department to the Transportation Department at the time?
Admiral Hayes: Well, bear in mind that that occurred, interestingly enough, during the year that I was in Vietnam. I departed for Vietnam after my tour as commanding officer of the Vigilant (WPC-617) and so for three successive years, I had been away from the action in Washington. I was not sufficiently privy to all the thinking that went into that decision, really, to evaluate it adequately at the time.
On the other hand, I have to say that looking at the two departments and the missions we were doing at the time--including the very significant increase in our involvement in commercial vessel safety, and marine transportation - related regulatory activities--I think it was wise move. I have to tell you that certainly without the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and the Coast Guard, there never would have been a Department of Transportation, because we brought with us the major resources that provided justification for that move for the most part. If one looked at the Railroad Administration, (which was mostly the Alaska railroad and some bureaucrats writing regulations), the Federal Highway Administration (which had a fairly sizable trust fund to build highways), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (a very small regulatory agency), it was clear that FAA and Coast Guard would initially be the principle operating agencies of the new Department. So if you looked at the combined elements of that Department of Transportation, (rail, highway, air, and sea) you ended up with too small a management problem, unless you included the FAA and the Coast Guard. Of course, without the FAA, you wouldn't have the aviation side of the picture, and without the Coast Guard, you wouldn't have the maritime side. The Maritime Administration itself really should have been under the Department of Transportation from its inception, but politically that was not possible at the time, although it came to pass later on.
So I guess I have to view the change as one that was correct. Even today, with the tremendous emphasis on customs law enforcement, I think it just doesn't make a great deal of sense for the Coast Guard to be in the Department of Treasury. At some point, I would think we ought to talk a little bit about whether or not one can say the same thing about the Department of Defense. But in talking about organization, it doesn't make a great deal of difference what department the Coast Guard is in, as long as its functions reasonably and adequately relate to that department. No matter where we are, we'll be competing for funds with other agencies in that department. That won't change, no matter where we are. Do we want to compete directly with Customs, for example, at a time when there are major efforts under way to do something about drug abuse in this country? Perhaps it's better to compete with Customs while separated in the Department of Transportation than it would be within the Department of Treasury.
All I want to point out is it's a very complex question, and those who simplistically say, "Well, if the Coast Guard were in the Department of Defense, particularly under Mr. Reagan, we would really have had a tremendous improvement in our funding, and we would never have had to suffer through what we've had to suffer through over the last six years." I can tell you, don't believe that!
Q: While you were within the Program Analysis Division, you served as liaison officer to the House Appropriations Investigating Group. Is that right?
Admiral Hayes: Well, as I recall, I think it was (you'll have to go back and explore the timing) my recollection is that after completing the roles and missions study there was a congressional review not unlike the one that occurred while I was Commandant. Yes, I acted as a liaison officer with the congressional staff that were doing that particular review.
Q: While you were liaison officer with the House Appropriations Investigating Group, how did you help form plans that led to the replacement of over-age vessels? And what were some of the vessels that needed replacement?
Admiral Hayes: When assigned to the Program Analysis Division, I studied the total value of Coast Guard operating assets--the ships, the aircraft, the shore stations. And then having identified that total value to some modest degree of accuracy, we asked, "What annual capital investment should we make to assure reasonable replacement of capital plant?" We knew we could not have an absolutely all-modern capital plant, because we could not allow a major portion of our capital plant simultaneously reaching mass obsolescence or overtaken by modern technology?"
When we took a look at this, I remember that the average age of a Coast Guard shore facility was around 50 years. The average age of our vessels was 20 some-odd years, and the average age of our aircraft was 15-plus years or so. Obviously, that presented a major problem in capital replacement, because we faced almost block obsolescence of the Coast Guard's capital plant. Without arguing why it had occurred, it's clear we had to solve it! With the exception of a few ships from World War II and a few modern aircraft, we really had a major capital replacement problem. The most important thing that we really did with the Congress was to identify the problem. We brought it out into the open and clearly stated that something needed to be done promptly. With the roles and missions study, to a degree, receiving reasonably favorable consideration by both the executive branch and the legislative branch of government, the timing was certainly right to build upon that success.
Then, as mentioned, we shifted to the new Department of Transportation. We just about started from scratch, because we had a brand-new group of people who knew nothing about the Coast Guard. First we had to convince them that we needed to continue doing our missions and second that our fiscal requirements were valid. I think the roles and missions study ground work with the Congress had a very salutary effect. Perhaps, the most lasting effect of that entire study was more on the congressional side than the executive branch side simply because of the Coast Guard’s transfer from one department to another.
Q: Do you feel like replacements have continued, whether you think they should since that time or following the study?
Admiral Hayes: I suppose one has to answer that question, at least in my position, pragmatically. We have probably achieved about as much as we could expect to, given all the circumstances that the Coast Guard faced. For example, we are now operating a relatively new fixed wing jet aircraft, the Dassault-Breguet HU-25 Falcon. It's been in the Coast Guard inventory since the early 1980’s. We acquired the Aerospatiale [HH-65] Dolphin helicopter, which is going to be a tremendous asset for the Coast Guard, which replaced the old HH-52s. We've eliminated the famous "Goat," the Grumman HU-16E Albatross amphibian. We modernized our C-130 aircraft, which are a tremendous capability for us, and we will replace the HH-3 helicopter. So looking at our aircraft inventory, I have to say that overall we've managed successfully to modernize that aircraft fleet, and to do so in a very imaginative and creative way.
In our ships, we have the new WMEC 270-foot class vessel. I suspect that probably the decision on that vessel will be looked upon in history as an erroneous one. If we look around the world, at the nations that have similar law enforcement and search and rescue responsibilities such as Norway or Japan, we do not see nations building 270-foot ships. They're building 300-plus foot ships, just to accommodate the different capabilities expected of a modern complex vessel. But at any rate, we have a fairly new cutter class, and either we'll add a section onto it at some point in the future, or as the Coast Guard always does, we'll make do and make it perform well!
We have our middle-age 210-foot cutters, which are more than middle-aged, these days, since the first three, one of which I commanded, were launched in 1964. They're beyond middle age, shall we say! However, most have gone through a major renovation which will extend their service life. Our 378-foot cutters are a marvelous ship, proving themselves over and over again in a variety of circumstances. They, too have gone through a fleet rehabilitation and maintenance program [FRAM] to extend their service life. The helicopter capabilities of both of these classes have proven themselves time and again in all our operations.
Our cutter fleet is probably not quite as good as our aircraft fleet. On the other hand, the major rehabs received by the 378s, in effect, gave us almost brand-new ships. So as I look at this issue, I think the current replacement program is going reasonably well. But as we approach the 21st Century, the cycle begins again and we must start new planning. Finally, we're beginning to replace those terribly old 95- and 82-footers that have done such yeoman work in coastal law enforcement and search and rescue.
So, being fundamentally an optimist, I feel most certainly we're on the right track. I think we tend to keep our vessels too long. We have a whole class of 180-foot tenders that were built during World War II. I know they've been renovated and upgraded. But as is always true, that vessel was designed for a specific purpose at a particular point in time, and is now woefully obsolete.
In summary, I'm very, very upbeat about the way in which the Coast Guard goes about its work of replacing aircraft and ships. We are much criticized, for example, for not having gone to Finland or somewhere else and taken, in effect, an off-the-shelf icebreaker to do our job. On the other hand, I certainly recall my visit to a POLAR-class vessel in the Antarctic when I was Commandant, going through ten feet of ice at a couple of knots without the old backing and filling. And, yes, we've had lots of problems with controllable pitch propellers. But I can tell you, if you go back in history and examine it, we had tremendous problems with the WIND-class icebreakers and their propellers when they first came out. People tend to forget that.
Q: When you took command of the 210 foot VIGILANT in 1964, I suppose there were similar complaints about that new vessel. How did it ride compared to the 180s, and were there a lot of complaints? If so, were any of them proven?
Admiral Hayes: As is true with every new ship, there were lots of complaints. I suppose I was somewhat impatient over the tone of some of my fellow commanding officers who were evaluating their ships at the same time I was evaluating VIGILANT. I had a marvelous executive officer who was on the inspection staff during construction, by the name of Lieutenant Commander Bob Stancliff. I had a tremendous engineer officer by the name of Lieutenant Bob Hines, who was one of these can-do engineers, who not only understood theory, but was a very practical man to boot. For example, he would crawl up our tail pipe to weld a crack in the exhaust pipe that went through the length of the ship without even thinking twice about it. He was an incredible person. We all had this attitude that, "We're going to make this ship work. It's fundamentally well designed. It's supposed to carry helicopters. So damn it; we're going to have helicopter operations." At this time there were many aviators looking askew at operating helicopters from these short cutters. Some ship drivers thought it was too expensive for the relative gain. The broader point is that we were dealing with change and people had a hard time adjusting. I must confess we had some operations that today, I suppose, would be considered highly contentious. I remember recovering helicopters in the Caribbean during one of the space launches in 25 knot winds and ten-foot seas. We probably wouldn't do that very often these days. We were at the maximum limits for that operation. But nevertheless, we did it, and we did it successfully and were very proud!
Yes, the ships roll a lot. I have to say this, though. I guess the maximum roll I sustained on Vigilant was 45 to 50 degrees. I can recall that bad-a-roll on Chincoteague (a 311'WAVP), and I can recall that bad-a-roll on Sagebrush (a 180'tender). So I'm not sure that the 210s are as bad as advertised. Yes, they're uncomfortable. I've got a scar on my leg from being thrown out of my bunk all the way across the cabin on a stormy night. So I'm not suggesting for a moment that they don't have their problems as far as comfort is concerned. But no small ship in the Coast Guard has ever been comfortable; nor will it ever be comfortable until we begin to adopt some of the design principles associated with a vessel such as SWATH. I think SWATH offers tremendous potential for elimination of fatigue and sea sickness and the kinds of things that plague seamen, no matter how proud they are to be sailors.
No, it was a fine ship even though it had lots of growing pains. We worked with the district engineers--not against them--to solve these problems. During the nearly two years of my command, at no time did we ever miss an operational mission. Now, sometimes we were down to one engine out of four, functionally, and many times those problems were repaired at sea. (Note: The first three WMEC-210, including mine had 4 engines: 2 diesels and 2 gas turbines. They were called CODAG; we could operate on any one or on all four. This was an experiment to determine the utility of gas turbines at sea. It was an R&D project.)
Once while at anchor in Provincetown Harbor during a 50-knot gale, we could not up anchor unless we overhauled our anchor winch, which we did by fabricating our own A-frame to lift that winch and effect the repair. Our people made things happen with an attitude that "We aren't going to accept that. We can make this work." They solved many problems that subsequently, of course, were applied to other vessels in the class. From a standpoint of maneuvering, alongside a fishing vessel in distress, I remember taking vessels in tow with 40-knot winds blowing, making our approach, and passing the towline and having the vessel in tow in 12 minutes. So the 210s were fine ships, and I think they still are. Again, the helicopter capability has proven itself in law enforcement, particularly, to make the 210 a very, very effective vessel.
Q: You mentioned that you had some exceptional people working for you, particularly your executive officer and your engineer officer.
Admiral Hayes: I would also say that really followed right down through the entire crew. I had a chief boatswain's mate whose name was Chief Fatula. There was no problem that he couldn't work out. He was an incredible person when it came to picking up a tow in stormy weather, for example. He would be in charge of that. Yes, we had a first lieutenant, but let's face it, the first lieutenant was oftentimes a trainee ensign, with all due respect to ensigns. And it was the chief who really knew what the hell was going on and how to get that heaving line over to the vessel so that immediate transfer of the hawser could occur, (the towing hawser).
Q: I suspect that since you felt that way about crew, that you probably had similar feelings about most of the people you've worked with in the Coast Guard. I guess the reason I feel that way is because when I see a leader that feels that way about the people he works with, it's because of the leader as much as it is because of the character of the people that work for him.
Admiral Hayes: Well, I'm sure that's true to a degree. People have asked me a number of times since I've retired, "Do you miss it?" And my answer is categorically, "No, not really." Particularly I don't miss the perks, the special things that one acquires along the line as you achieve a higher rank. The only thing I really miss is the tremendous camaraderie and mutual respect that Coast Guard people have for each other and with each other. And it's a very special thing. I've not encountered it anywhere else, nor have I really seen it evidenced as much in the other armed forces as is true in the Coast Guard. I think that's true because I feel our people are just so professional and have such great respect for each other and rely upon each other in the decision process. Under very arduous circumstances, it has created a very special bond that is, if not unique, very nearly so.
Q: Do you feel the people you work with were good because they were good on their own merit, or do you think that they were good because they had been treated as if they were good?
Admiral Hayes: Both. It's very interesting. I remember when I was district commander in Alaska, and my chief of staff was then-Captain Paul Yost, who is now Vice Admiral Paul Yost, the Atlantic Area Commander. In those days, the Office of Personnel was sending feedback to the commanders who were writing fitness reports to tell them how they were faring with respect to the mean or the average rating in the service. My fitness reports were almost entirely being written on commanding officers, whether it was a lieutenant (junior grade) in command of a 95-footer or a captain in command of Support Base Kodiak or the air station. My feedback, was pretty bad. It was pretty bad because I had a disproportionate group of high performers. So I called the chief of staff in and said, "You know, this is something we ought to evaluate pretty carefully."
Then interestingly enough, along came a Harvard Business Review article that dealt with performance evaluations. It was one of those things during the course of one's career that tend to impress you, perhaps disproportionately. At any rate, the thesis was simply this--and I tend to believe it wholeheartedly: to the extent that you demand outstanding performance, you'll usually get it. Therefore, if you expect your commanders to be outstanding, they will be outstanding, and they should be recognized for that. And if that ends up disturbing the bell-shaped curve, so be it. But you've established a fact that can't be overcome by the statistical shape of the curve. And I guess that's part of why I think the Coast Guard is so successful. We just simply as a matter of course demand from our people outstanding performance; we expect them to perform beyond the norm. If we didn't, we wouldn't provide them with the kind of authority and responsibility that we give them. And that includes delegation, trust, confidence in your people, and mutual respect, policies that really, I think, are terribly, terribly important in an organization. So often they are glossed over in favor of the over-used term "management."
For too many years, the magic phrase around town was "management by objectives." The word "leadership" somehow got dropped along the way. It didn't get adequately emphasized. I've always argued that you can't be a good manager without being a good leader, since part of the resources you manage are people. As I look at our Coast Guard then and now, if there is any outstanding trait that it has developed--and incidentally, has truly developed over the last two decades, particularly--it has been the quality of leadership.
A very significant event that occurred in the history of the Coast Guard was something called the Kerrins legislation. The Kerrins legislation did change the standard for selection for higher rank. And it changed that standard from one very simple descriptive term to another very simple descriptive term. The prior standard was that satisfactory service qualified one for promotion. In other words, as long as an individual did not have an unsatisfactory fitness report, that individual was selected for promotion to the next higher rank up to captain. Now, what that meant was that unless you really screwed up, you could go through a whole succession of promotions by simply performing satisfactorily and achieve the rank of captain. There were some who managed to get there by that very process. But it was a deadly thing for the Coast Guard. In my early years, I recall many captains who simply were not competent to do their jobs or at least barely competent to do their jobs. Some were really retired on active duty. I don't blame them; I simply blame the system.
The Kerrins legislation required promotions based upon a best qualified system. Out of that came our present promotion system, which looks at a particular group of officers, identifies the number in that group for promotion, and then identifies the best qualified for promotion. This means that some satisfactory officers get passed over. Now, yes, it's a more brutal system, but I can tell you the quality of the officer corps has improved dramatically. It has also filtered down to our enlisted personnel evaluation system as well.
Q: I think that part of what you're expressing is that now we are successful in eliminating from the Coast Guard marginal performers. Something that interests me is what kind of advice could you give other organizations that aren't as effective at eliminating marginal performers?
Admiral Hayes: Let me modify a bit what you just said. I think it was inaccurately stated. I have to tell you that those who are being eliminated, for the most part, are not marginal performers. A very few, perhaps. What is happening is different; only the best qualified people are being retained. Now, that's a very significant difference in those two approaches, because the latter method, that the best qualified, the most competent are being retained says that some competent, qualified people--not marginal people, but competent, qualified people--are not being retained. And it's really important to recognize that. First of all, the majority of captains, commanders, and lieutenant commanders who don't make the next rank are not incompetent, nor unqualified; it's simply that there are people among their peers who are better than they are. And that's why they have not been promoted. The marginally qualified, for the most part, under our present system, are going to be eliminated at the ensign and lieutenant (junior grade), lieutenant rank. By the time you get up to lieutenant commander, you're already dealing with a highly competent and professional officer corps. I think that's one of the significant points, because out of that highly competent group, you're still weeding people out, which means that you're even further improving the quality of the organization. I tend to believe that that is what's happening today. I'm sure every so often a flag officer or a captain slips through the crack and makes it when everybody says, "How did that happen?" But not very often.
Q: What advice would you offer to the organizations that don't have as good a record?
Admiral Hayes: When I speak before audiences on this subject, I argue that no matter the organization, the most important thing for best quality people is to delegate authority and responsibility as much as possible. Then demand that the people who have been delegated that authority and responsibility perform well. When they don't, don't promote them; nor retain them if they're incompetent. With that approach, it's a rare organization where people won’t respond to trust. Most people in responsible jobs with the authority to get the job done will respond positively to that kind of trust. An organization that doesn't trust its people, in my view, will be successful or, at best, will be marginally successful. The ones that are the most successful today, and one can confirm this in many articles or treatises on management, are those who emulate the Japanese. While they've profited from our country’s earlier management principles and expanded upon them, the United States seems to have discarded some of them. But the successful business today, the successful corporation, is people oriented. Now, that's the bottom line. I can't applaud too much the idea of being concerned about one's people in every aspect of an organization. These are the things that I would talk about to another agency or a business, to describe what I think produces success.
Q: I appreciate you expanding on those ideas, because they are part of the less tangible heart that ticks in the Coast Guard that does make it so successful, the kind of philosophy that promotes a highly successful organization are kind of priceless, in my mind.
Admiral Hayes: I think probably, if it's all right with you, this might be a good time to finish. I realize that perhaps we didn't get through the Vigilant time, but maybe we did.
Q: In my mind, we can very simply wrap up the Vigilant if you care to entertain the question of what were the primary duties of the Vigilant at the time. But if the answer is . . .
Admiral Hayes: At the time the primary duties of the Vigilant were search and rescue and law enforcement. We were just beginning to get back into the fisheries business again. We conducted fisheries patrols on Georges Bank. We were running almost 50 percent underway and 50 percent in port. Our patrols combined of search and rescue standby and active fisheries law enforcement. We boarded fishing vessels, we observed foreign fishing vessels and reported their activities. So that was the major emphasis.
I recall one patrol in a two-week period when we towed several fishing vessels approximately 1,000 miles. That tells you that almost the entire two weeks we were underway towing one or another fishing vessel which had gotten in trouble at sea, or proceeding to their assistance.
Q: Those were search and rescue cases rather than seizures?
Admiral Hayes: Yes, those were search and rescue cases. We received many letters of appreciation. Those were the days when few medals or unit awards were handed out and instead recognized good performance through letters of appreciation. Vigilant had many; we were a proud ship and very confident.
Q: Were vessels commonly seized during that period of fisheries enforcement?
Admiral Hayes: No. In fact, on the East Coast, I'm not aware of any vessels seized. I think up in the Bering Sea, there may have been one seized by the Storis (W-38) for a blatant violation of fisheries laws. I don't recall the details. But no, seizure was not a part of east coast enforcement at the time. There was no U.S. law that established a fisheries conservation zone. It is clear now that over-fishing was being done, not only by the foreign fishermen, but by our own.
Interview Number 3 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG
Date: 9 October 1985
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: Sir, I'd like to start this session with your assignment to the Fourth Coastal Zone, Division Two, Vietnam. Where was your headquarters located there, and how was the command structure set up?
Admiral Hayes: That was a rather interesting assignment, to put it mildly. With respect to responsibilities and command structure, the whole operation was extremely challenging and complex. Actually, I wore four hats. I was SOPA, senior officer present afloat; I was the Commander of Task Group 115.4; I was the Commander of Coast Guard Division 11; and I was the senior naval officer advising the Vietnamese Navy in the Fourth Coastal Zone. So it was really a mixed bag.
On the one hand, I had promulgated instructions for all the forces that were under my command. Coast Guard Division 11 was an administrative or support command within the command structure of the Coast Guard. I provided patrol boats to myself as Task Group Commander. In doing so I provided the Division 11 boats with training, maintenance, and logistic support. When the 82-foot patrol boats were in port they were under Coast Guard Division 11 command and thus directly under the administrative command of the Commandant.
My operational command, on the other hand was a Navy Task Force Group Command(the Market Time Operation), interdicting the flow of arms and ammunition into South Vietnam from the sea.
Q: And that was Task Force 115?
Admiral Hayes: Yes. There were four coastal zone task groups as well as other task groups under that command structure. We were 115.4. 115.1 was the northernmost one near the North Vietnamese border, and 115.2 and 115.3, were down the coast. 115.4 encompassed the Gulf of Thailand and the southern tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula. Incidentally, there were around 1,000 military personnel associated with Task Group 115.4 operations including the Swift boats, Coast Guard patrol boats, one or two Navy DERs, and a Thai gunboat. Occasionally there was a Navy minesweeper attached to the Task Group. It was an interesting mixture of ships and boats, with the ships providing naval gunfire support, and the boats boarding against smuggling and providing limited naval gunfire support. Other tasks were involved, but those were the principle ones.
My third command advised the Vietnamese Navy. My counterpart was a Vietnamese Navy commander who had the same rank as I. His name was Hguyen Huu Chi. When South Vietnam fell, Commander Chi, came to this country, living in the Washington, D.C. area until his death. The advisor role included only Navy officers and enlisted personnel. I had no Coast Guard people in that command. The mission was to advise the Vietnamese Navy on logistics, operations and maintenance, and to assist them in whatever fashion we could. The original idea of the advisory effort was for limited U.S. involvement, and for the Vietnamese to conduct their own operations with U.S. advisors just assisting in tactics and the overall conduct of operations. That deteriorated into full-scale U. S. involvement.
Q: So you were the only Coast Guard officer then that was assigned responsibility for . . .
Admiral Hayes: For the Navy advisory role, yes. It was the Navy's contribution to the original effort to train the South Vietnamese so they could eventually fight the war themselves. Under MACV’s leadership we would train the South Vietnamese to fight the VC and the North, and then we would leave or simply continue in an advisory role. Two things didn’t work. We never were able to transition the South Vietnamese to take charge and train them to the point that they could win, and we didn’t just remain advisors. We became fighters. We all know it didn't work.
Incidentally, you asked as a part of your question where that command was located. When I first arrived, it was located on board a converted Navy LST. With my command afloat, of course, I carried the honorary title of commodore, and flew my flag from that ship as an afloat commander. The name of the vessel, incidentally, was the U.S.S. KRISHNA. We stayed on board her for about six months of my year out there, and then we moved ashore to the little village of An Thoi, which was on the island of Phu Quot. The KRISHNA anchored in the outer harbor of that area, a well-protected anchorage. I moved ashore (with the permission of my commander) to be closer to my Vietnamese Navy counterpart. It was partly a symbol to the Vietnamese and partly my conviction that the advisory role could be accomplished more effectively closer to my counterpart. It was well-accepted, and for the last six months I lived ashore.
Q: Can you tell me about the capture of the Viet Cong trawler that carried 90 tons of war material?
Admiral Hayes: One of our 82' patrol boats on patrol near the tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula picked up a target on his radar at night. The 82-footer intercepted the targeted vessel, challenged it, shone a searchlight on it, and was fired upon. The patrol boat returned fire. Eventually the targeted vessel ran aground, as I recall, and our patrol boat kept it under fire for the remainder of the night. The next day the patrol boat recovered or destroyed the arms and ammunition on board the trawler.
Q: How large a vessel was it?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, I don't remember precisely. I think it was about 75 to 90 feet in length.
Q: So this was a significant capture for the Coast Guard.
Admiral Hayes: Well, we didn’t look upon it entirely as a Coast Guard action, since we were a part of the naval task group. It was a significant capture for naval forces, let's put it that way.
Q: What other significant events were you or your command involved in?
Admiral Hayes: The entire time I was there we were sporadically in action through with the Viet Cong. Our units were occasionally fired upon; they regularly provided naval gunfire support to the special forces units who were operating ashore, as well as regular Army units later on. We supported the South Vietnamese forces when they asked for gunfire support. We, had an extremely interesting weapon on board the 82-foot patrol boats. It was a .50-caliber machine gun piggybacked with an 81mm mortar, and the gunfire support that we provided was principally from that little mortar. Our people became quite effective with that weapon, coming in close to shore and opening fire with that mortar. Oftentimes, we were instrumental in getting some special forces or South Vietnamese Army unit out of a fix.
As is true so often in war, when there isn't a direct engagement, it becomes very tedious and boring, and many patrols were just that. During monsoon weather, sea conditions were very demanding which made our boardings of the Vietnamese junks and small vessels plying back and forth very hazardous. Without oversight it could become a very boring operation, and people could very easily slip into carelessness. Fortunately, that didn't happen while I was there. But we did have one of our Swift boats get in trouble during the time I had the command, and we lost one or two people in the incident. The Swift boat, as I remember, had a weapon blow up and killed one of the personnel on board. Other than the capture of that one gun runner, I really can't identify any particularly significant incident.
Our people performed well. The combination of Navy and Coast Guard worked very well together. I think each respected the other's capabilities. I think it's clear the war severely impacted our nation and had tremendous repercussions, not only for the people back home, the youth of our country, but for those who fought in Vietnam, and unfortunately were looked down upon when they returned home. Many of them, to this day, still have psychological problems from that experience. That is one of the very unfortunate aftermaths of that war. But I think at the time I was there, the majority of us felt that we were involved in something that was worthwhile and was a reasonable commitment of the United States. Some of the things that occurred subsequently one could debate, but it's probably not the sort of thing to include in this particular interview.
Q: Conditions encountered by inland troops were really blamed for a real rise in the use of drugs by our soldiers. Did you find that same kind of problem within your command?
Admiral Hayes: No. The year I was there, which was from 1966 to 1967, drugs had not appeared on the scene to any extent. I can remember no single incident involving drugs during my 12 months out there or of even hearing about a major drug incident, and certainly I had none in my command that came to the surface. The problem, if there was one, had more to do with alcohol abuse than drug abuse. Alcohol was so cheap that I'm afraid a lot of the people did drink too much. We tried to keep it under control, and, I think we were, reasonably successful.
Q: When you returned, you returned as Chief of the Shore Facilities Branch at the Search and Rescue Division at Headquarters. What were your duties there?
Admiral Hayes: When I first returned to headquarters, I became a branch chief responsible for the shore facilities—principally stations, groups, and their boats--that conducted mostly search and rescue operations along the entire U.S. coast including the Great Lakes. I oversaw the resource requirements: planning, people, and money, to operate these units. One of the greatest areas of emphasis time-wise in our branch was the replacement planning for Coast Guard small boats.
I recall we did the initial planning for the subsequent 41-foot utility boat, the all-aluminum 41-footer that is at the heart of our search and rescue operations in the Coast Guard today. It was an extremely interesting job. I had a very challenging boss, a fellow by the name of Captain Chet Richmond, who later became a flag officer and was the 13th District Commander in Seattle when I became the 17th District Commander in Alaska.
When I was in that job, the Coast Guard had just relocated to the new Department of Transportation, (the April before I arrived back in Washington). We were doing a lot of studies related to informing the new Department what the Coast Guard was all about. Not quite roles and missions studies in the sense that it was a comprehensive single study, but a series of separate studies for specific specific problems or issues that the new Department had identified.
Not long after I came into my branch, I was directed to lead a study on recreational boating safety in the Coast Guard and related matters. As a result of that study, the Coast Guard took some significant steps, including the development of legislation that was passed as the Boating Safety Act of 1971.
Q: That was done while you were Chief of Planning and Evaluation?
Admiral Hayes: That's right. But we need to back up and get the chronology correct! When the Coast Guard established the new Office of Boating Safety in early 1968, the first head of it was Rear Admiral Bill Morrison. He and I, as a two-person team, developed the concept and put the new Office together. Essentially we needed to put in one place an office to focus on boating safety. We moved the Auxiliary Division and the Boating Safety Division from the Office of Operations, and along with one or two other staff elements, formed the new Office of Boating Safety. I was re-assigned as the Chief of the Planning and Evaluation Division for this new office. So I went from a branch chief in the Search and Rescue Division to a division chief in the Office of Boating Safety. I helped to establish a new office and to develop the boating safety program that the Coast Guard would pursue for the next 15 or so years. I think it's fair to say that the combination of that new program and the law passed in 1971, substantially improved boating safety throughout the nation.
The actual development of the Boating Safety Act of 1971 was extremely interesting because we put together a team comprising industry, the Coast Guard, and Congressional staff to draft this legislation. It turned out to be a very positive and well-coordinated piece of legislation, in large part because it involved the very people who were going to be impacted by some of the provisions of the legislation.
Another important offshoot of the Office of Boating safety was the boating safety detachments. These were small teams that would operate throughout the entire country on the navigable waterways where there were no Coast Guard stations or facilities. That concept continued until fairly recently when it was decided that they were no longer necessary and these teams were discontinued.
Q: Do you remember when the new Office of Boating Safety was established?
Admiral Hayes: Yes, I came back from Vietnam in 1967, the boating safety study was conducted in the latter part of 1967, so that would have been created, probably, in early 1968.
Q: What specific accomplishments do you feel led to your being awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal while you were in that job?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, I think probably the most significant accomplishment really had to do with the development of the Boating Safety Act of 1971. I worked on that very extensively with people in Congress, in the department, and in the Office of Management and Budget, and in the private sector. The boating industry was intimately involved in the planning for that Act. As I mentioned earlier, they were part of the drafting team, as were representatives from state governments, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Power Squadron, and consumer groups. One of the key aspects of that legislation was that industry had to recognize that the we were serious about requiring certain standards to be established. At the same time, we wanted to be sure that we understood what their concerns were and what their problems were going to be.
Let me add an important point here to expand this notion. The Coast Guard, over the years since it took on the old Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation responsibilities and called it the Merchant Marine Safety Program, has made use of, and continues to do so, of advisory committees. We ended up with the Boating Safety Advisory Council. There are currently many industry advisory groups to the Commandant for the purpose of providing a strong input to the Coast Guard’s regulatory responsibilities. So this is not necessarily a new idea nor was it in any way incestuous. It’s important to recognize that it is a principle to me of good government, good regulation, not to establish regulations in a vacuum.
I got to know a number of very, very fine people in industry as we were putting this Act together, because obviously it would impact upon those who were building boats and related equipment. So I think the principal accomplishment that related to that award had to do with the development of the Boating Safety Act of 1971. Although certainly all of the work that went into the planning and programming for the new office was also part of the reason for that award.
Q: From the Office of Boating Safety, you returned to the Academy as Commandant of Cadets.
Admiral Hayes: Yes, and I suppose you could say "returned," only to the extent that I had been a cadet there and went back, finally, as a captain. I had not had a previous active duty assignment at the Academy.
Q: Was that a rewarding tour for you?
Admiral Hayes: I think, if you were to ask that question of Mrs. Hayes, she would say that was the best assignment of all. And in many ways, other than our time together while I was Commandant of the Coast Guard, that was the assignment that involved her more than any other. In effect, she became like a "mother" to the whole cadet corps, and reveled in that role and accomplished it superbly. I think together we made a pretty good team for that particular job. We were both suited to the interactions required with the cadets. We liked young people; we thoroughly enjoyed entertaining the cadets in our quarters, and tried to teach them a little bit about the social graces and simply how to be at ease with people.
Those two years were very rewarding and very challenging. It was a time when the pressures of Vietnam were at there maximum in the nation--1971 to 1973. The young men coming to the Academy felt all those pressures. Furthermore, the drug scene had hit our country. We took an extremely hard position on drug use at the Academy. It was a very difficult time. The young men questioned the whole concept of military discipline and challenged it. Our responsibility, was to try to respond to what was happening in our nation, while at the same time preserving the best of what the Coast Guard was all about and what a military organization was all about, right down to the norms of military etiquette and courtesy.
I still feel very, very strongly about the necessity of having that as a backbone of our organization, up and down the line. It's a hallmark of good leadership, of having a smart, courteous, military-like organization. What is important about military etiquette and courtesy? It is the way in which a military organization, in particular the people of that organization, interact with each other in a structured fashion. An example of this was the way in which the cadets at that time were reacting to saluting. I, and my people, pointed out to them, again and again, that saluting was a mark of respect for each other, not just from a subordinate to the senior. I took great pleasure in saluting a cadet as well as another officer as well as an enlisted person simply because it showed my respect for them and their confidence in me.
Interview Number 4 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG]
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: Sir, I'd like to start with your appointment to rear admiral. Your first responsibility there was comptroller of the Coast Guard. What were your duties as comptroller?
Admiral Hayes: It was kind of interesting. The Coast Guard, first of all, at that time, handles its financial management and comptrollership operations quite a bit differently from the other armed forces. Not having been in a DOD service, I suspect I'm not competent to judge whether ours is better or worse than the way the other armed services go about managing those functions that we had chosen to cluster under the comptroller of the Coast Guard. But at that time, and certainly right up until the time I retired, at any rate, the comptroller of the Coast Guard had an interesting mixture of duties. The whole logistics operation of the Coast Guard was his responsibility. Interestingly, financial management was rested principally in the Chief of Staff.
At that time, the Comptroller was as responsible for active duty and retired pay, procurement, and contracting, including supply, data systems, property, non-appropriated fund activities and quality control.
While I was comptroller, we were attempting to bring the Coast Guard into line with the joint uniformed military pay system, with the acronym JUMPS. We also had a major effort under way to modernize our accounting system and align it with some of the DOT accounting systems. Our whole accounting and pay operations were in a state of flux. Later on, I might add, when I became Commandant, both of these issues still had not been fully resolved, and we were still trying to work out how to do them effectively, and yet still be in a position, if we shifted to the Navy in time of war, to be reasonably compatible. So there were two major studies and projects, under way at that time in those particular areas.
Also, in the area of land management, I recall that "historicity" had become a magic word. Everybody was concerned about preserving those things which had historic value, preserving for the future at least some of the best of the past. For example, the great majority of Coast Guard lighthouses qualify as historic landmarks and therefore have to be preserved. The whole question of how to fund their maintenance when no longer needed or when automated, has been a knotty problem for a good many years. But at any rate, certainly at that time, it was--and still is--an interesting mixture of functions for a flag officer to manage.
Now, as I stated before, the comptroller of the Coast Guard-- then and now--did not have direct responsibility for the budget. The "budget shop" and the "program shop" both were under the Chief of Staff of the Coast Guard. When I was comptroller, I proposed relocating some portions Budget Division to the Office of the Comptroller.
Subsequently, I recall, after a lot of interaction between the Comptroller and the Chief of Staff, the Commandant decided to give the Comptroller the direct responsibility for overseeing OG-30, which was the major maintenance and operations (O&M) subhead or operating guide. I think that was probably a good move. Again, I don't know whether that still continues, but at any rate, it did bring the Comptroller into the fiscal management business, where I certainly felt he belonged on behalf of the Commandant, at least to some degree. After all, if you're going to be doing a lot of this procurement and overseeing of logistics operation of the Coast Guard, I felt that it made sense that he have some fiscal management responsibilities.
For those two years in addition to these two major projects, I emphasized the importance of bringing the whole Coast Guard into the modern world of data processing and improving the way the Coast Guard managed our property holdings. Or in other words Coast Guard real estate! W started to inventory all Coast Guard land into a computer-based management information system. That took a good deal of really imaginative and creative thinking, because the Coast Guard is a major landlord of federal property. We acquired huge tracts of land when the Lighthouse Service was brought under the Coast Guard, for example, and likewise with the old Lifesaving Service. The interesting part was that much of our property had a high dollar value since they were located in resort areas or were often waterfront property with access to coastal inland waterways and to the sea. Consequently, our properties were in great demand. Developers looked at them with great envy. As we looked at the future and consolidated, and as modern technology improved the capabilities of our boats and aircraft and so on, we didn't need as many stations, and that meant that we could get rid of a lot of property. At the same time, faced with the historicity side of it, there was a need for preservation. So it resulted in some very, very interesting and difficult problems to solve in the way of national policy. What to do with all of this really marvelous, marvelous property?
A very simple way to assure cheap management of assets no longer needed but still required protection because of their historic value was to use retired people! I felt very strongly about this idea. I wanted to offer retired people the opportunity to live in those old lighthouses and lifesaving stations declared redundant in return for very, very inexpensive leasing costs. We could charge $1.00 a year and have them agree to maintain the property to an adequate standard. The Coast Guard began to do that, although I think we've not done as well in this arena as perhaps we might. Practical solutions often get bogged down in bureaucratic, legalistic red tape which I'm afraid happened with this idea.
Q: What specific accomplishments led to your receipt of the Meritorious Service Medal during your tour as comptroller? Do you feel like it was your overall service, or were there specific things?
Admiral Hayes: I suspect the simplest way to respond would be to say that it had to do with improving overall management practices of the Coast Guard in a variety of areas of responsibility that we've already discussed.
Continuing our discussion of the Comptroller job, I had an interesting responsibility to manage the Coast Guard’s non-appropriated fund activities (NAFA)--that is, our exchanges, and our very few commissaries. At that time, we saw the need to do a very considerable overhaul of the way in which we manage that entire program. We did do that, and subsequently, it turned out to be a timely move. Also, returning to the way in which we slowly designed the new accounting system under an equally new Department of Transportation, we tried to be reasonably compatible with DOT computer operations and data systems.
That was an interesting dichotomy, because on the one hand, clearly the Department wanted us to have information systems which they could easily access. At the same time, we weren't all that certain that was a great idea. To a degree, I suppose, as good bureaucrats always do, we tried to protect our information systems by not making them too readily accessible to the Department who might use them for purposes that would not be, in the best interest of the Coast Guard.
It's the problem that the higher up you get in any organization, and the more you recognize that you have to interact with other agencies, groups, and indeed, perhaps compete with them, you have to be a bit Machiavellian about how you go about assuring that you respond to their needs, while at the same time you don't unnecessarily expose yourself. That's a very interesting problem. For example, the historicity movement at that time, focused its efforts to make sure that everything that belonged on the National Register was properly included. We all recognized that once we did that, there would be a continuing funding requirement laid on the Coast Guard to make certain that particular historic building, lighthouse, or property was kept presentable for the public. We would end up, clearly, with a "forever" annual operating expense that would compete against operating expenses for ships, aircraft, and shore facilities conducting today's missions. You know, the relative priorities were not all that great on the side of historicity. At the same time, the more we placed our property in that category, the greater the annual operating expense burden would be. And the more it would mean that other programs would perhaps not be adequately financed through appropriations. So it was somewhat of a dilemma, and I suspect we still haven't entirely solved it.
Q: Does the preservation of historical places impact significantly on public support for the Coast Guard, in that they can go someplace and see, "This is the Coast Guard"?
Admiral Hayes: Well, I think that if the public looks at a lighthouse and sees the paint peeling off and rust on railings and parts of the support structure of the lighthouse (if indeed it has that kind of steel structure), if the grounds are overgrown with weeds and the grass is unmowed, the perception of the public is that the Coast Guard is, for whatever reasons, not adequately maintaining its resources and its property. So I think that puts us in a very bad light.
An example of what happened along a very similar vein was during the time that we automated a lot of our lighthouses. Those that weren't placed in the National Register or transferred out of the Coast Guard continued to require maintenance by the Coast Guard. Yet we had removed all personnel who normally accomplished the maintenance.
Thus we didn't adequately make certain that the responsibility for maintaining those stations, once automated, needed to be placed in some operational commander's hands so that he would see that the job was done. Now, because of that, a great many, particularly our more isolated light stations, fell into a very substantial state of disrepair. Alaska is a prime example of that. So we tried to assign the responsibility for their maintenance to buoy tenders or shore stations to make certain that they provided minimum maintenance. Or we contracted with a private sector firm to do the job. A very difficult problem, and a very costly one, I might add. In spite of all this, I'm sure if one looks at the relative costs associated with automating versus continuing people at those locations, if you handle it well, it's probably cheaper to automate.
Q: Have you ever found any way to place a value on the potential for positive support or public image-generating by keeping some place up? In other words, you mentioned that it costs a great deal to maintain a station for historical purposes. Is there any way to evaluate the intangible effect that has in generating Coast Guard support, when the public does see a well-maintained historical monument?
Admiral Hayes: Not that I'm aware of. Obviously, a poor looking Coast Guard station in a particular Congressional district could adversely influence Congressional representatives who might be on our appropriations committee. I remember when I was in the programs division during my first assignment to Coast Guard Headquarters from 1960 to 1964. Right after the 1964 Coast Guard Roles and Missions Study was completed the Coast Guard established a long-range planning branch in the Program Analysis Division, and I became branch chief.
At that time, the idea of simulation in computer applications was one of the big rages of the day. Everybody was into simulation. And the consultants were promising great things through simulation as a very cheap way to do long-range planning. That is, to simulate different scenarios and out of that would come very intelligent decisions as to how many ships, aircraft, boats, and shore stations we needed to do our missions in a highly variable world. Well, it sounded great, so we let a contract to an outfit to develop a model that would permit us to simulate our different geographical areas of responsibility and the missions conducted within them. It would permit us to simulate the world of ships, aircraft, and shore facilities, and the missions they were trying to carry out, and from that, calculate the apparent best mix of all those facilities. It was a very, very complex operations analysis problem.
Well, we began that study. To make a long story short, never was that particular model adequately developed, nor did we ever acquire the capability of programming the different possible operating capabilities of equipment so that we could look at the various levels and missions to arrive at a sensible approach to long-range planning. So out of that grew the approach we finally took. We separately evaluated each mission area's requirements and then molded them together into a multi-mission mixture of aircraft, ships, and shore facilities. From that grew the present plans that we have for each of those three major kinds of operating facilities, our aviation plan, our cutter plan, and our shore facilities plan. And they are far, far more sophisticated than they were when I was in the Program Analysis Division.
We were having difficulty in developing a rationale to present to the Congress for the level of capital funding the Coast Guard should have every year in order to keep its capital plant well modernized. So what we did was to calculate the actual value of all of our ships, boats, aircraft, and shore facilities and established a life expectancy of each of these parts of the capital plant. For example, with respect to ships, as I recall at that time, we used 25 years or 30 years perhaps it was for the life expectancy of ships. We used fifteen years for the life expectancy of aircraft and we used 50 years for the life expectancy of a shore facility.
Having done that, and having calculated the average cost of the facilities we then made up an analytical model of how many current year’s dollars we required to replace our capital plant each year based upon those criteria. And so for the first time when you go to the Congress and say that if we get 100 million dollars we are going to start falling behind rapidly which in fact had occurred during a great many years after the end of World War II. Capital funding for the Coast Guard was very minimal during many of those post-war years. That did lead to a substantial increase in the Coast Guard’s acquisition, construction, and improvement appropriations which provided the funds for replacement, etc.
The point I'm making is that we tried things with computer models data systems that simply were not practical. And I think, getting back to your original question, it was that learning experience that permitted us to make the right decisions later on when we dealt with the planning and budget processes.
Q: Moving on to your next assignment, what were the Coast Guard's most significant roles in Alaska while you were Commander of the 17th District?
Admiral Hayes: That was one of the most exciting experiences of my career. When I arrived in Alaska (1975), the Coast Guard's principal duties were off-shore fisheries patrol, search and rescue, and aids to navigation or ATON. ATON was a very far-flung and intricate system comprising both fixed and floating aids, as well as the more sophisticated electronic aids. We were also substantially involved in Arctic operations using the Coast Guard’s major icebreakers in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Finally, the commercial vessel safety and environmental protection programs were burgeoning as the oil industry constructed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
Implementing two very significant laws occupied the greatest portion of my time as District Commander. One was the Trans Alaska Pipeline Safety Act (TAPS) which authorized construction of that pipeline and the Valdez terminal and directed the Coast Guard to prepare to handle the subsequent oil tanker traffic.
The second major piece of legislation was the passage of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act or Magnuson Act in 1976 which established a national legal responsibility for controlling waters out to 200 nautical miles for the purposes of fisheries conservation. Each significantly expanded the Coast Guard's involvement in Alaskan affairs. Clearly, with our commercial vessel safety and marine environmental protection responsibilities we had to have close association with the pipeline construction and follow-on tanker traffic. Because of our law enforcement and, to a degree, our search and rescue responsibilities, we had a major role to enforce the Magnuson Act and both required improved aids to navigation service. I became a member of the brand-new North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in Anchorage; it was one of several established around the country to develop management plans for the different fisheries that were a concern to our nation. In retrospect, I think my Council from the beginning set the standards that all other councils around the country should have followed to carry out their responsibilities. We were proud of our results and the results spoke very well of our very competent and erudite president, an Alaskan by the name of Elmer Rasmussen. Since I've retired, we've renewed our acquaintance with him and his very lovely wife, as well as many other Alaskan friends from that exciting experience.
Alaska was a really exciting place to be, because Alaskan statehood had only occurred in January, 1959. It was still a very young state with a relatively small budget, not too much government, and legislators who still showed up in the chambers with suspenders and Alaska shirts when I arrived as District Commander. It was a very, very interesting time to live there. It was a time of transition and we were in the thick of things. We made extensive plans and preparations for the completion of the pipeline and beginning tanker traffic, such as establishing a captain of the port and a marine safety office in Valdez for pipeline terminal oversight. To participate and watch was to enjoy a fascinating microcosm of the environmental processes that our country had established. In retrospect, we made some mistakes, but for the most part a fine District 17 staff developed many new approaches to deal with a host of environmental and safety problems.
There are many sea stories I could tell you about those times. For example, some of the intriguing challenges and responses that occurred during the time of the completion of the Alaskan pipeline and the eventual beginning of tanker traffic was late summer of 1976 at which time a large fleet of tugs and barges were carrying the last supplies for the completion of the pipeline. It was about a billion dollar investment that needed to be brought in to Prudhoe Bay before the waters between Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay were closed down by freezing and ice.
The Coast Guard decided to take the risk of escorting and, of course, in the process, breaking ice for those vessels in order that they complete their journey to Prudhoe Bay. And the risk, of course, was having done that, they would not be able to break their way back out, they would have to winter over in the Arctic. The window for bringing the tugboats and barges in was very small. It was a very late breakup time for ice along the north coast of Alaska. And as a consequence we had little time to complete the escort and bring our vessels out.
We were fortunate that the lift was successfully accomplished and our ships were brought out just before freezing. As a good leadership adjunct to this story we recommended each of the vessels for a unit commendation and their commanding officers for individual awards. I met each of the vessels as they were returning to their home ports and saw that they were adequately recognized for the outstanding performance. That was a significant operation in that the Coast Guard probably saved our country in the hundreds of millions of dollars by making that decision.
I also recall vividly, for example, that we thought it would be very useful for a large tanker to transit Prince William Sound. This would allow us to review proposed port policies and operations, anchorages, navigating rules, communication requirements, wake effect, and related speedrules. At the same time, there would be an opportunity for oil tanker masters and local pilots to gain experience over the route from Cape Hiuchenbrook to Port Valdez for their respective licenses. The industry, very understandably, was resisting that idea because of the costs of diverting a tanker from the trade without any income generation.
I recall that after much discussion, I had a reception in our quarters in Juneau for all the players. We invited state people from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Pipeline Coordinator's Office, industry people involved in authorizing use of a tanker, and many others. There was an Alaska Committee at the time comprised of industry people with interests in the Alaska pipeline and in the tanker traffic. We worked with that committee during the early stages of developing port regulations and operations acceptable as much as possible to everyone involved. We also included environmentalists interested in the outcome and a number of our Coast Guard staff.
The purpose of the reception, ostensibly, was simply to get together the people who had been working on this for some time. We were beginning to get fairly close to the completion of the pipeline. But the real purpose of the reception, actually, was to crowd my "friends" in the oil industry into a bit of a corner. I intended on the next day to hold a press conference announcing either success or failure in getting the tanker for 30 days. If the industry agreed, it would be a joint press conference!
Well, after a few drinks a group of us went downstairs to the recreation room, closed the door, and had a hard-nosed discussion. The point I tried to make, with significant help from Mike Williams of BP [British Petroleum], was that even if it cost them $1 million to do this, that they'd get a hell of a lot more than $1 million worth of favorable publicity and, indeed, results that nobody could really calculate. If they said "yes," they would be seen as positively dealing with environmental concerns at a time when industry was under fire from a lot of quarters, particularly the environmentalists and fishermen.
Well, the decision was made, and the next day we announced to the media that this would occur. When we brought the tanker up--not "we," but the industry brought the tanker up--media and state people were invited to ride the vessel and observe and watch what happened during the various trials in the training program. I think this oil tanker demonstration went a long way toward solving some of the very knotty problems we had with fishermen and special interest groups who were not that favorably disposed towards tanker traffic and pipeline operation.
Q: You mentioned several times the new Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. Did you find that you were forced to make quite a few seizures during the enforcement of that Act during the initial stages, in order to get people to see that you were serious about enforcing the 200-mile limit, or was that well accepted by the nations that it imposed on?
Admiral Hayes: Well, you have to bear in mind that even before the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act was made law, the Coast Guard had patrolled all U.S. fisheries. Also, there were treaties already in effect between the United States and Japan and other nations engaged in fishing in Alaskan waters. That included the right of the treaty nations to enforce the agreed-upon provisions of those treaties. So the Coast Guard already was very well known as an enforcement agency at sea in those waters. Consequently, it was not necessary, really, to spend a lot of time and effort convincing the Japanese, Soviets, Taiwanese, Koreans, and the Poles and so on that we meant business.
Now, you asked whether a lot of seizures were necessary. I don't think they were necessary so much because of the new 200-mile fisheries conservation zone as they were simply because fishermen are fishermen! Fishermen are not really well disposed toward complying with the law if it is to their disadvantage in maximizing their income as fishermen. So yes, I suppose there may have been a few more seizures than before. But one of the significant things that occurred was that we had a very, very strong U.S. attorney in Anchorage, who became a very good friend of mine, a fellow by the name of Kent Edwards. He took every single case we presented him, and to the extent he could, prosecuted it for maximum effect, including recommendations to the judge in each case for very stiff fines. And partly as a result of that, along with the Coast Guard's presence at sea and boarding efforts, we generated a strong deterrent toward future violations.
But again, I have to emphasize that whether it's U.S. fishermen or foreign fishermen, if it's not in their interest to abide by the law or by regulation, if there's any way they can figure out to get around them to improve their harvest and to increase their income, they're going to do so. I understand that to a degree. After all, the fishermen of the world probably are involved in one of the most dangerous and arduous professions there are. They are naturally fiercely independent people. Perhaps the miners who mine coal and certain other minerals may fall into a similar category, but even they, at least, are not constantly being subjected to the constant danger that fishermen take from the weather and from the sea. So I can understand how within increasingly shorter harvest times, and recognizing that so often fish harvesting is a cyclical operation with respect to the availability of fish in a particular year, that they have to maximize their efforts to the extent they possibly can. Without arguing the rightness of violating the law, I'm just suggesting that at least one can understand why fishermen are inclined to look upon a lot of these laws and regulations as something the bureaucrats devised to make their attempts to earn a livelihood more difficult. I'm not sure that's changed that much yet, or that it ever will!
Q: Sir, what was the greatest difficulty that you faced in your transition from a district commander to Commandant of the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: Good heavens! That's a tough one. It suggests that there was a problem, and I'm not sure that there really was. On the other hand, as I think about your question, I suppose the most difficult thing to deal with was the loss of camaraderie that you had as an operational commander or, indeed, even as a staff flag officer, with your people. The head of any organization, public or private, is, by its very nature, a lonely job. In the Coast Guard, there is only one four-star admiral, and all others are subordinate. In the other armed services, that's not quite true, even though it's recognized that the top guy is still the top guy.
The second most difficult thing was the greater emphasis and awareness to political matters required by the Commandant’s role as a service chief. My role required that I advocate the Coast Guard’s requirements to the Administration and the Congress while retaining and displaying loyalty to the President and his Secretary of Transportation. I could not get "out in front" of the President, nor generate the perception that the Coast Guard had a separate agenda. However, I had to ensure the Hill and the Cabinet knew our needs. These two issues caused me some problems, some difficulties, in transition.
But, again, one of the great things about the Coast Guard is that the constant exposure during a career to operational command and the need for time sensitive, challenging decision-making prepared me in large measure for the transition from district commander to Commandant. I did not, all of a sudden, find myself in an uncomfortable role that experience had not prepared me for. I may later on have more to add. It’s an excellent question and a complex one to address. I’ll leave it at that for the moment.
Q: Sure. I wasn't so much interested in identifying any problems, just more interested in what kinds of things you had to deal with in the transition. How did you perceive your role as Commandant? What did you see as your major duties?
Admiral Hayes: First and most important, the Commandant of the Coast Guard must lead the Coast Guard. The Commandant must epitomize all that word leadership implies. I felt for a long time that far, far too much emphasis was placed upon management, especially budgeting and programming management. It began to be overemphasized during the McNamara years in the Department of Defense, when systems analysis--arriving at decisions by over reliance on questionable or weak quantifiable means was in vogue. A DOD systems analyst was among, if not the, most influential person in the Department at the time. The increased use of systems analysis placed a higher premium on number crunching that the operational decision-making expertise of the senior uniformed leadership. What that did was de-emphasize the importance and significance of the type of leadership which motivates people to do things in a responsible fashion because they were delegated responsibility, trusted, and given authority to make things happen. Rather than that, there was a strong move to centralize decision-making, to develop management information systems that would permit the White House, almost, to be making battlefield decisions, so to speak.
The first thing that the Commandant or, for that matter, any agency head, must consider as his or her foremost duty is to lead, motivate and display personal characteristics that instill and inspire confidence in subordinates. The Commandant must minimize the "trauma" associated with the "competition" involved in the officer promotion system.
Next, clearly, is to the Commandant must act as the Coast Guard’s senior operational commander. Unlike the DOD service chiefs, the Commandant is both a service chief and in the operational chain of command from the President to the Secretary of Transportation and then to the Commandant and so on to the subordinate area and district commanders. This does not mean involving oneself in the day-to-day operational decisions of the subordinate command, which they can effectively make by themselves. As a service chief, the Commandant ensures the Coast Guard has trained, ready, and equipped forces to do the missions. As the senior operational commander, the Commandant develops national-level, strategic, or service-wide policy guidance for the completion of Coast Guard missions. The Mariel Boatlift is an example of providing national-level policy guidance. An example of strategic policy guidance is the emphasis I had placed on drug interdiction efforts. Service-wide policy guidance is represented by the priorities I established for all Coast Guard missions. The Commandant must ensure that the Coast Guard achieves unity of effort, achieves efficient and effective mission accomplishment and reflects the Administration’s operational priorities (drug war).
Third, the Commandant must concentrate on external representation of the Coast Guard. In short the Commandant must act as "Mr. Outside." This means the Commandant should not be too involved in the day-to-day management decisions. In turn, it also means the vice commandant and chief of staff must be trusted to make many decisions, to review and analyze programmatic issues, and to do much of the budget preparation. In this Mr. Outside role, the Commandant interacts with the Congress, other agency heads, the public, and the Secretary of Transportation, to ensure the Coast Guard's needs are properly understood, to represent the Service, and to advocate the Service’s interests.
Also, as a significant part of being Mr. Outside, the Commandant is the main political person of the Coast Guard, and here is one of the most difficult roles that the Commandant has to play. All during one's military career, one strictly adheres to the principle of civilian control of the military. The civilian leadership, the President, and the Secretary of Transportation, establish the broad policies for Coast Guard operations military people carry out the policy decisions of their civilian superiors. I agree completely with this principle of military-civilian relationships. Indeed, without it, I'm afraid it would not be difficult for anarchy to develop and for strong military leaders to assume control. So it's imperative that our civilian leaders continue to exercise that responsibility and that the unified commanders-in chief and the service chiefs subordinate themselves to this principle.
This means the Commandant must subordinate himself to his civilian superiors while, at the same time, ensure the needs of the service are properly identified, communicated, and understood. This can be a challenging, if not tricky, job, especially when the Commandant means feels that erroneous policies are being pursued. Loyalty to civilian leadership and loyalty to the service can conflict. The Commandant must take all appropriate means to make sure that his views are made known. Once the Commandant’s views have been communicated and the decisions made, the Commandant must live and abide with those decisions. In the process, competing with other agencies and trying to receive full funding, clearly communicate, you may not end up in conflict with not only other agencies, but in conflict with your civilian leadership.
The important point to make is that within the Coast Guard the only person who can and who should take political action is the Commandant. Certainly he does not want his flag officers extending themselves much beyond their direct responsibilities. Yes, each of them, of course, does get involved politically to a degree, because they testify before congressional committees and respond to congressional correspondence. They must have the political acumen to know how to do that. And, of course, the flag officers with operational commands interact with the senators and congressmen from districts or states that lie within their areas of operational responsibility. So to a degree, the district commander acquires some of that political acumen as he goes along, if he's at all able and reasonably intelligent about things.
Next, in order, the Commandant must know the major issues and concerns facing his people and his commanders. The Commandant must understand their problems, their priorities, and their views. And the only way you can do that is to travel. There are those who feel that with a good information system, you can, in effect, sit at home and analyze what's going on and make proper decisions. But I've had a lot of fun over the years lecturing on the interesting dichotomy vis-à-vis a tremendously enhanced capability to communicate with multiple sophisticated equipment and the benefit of in-person communications. I am amazed at our seemingly increasing lack of understanding that the best way to communicate, still, is one-on-one, person-to-person to solve problems.
The most abhorrent thing to me of all is the staff officer or the bureaucrat who sits behind his or her desk firing off memos and letters (and copies in duplicate) to other staff people and bureaucrats. Over time this correspondence tends to become more vituperative and less problem-solving and more supportive of his or her own point of view. How much better to take 15 or 20 minutes side by side, or across a desk or even in the cafeteria over a cup of coffee, solving the problem or agreeing on how to go about its solution. What I'm really arguing strongly for is the notion that the higher you are in an organization, the more important your position, the more important it is to get out and talk to your people and see what they're doing and ask them what can be done better and how it can be done better.
This is what Peters and Waterman call "Management by Walking About" or "MBWA!" It’s important that leaders must remember that their subordinates frequently are very intelligent, creative, have good ideas, and oftentimes can be the means to solve very difficult problems. So, talking to your people in the field is a high priority function of the Commandant. The next one is teaching. You need to get their opinion on what really matters directly from them. That may sound strange, but the Commandant needs to understand that he must convey to top people the things that he thinks are important and must teach them his command philosophy or his way to manage and lead. By doing this he will make himself more discernible to those people and prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The Commandant should constantly instruct his key subordinates in ways he feels the Service should be run, led, and managed. That's difficult.
The key to some of these things, of course, is a vice commandant who acts as an alter ego and bears some of the burden of doing these things. I was most fortunate in having Vice Admiral Scarborough as my vice commandant during some very tough times.
So that was the structure of the problem that I was trying to deal with. Otherwise, I have to tell you that everything else I treated as an opportunity rather than a problem. I stated this to my people more often than perhaps I should have but it got the point across. Too frequently, when one looks at something as a problem, you overlook the very obvious thing, which is identifying this particular issue as an opportunity for change and improvement is a far better approach than looking upon it as a problem that has to be solved. That pretty well covers it.
Q: Very good. Just very briefly, what was the state of the Coast Guard when you took over as Commandant? What things or what thing were you most resolved to change or improve about the state of the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: The state of the Coast Guard became a very difficult matter to deal with. I was absolutely convinced that we had inadequate personnel, capital, plant, and operating funds for the responsibilities which the Congress had assigned. Looking at the significant changes that had previously occurred--transition from Treasury to Transportation in 1967, additional functions or expansion of functions, garnering of substantial additional budget support in the aftermath of the 1962 Roles and Missions Study—I believe we should have been in a better position. But the change in department oversight tended to negate the positive results of the first Roles and Missions Study of 1962 and generated a whole new series of studies and questions concerning Coast Guard budgetary needs. In any event by 1978, looking at the age of our cutter fleet, aircraft, and shore facilities, and the shortage of personnel, I concluded that the state of the Coast Guard was poor. I felt that we really didn't have adequate support for the improvements that were necessary. The saving grace in this bleak picture was the quality of our personnel.
Q: Financial support?
Admiral Hayes: Yes. So the first couple of years, one of my major efforts was to convince the Secretary of Transportation, the President, and the Congress that this, indeed, was the case. I was making headway with Brock Adams, by the time he departed. Neil Goldschmidt replaced him. Secretary Goldschmidt became absolutely convinced we were correct in stating the inadequacy of financial resources. He went with me first to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and then to the President himself. We convinced President Carter to support a major initiative to substantially enhance the Coast Guard's budget by fifty percent and modernize the Coast Guard in ways that we had discussed.
I recall that this was at a time when the OMB and the Congress just began to recognize the impending deficits occurring in our nation's economy. President Carter was briefed on this deficit matter at about the same time the Secretary and I had met with him. The President had established a series of priorities, and I remember the Coast Guard was on that priority list for additional funding. After this review of the fiscal future of our country and what appeared to be the growing certainty that very significant budget deficits were going to occur, the President decided that some of the proposed increases simply could not go forward. My recollection is that we came within about two numbers on that priority list of having a quantum increase in our operating and particularly our capital budget.
Well, it did not occur, but the point I'm making is that at least through those two secretaries and that particular President, the Coast Guard had reasonably convinced the administration, and certainly our authorization committees on the Hill, of the need for additional support. In many of my media interviews as I traveled around the country, I made the point that the Coast Guard could not expand the drug interdiction function under our law enforcement mission, continue expanding the still-growing search and rescue responsibilities, and extend the new fisheries responsibilities--something had to give. Either somebody was going to have to recognize that we could not do what we were expected to do, or they could not demand of our people the kind of hours that this would require. It was not fair and not right, and we could not continue this increased activity without additional funding to provide the people and the modern capital plant that we needed.
I felt very strongly that it was a tremendous imposition on our people. There were many, many Coast Guard people in those days, who were working 90 and 100-plus hour weeks. I felt that this was wrong. As I looked at every other part of our nation's labor force, including the other armed forces, I certainly wasn't aware of anyone else putting in those kinds of hours. I didn't think it was right for our people to have to do that without either (a) being paid for it, or (b) giving them relief by bringing in the additional people necessary.
I will re-emphasize that my concern for people troubled me the most. I felt it was wrong for our country to make such demands. Bear in mind that this was at the time when we were having substantial re-enlistment problems. The pay situation was really bad, and as I recall, around 18 percent to 20 percent of our people qualified for food stamps. I thought that this was unfair when welfare programs took care of people who weren't even working. Those were the factors that caused me to be more aggressive about what I considered to be our budget shortfalls than I might otherwise have been.
Q: There are a lot of different opinions about where the Coast Guard belongs within the government. Where do you think the Coast Guard belongs and why?
Admiral Hayes: Well, first of all, I really suspect that it doesn't make a damn bit of difference where the Coast Guard is in the structure of government as long as there's a little bit of logic to it. Having said that, I can envisage that the Coast Guard as a regulator could quite properly be in the Department of Commerce, since we have a great deal to do with the maritime commerce of the United States. We also happen to have substantial responsibilities associated with fisheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service is in the Department of Commerce under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]. Not too long ago, of course, the Maritime Administration was still in the Department of Commerce.
Obviously, the Department of Treasury, from whence we came, is a place we could very easily return, since in recent years, we have been performing major constabulary functions for our nation with respect to drug interdiction.
One could make an argument, I suppose, that since we're an armed force of the United States, quite logically we ought to reside in the Department of Defense, being the fifth armed force. This proposition would have certainly helped our budget problems under the Reagan Administration (but not under the others).
The Department of Transportation, clearly, is a logical place for the Coast Guard to be, since much of what we do impacts upon or is associated with marine transportation in one way or another.
One could even talk about being within the Department of Interior. We regulate, along with the Geodetic Survey, the off-shore structures and cooperate with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act enforcement, which is part of the Department of Interior's responsibility. Because of our M.L.E. duties one could argue that we could be located in the Department of Justice.
Having said that I would argue that there are logical choices, as well as illogical ones when you analyze them. If you take all the functions of the Coast Guard, given that there is a Department of Transportation in our government today, this is really where the Coast Guard best fits with all of our various missions, functions, and duties. There is no particularly good reason not to go back to the Department of Treasury, except that when looking at all of our functions, there are really fewer that relate to the Department of Treasury and its principal objectives. Its principal goals, are fiscal, economic goals, as is true, incidentally, of the Department of Commerce. But there are far fewer than certainly can be related to the Department of Transportation. Again, I say, that's true of the Department of Commerce as well.
The argument that our budget situation would be better if we were in the Department of Defense is a very specious argument and absolutely unfounded. If you take the Department of Defense during a period when it's having major budget problems, do we really think that the Coast Guard's $2 billion budget is going to be significant in a third-of-a-trillion-dollar budget for the Department of Defense? To my way of thinking, we would be so obscure that it would be certainly very, very difficult to get the attention of a secretary. Presumably, there would be some sort of a Secretary of the Coast Guard, since there is a Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of the Army, and a Secretary of the Navy, which means that we'd have one more person between us and the top cabinet person.
More importantly, I think, that in peacetime, the Coast Guard performs functions that are very sensitive and that would be difficult, if not impossible, to carry out well within the Department of Defense. The concept of posse comitatus, the idea that our armed forces within the Department of Defense should not become domestic law enforcers, I think is a very sound. It's a part of the essence of our Constitution and the fabric of our nation, the abhorrence of any army or navy or, more generally today, Department of Defense people being able to be law enforcement officers. I think it's a extremely significant and important separation of authority and responsibility. Think for a moment of the tremendous and broad authority our Coast Guard captain of the port has, and yet how our people carry out those responsibilities with sensitivity. I'm inclined to think that that would not necessarily be the case were we within the Department of Defense.
So for two very good reasons, I think we do not belong under the Department of Defense. One, we don't belong there in peacetime with our peacetime functions, particularly our law enforcement role and our regulatory role. I think it would be wrong for the Department of Defense to be in a regulatory position. Second, I think it's an absolutely foolish notion that we would be better off budget-wise in the Department of Defense. With a President like Ronald Reagan, that might perhaps be temporarily true, but over the long run, if you look at the Coast Guard's budget compared to the Department of Defense's budget, we have fared just as well, or perhaps even better, than they have proportionately over an extended period of time. Additionally, the president has the capability to enforce this nation’s will with a less threatening manner with Coast Guard cutters than with a naval combatant. We give the president more flexible options with our less threatening but still purposeful presence.
So my bottom line, therefore, is the one I testified to a number of times on the Hill before congressional committees--we belong in the Department of Transportation, and that's where we ought to stay. That's not to say that the department shouldn't give us greater support for our budget needs, and so should the Congress, but that is a separate matter.
Q: During Admiral Siler's administration, there was talk of creating a cabinet-level Oceans Department that would include the Coast Guard, NOAA, and the Maritime Administration, and other maritime agencies. Did you pursue that idea? Why or why not?
Admiral Hayes: No, I didn't pursue the idea despite having some sympathy for the idea. For a long time it has made a great deal of sense to me to combine the old Coast and Geodetic Survey, or today the National Ocean Survey, and the Coast Guard. I think there is sufficient compatibility in mission and function. The economies and efficiencies that might have resulted from that combination would probably have been good.
By the time we found a window that might make the combination of the Coast Guard and the Coast and Geodetic Service my view was it was no longer feasible or politically viable at that time. And the reason for that principally was that the Coast and Geodetic Service, which had become the National Ocean Survey and then NOAA, was a sufficiently significant part of the Department of Commerce that we just weren’t going to be able to find a way to effect that combination. I decided not to waste my time on it.
I certainly do not agree to the Maritime Administration becoming a part of the Coast Guard because of our very, very different roles. The Maritime Administration is an organization dedicated to enhancing the merchant marine, and the Coast Guard, of course, regulates that same merchant marine. I just don't think those two functions match very well. That's not to say that the various maritime-associated agencies couldn't have remained distinct and separate within a proposed Oceans Division or Department. For this functional proposal the Secretary of Transportation would have an air department, a land department, and an oceans department. But when you do that, you find out that there are still many things that the Secretary continues to oversee that aren't connected to the department.
It gets back to the point I made, once or twice already in this interview. You can organize almost any way you want. If the lines reasonably permit you to communicate and make decisions, it probably isn't terribly important or significant how you go about it. A lot more depends on the people which are put into the organization than how you draw the lines.
I felt also that with such an organization, the Commandant would be one more step removed in the decision-making process and have limited access to the Secretary, wouldn’t be an advantage. While we were in Treasury, we had an assistant secretary in charge of the Coast Guard. That meant that the Commandant rarely saw the secretary, because he was dealing directly with this assistant secretary. The same thing would occur if you established this proposed Oceans Division or Department within the Department of Transportation. I felt it was something that had a chance a year or so before, but the time was no longer right. I was sure it wasn’t the direction to go, and I chose to emphasize other areas of concern.
Q: Talking about organization within the Coast Guard, what reorganizations took place within the service while you were Commandant, and what led to those?
Admiral Hayes: One of the things that Admiral Scarborough and I talked about a good bit was organizational design. We decided to put together a study group to establish a long-range organization plan. The idea was that since we had a long-range plan for mission accomplishment and a five to ten year projection, why not do the same thing with organization? Why not try to develop an organizational framework toward which we should work. We would not reorganize the whole Coast Guard in one fell swoop, but looked at sequencing. At selected intervals we would look at everything that was happening at that point and projected the directions that we ought to be heading. Then about once every couple of years or so we would pull that organization plan out to determine if it still made sense. If not, we would change or modify the plan to conform to the new directions or reflect the changes taking place elsewhere in government that we thought we should respond to.
Out of that came a general approach to changing our organization in headquarters and elsewhere in the Coast Guard. That study is still in headquarters, and my intentions to update it, unfortunately, were overtaken by the budget crisis that we faced during the last year and half of my administration. I think, however, that the idea is still sound.
Certainly out of that grew my conviction that we ought to do something about our aids to navigation mission. After all, here was a mission program that was occupying 20 percent to 35 percent of the budget and was nothing more than a division in the Office of Operations. I felt there were things that logically could be combined in a new "Office of Navigation." It made sense to split it off. Furthermore, as a division it lacked organizational emphasis and priority.
I also felt that our boating safety responsibilities had been adequately met. That program was a real success, but it was probably time to include it in a broader maritime safety office which included that responsibility. That didn't occur, but that doesn't mean that the idea was wrong necessarily.
I felt strongly that even early on in my administration, the country was headed toward an incredible technological change with information. We really needed to change our organization with respect to managing information. So I decided to take the data systems division out of the Comptroller's Office, the electronic engineering division out of the Office of Engineering, and communications division out of the Office of Operations, and put all those talents together in the new Office of Command, Control, and Communications. I worked to maximize our ability to deal with these incredible technological changes that were occurring. I felt that part of the reason we hadn't done very well to modernize some systems, like our accounting system and our pay system, was poor organization. We had not adequately put the talents together to deal with those problems.
Just as an interesting aside, that isn't what I wanted to call it, but I was very concerned that if I called it the Office of Information Management or something of that nature, that the department would step in and consume all those resources and say, "We ought to be centrally doing all of this in the department, and you don't need all that." So we tried to keep it oriented toward the operational side of the Coast Guard, where it legitimately belongs. I guess this is one discussion that history will have to evaluate.
Q: Was this a very subtle move?
Admiral Hayes: Yes, very much so, and, of course, one that took apart a little bit of the "empire" of three flag officers. One always gets, opposition to that kind of a change. Although I must say that it did receive a lot of support at that time.
Interview Number 5 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: How did you see the role of the Vice Commandant, and is that a traditional view?
Admiral Hayes: I don't know whether there is a "traditional" view as such. At one time, you know, the title was Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard. I suspect, as is true with the presidency and the vice presidency, the Commandant tends to use his Vice Commandant as his personality and management style dictate. As far as I was concerned, I felt that it was important to assign to my Vice Commandant, Bob Scarborough, substantial responsibilities. After all, this was a person with the considerable experience and ability needed to achieve that rank and stature in the Coast Guard. Therefore, it made little sense for him simply to be another initialer in the chain of command with respect to correspondence and the whole decision process. So I tried to work out with Admiral Scarborough certain areas that would principally be his responsibility ... a division of labor. Essentially I wanted my Vice to run the day-to-day operations of Coast Guard headquarters while I focused on Congress and my field commanders. I advocated the Coast Guard’s budget with policy makers while VADM Scarborough oversaw the working of the headquarters’ staff. I also used him as an extremely valuable advisor on all major decision. So other than the obvious role of acting as Commandant during my frequent absences on trips throughout the Coast Guard and speaking engagements in a variety of places, I feel that Vice Admiral Scarborough occupied a very significant role during our four years together. Of course, that was my intention.
Q: During your first two years as Commandant, the U.S. Navy saw a steady decrease in spending--while spending increased during the last two years. Was the same true of the Coast Guard, and if so, why or why not?
Admiral Hayes: No. As I recall, during the first two and a half years of my tenure as Commandant, which corresponded to the latter years of the Carter Administration, I think the Coast Guard experienced, in terms of purchasing power, about a level budget situation, or perhaps one that was slightly increased. You may recall from our earlier discussion about the different departments of government that the Coast Guard might conceivably be located. I pointed out that if you examined the facts, the Navy, and the other armed forces, probably suffered more at the hands of the budget cutters than did the Coast Guard over that same period of time. At least we certainly didn't suffer any more.
So the trend was perhaps that our budget fared a little bit better than was the case generally with the Navy and the Department of Defense. It was only during the last year of the Carter Administration that he finally recognized what was happening and transmitted to the Congress a substantial increase recommendation for the Department of Defense.
As I also mentioned, we were getting fairly good support from the Secretary of Transportation and the White House. We obviously never, nor will we ever, resolve our differences with the Office of Management and Budget. Very candidly, I simply didn't trust them during the Reagan Administration because the appointees in OMB were determined to decimate the Coast Guard through political manipulations and less than honest, forthright, dealings, such was evident during the second Roles and Missions Study of 1981. It was interesting, the changes that had occurred in that agency. During the days when it was the Bureau of the Budget and the years immediately following the Coast Guard’s first Roles and Missions study, we had what I would call the normal friendly but confrontational arrangement with the Bureau of the Budget. They were looking for weaknesses in our program recommendations and for ways in which the total budget could be reduced or at least be kept under control. So we never felt that the Bureau of the Budget would distribute "largesse" without asking tough questions. But the relationship between the Budget people and our people, and the relationship between even their political appointees and the Commandant was, I think, different from the relationships I experienced as Commandant.
I have copies of internal OMB memoranda written early in the Reagan Administration OMB’s intent to drastically reduce the Coast Guard budget and make major changes in the Coast Guard’s character. They wanted to convert the Coast Guard into a civilian agency with a civilian work force of about 8,000 or 9,000 persons. They planned to privatize as many Coast Guard's functions as they thought the private sector could manage better than the service. Drastic changes were contemplated for the Coast Guard, which most certainly was not the case during the Sixties and very early Seventies. Basically the Reagan Administration did not really know or understand the Coast Guard. They viewed the Coast Guard based upon a casual understanding of its missions and contributions as represented by its well kept, manicured stations along the coast. They didn’t see or realize anything more. Even when they became educated, I still couldn’t trust them...they were still trying to drive the outcome of the Roles and Missions group.
Q: You said earlier that you felt that you and the secretary of the department convinced the Carter Administration that the Coast Guard was a cost-effective organization and really needed increased funds. Were you ever able to convince the Reagan Administration of the same thing?
Admiral Hayes: No. That is a categorical "no." For the first six months of the Reagan Administration, I had difficulty communicating with the new people who came in with that administration. I felt initially that it was just the usual problem that every Commandant faces with a new Secretary of Transportation and a new staff. I simply had to educate them about a very complex and unfamiliar organization called the Coast Guard.
About six months into that new administration, (about the end of my third year as Commandant) I recognized that we really had a war on our hands. It was not a simple matter of education. This was a serious situation with profound implications for the Coast Guard. Key, influential Reagan appointees really wanted to dismantle the service. The majority of those with this view had studied at the Hoover Institute, which is a think thank associated with Stanford University. For example, Darrell Trent, the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Dr. Analice Anderson, Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget responsible for oversight of the Coast Guard and her husband, Martin Anderson, Domestic Counselor to the President as well as Ed Meese, one of the President’s chiefs of staff, had all worked together at the Hoover Institute. There were one or two others. Obviously, these people occupied very influential positions with respect to the Coast Guard from both a policy and budget perspective. All my avenues to the President required me to go through these people. It was difficult for me to advocate the Coast Guard’s case.
I was never able to convince these people that the Coast Guard required additional personnel and funding to perform the many jobs that continued to be demanded of us. I might have otherwise been receptive had there been an across-the-government reduction in budget and resources for all departments. This was not the case, however. I had a major philosophical objection. My view—and I think that of most Coast Guard people—has always been that the military character of the Coast Guard is the glue that keeps the Coast Guard together and that lends the special character of our organization. I simply would not accept the rationale that the Coast Guard should become a civilian agency. It made no sense to me. I felt that these Administration officials did not clearly understand the Coast Guard or had not tried to understand. In addition they apparently paid me no attention because they believed their objectives were basically iron-clad, and they weren’t going to depart from them.
If you go back to the reason for having a uniformed service in the first place, that was because the Department of the Treasury decided that it was necessary to have a uniformed service to protect its revenues from smuggling. It wanted uniformed officers, commissioned officers, running the revenue cutters. Sot that there was a special kind of responsibility invested in that so that they would appear as commissioned officers of the United States government. Today, maritime law enforcement remains one of our principle functions and it seems to me that if you are a law enforcement officer, wherever you serve, you are always a uniformed, quasi-military, group.
So I think that the logic of that being the case, as long as we are in that business, we should be a uniformed service. The other missions, I think its quite clear, such as search and rescue, well, good heavens, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute is a volunteer, civilian organization. Although the British now subsidize it a bit these days, nevertheless, it functions as a volunteer, civilian agency. Aids to navigation around the world are, for the most part, managed by civilians, mostly civilians in the government, but civilians nonetheless, much like the old Lighthouse Service. Merchant marine safety might just as well be handled by civilians as opposed to the military although they might by merchant marine officers in government service. One reason the marine safety functions were transferred to the Coast Guard was that civilians turned out to be not very trustworthy in the job.
I can make a pretty fair argument that most of what the Coast Guard does could be done by a civilian agency. But if one accepts the multi-mission character of the Coast Guard as being good and you accept that the Coast Guard ought to be the nation’s maritime law enforcement agency then its officers should be commissioned officers.
It’s very important, when assessing the Coast Guard, to think through what it means to be a military organization. I’m afraid that even a lot of our own people have not adequately thought this through. There are many who have felt that too much emphasis is placed in peacetime on the military aspects of our organization. Yet I believe that it’s the Coast Guard military character that gives the Service such great flexibility to accomplish the many responsibilities given to it by the Congress and by the executive branch effectively and efficiently.
Additionally, two other things made no sense to me. First, that the President clearly, as a strategic decision, had determined to effect a substantial improvement in the capabilities of our armed forces. This included weapon systems, number of personnel on active duty, and pay and benefits. I felt this tremendous concern for the armed forces of the United States simply shouldn't be exclusive to four of the five, and in effect, take a different policy position with respect to the fifth armed force.
My argument, which was constant, if the Administration reduced the Department of Defense’s budget by 10, 15, or 20 percent along with all other departments and agencies, then most certainly I would have accepted the same for the Coast Guard loyally and without question. But when I saw that policies associated with the Coast Guard departed from that very clear national strategic policy, I simply couldn't accept it. So that was reason number one for my aggressive stance on the Coast Guard’s budget.
My second concern was the President’s very strong position on another national objective. The President had charged the Coast Guard, along with Customs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the FBI to put a stop to drug trafficking. Now, to achieve this national objective we clearly required additional resources. Most certainly we shouldn't experience reductions in ship and aircraft resources at a time when the Administration demanded expanded maritime drug interdictions operations.
Q: Towards the end of your administration, when you started to see that you really had a battle on your hands, the closure of several Coast Guard stations was announced due to inadequate funding. What were the effects of that announcement?
Admiral Hayes: Well, first, it's useful to explore how we assembled that list and examine what rationale we used. Together with my flag officers, both in headquarters and in the field, we looked at two things. First, we tried very honestly and pragmatically to identify missions that could assume a lower priority than others. Next we looked within each mission to identify the less productive units that without much harm to the overall mission accomplishment we could decommission. We looked at all Coast Guard operations from that viewpoint.
Furthermore, I felt very strongly that over the years, the Coast Guard, in response to budget reductions had offered up cutters to affect savings. The service had not, at the same time, reduced its support side or other operating elements to the same degree. If you look at the charts concerning the number of ships in the Coast Guard, it's quite clear that over a 50-year period, except during World War II, the Coast Guard has experienced a steady decline in the number of Coast Guard ships at sea. I felt that to continue that practice would make no sense whatsoever in the face of the substantial law enforcement responsibilities and the need for presence in these new 200-mile economic zones. I made a basic policy decision that cutter decommissionings would be the last step the Service would take to meet a budget cut.
Then, of course, there was the political dimension to such a list. I had advised the Secretary of Transportation that I felt that the proposed closures were not worth the money the administration would save in the face of the anticipated political reaction. The administration didn't need that kind of hostile response from Congress. I felt that closing down those units was a poor political decision. It turned out that I was correct, which didn't make the Secretary very happy with me. In fact, I've often wondered how close I came to being asked to retire ahead of time. But at any rate, it didn't occur. The Secretary and I ended up having to work out some compromises associated with all those closures. Many of the proposed closures did not occur. But I would emphasize, as I did to the Congress in my testimony, that a great many of those closures were quite legitimate decisions. There were some air stations that were very much on the low end of productivity, and I think just recently, that one of them on the Great Lakes is closing down or substantially reducing its operations for that very reason.
Forcing the Coast Guard to make this critical self-analysis was not all bad either. Out of it came some good decisions as to what units that could effectively be closed down. I think it's honest to say that we had probably not, for a long time, looked as hard at some of our other operating units as we could have. I noticed in the paper just the other day that the CGC TANEY, had recently seized the largest shipment of drugs that so far had ever been intercepted. TANEY is one of those ships that we decided to keep on active duty until it was replaced by our new construction, which, unfortunately, has been delayed far longer than any of us had hoped would be the case. But at any rate, that ship has continued to be an effective operating unit with respect to the mission of interdicting the flow of drugs.
Q: Do you feel that your move to close several stations was treated fairly as a political strategy, or did Congress accept it as a legitimate management of Coast Guard resources?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, I think congressmen and senators are, for the most part, very bright people who understand very well the political world in which they live. There's little doubt in my mind that they understood quite clearly what was happening. They knew that the Reagan Administration wanted to effect budget reductions and to reduce the size of government.
However, reducing the size and cost of government had other implications by reducing services. Within the Coast Guard before the Reagan Administration came into office, Admiral Scarborough, the chief of staff, and I decided to re-evaluate the extent to which the Coast Guard regulated industry. I felt that the Coast Guard was beginning to go overboard in some of the newer areas of regulation, particularly the offshore industry and also with our marine environmental protection regulations. Granted, a lot of that had been directed by Congress but industry considered it to be burdensome. Also, closing stations caused quite a stir. They were getting tremendous political flak from their constituents with respect to closing down any Coast Guard operating units. That put them between a rock and a hard place. I think they treated it seriously. Obviously, a great deal of the rhetoric was as much for their political constituents as it was a matter of personal belief and philosophy. That's just a perfectly natural attribute of people who are in political office.
Underneath it, my conversations with the chairmen of our committees and individual congressmen and senators certainly led me to believe they understood quite clearly what was taking place. They recognized the many legitimate closures that, for many years the Coast Guard had tried to implement. For example, the Coast Guard had tried to close 10 or 12 stations on the Great Lakes for years. Each time the Commandant decided to close those stations with strong approbation from the Department of Transportation and OMB, Congress would restore the closures.
At this juncture I would say, in retrospect, that it's too bad the Congress was not willing to take a little more forceful position on some of these actions and support the administration's efforts to cut back. A great deal of the reduction list I personally felt should be implemented. I would have preferred to make those reductions and transfer those resources into mission areas where we really needed them, which would have been the acquisition of more ships.
Q: You gave the impression a few moments ago that the Secretary of the Department of Transportation was not particularly supportive of your efforts to strengthen the Coast Guard's budget or to defend it. How do you feel about that?
Admiral Hayes: That's a very difficult question. I have already mentioned that the two Secretaries of Transportation during the Carter Administration fully supported the Coast Guard and did, in fact, help without question to prevent a major reduction to our budget. Secretary Drew Lewis clearly was in a position, as were all the other cabinet officers, of being strictly responsible to the President to effect his policies. Secretary Lewis provided me support as the Commandant on major operational policy and mission accomplishment. At the same time, however, he tried to please the President. For example, that list of reductions was directly associated with a Presidential edict to cut all budgets about 10%. This list was the Coast Guard’s first step to reach that target. Of course, that figure was quite substantial. As I recall, it was around $180 to $190 million. You can't reduce the Coast Guard's budget that amount in a year without major impacts on operations. It must be understood that Secretary Lewis was carrying out his responsibilities as a cabinet officer and doing so, I think, very honestly he attempted to achieve as little impact on Coast Guard operations as possible.
I have never been certain to what extent Secretary Lewis and his Deputy Secretary, Mr. Darrell Trent, collaborated on the effort to privatize the Coast Guard. The privatization changes proposed by Mr. Trent went far beyond what the President’s edict to reduce the budget. I had no indication that Secretary Lewis or the President had decided that OMB and the Deputy Secretary could pursue this drastic policy to fundamentally alter the Coast Guard. However, I understand from discussions with people who were friends of Secretary Lewis and others in the Administration that most certainly the Secretary was aware of what was happening. How could he not be aware? I believe I was fighting for the very existence of the Coast Guard.
This is a very sensitive area. A number of my flag officers were concerned over my involvement to achieve Coast Guard objectives, especially those that were contrary to the desires of the Reagan Administration. This as not the case during the Carter Administration. From 1978 to 1981 I worked with two Secretaries who fully supported Coast Guard funding objectives.
Now, whether he personally was directing some of these efforts, I have no specific evidence to answer that question, and I simply don't know. I have to say that in all of our personal relations, he dealt with me fairly. He and I got along extremely well, and indeed, to support that particular point, at the end of my time in office and about the time we were getting ready to discuss the selection of my relief, the Secretary asked that I stay on at least for another year to try and accomplish some of the things that were being worked on. So in the face of all of the rather aggressive things that I did, sufficient respect remained on both our parts that he was willing to make that offer to me. I declined, of course, because I felt I had created sufficient hostility in the department and OMB to warrant a change. In the aftermath of the second roles and missions study, it was time, to make a change and see if relations couldn't be improved. At any rate, that was certainly my reason for not accepting that offer.
Q: For a long time, there's been a rumor that during the winter of 1982, you actually put your resignation on the line with the Secretary because of support that the Coast Guard needed but appeared to be failing to get. Would you like to set the record straight on that and clear the rumor up?
Admiral Hayes: At no time did I ever even write a letter of resignation. Obviously, one strategic option I had was not to accept the direction I received. Then my only course of action would be to retire. The Vice Commandant, chief of staff, my senior operational commanders, Commanders Atlantic and Pacific Area, and I discussed our strategic options in the face of this ongoing "political war" to dismantle the Coast Guard. I don't think any one of us disagreed with my decision to consider that course of action, other than to review it and weigh the pros and cons of taking that step. But, I never really considered it seriously beyond simply discussing it as an option; an obvious option and something that needed to be evaluated. We looked at all our options to counter this effort by the department.
No, I felt that, first of all, it would do more harm than good to the Coast Guard. It would be nothing more than an ego trip for me to do such a thing, because it would be nothing more than grandstanding. Our Coast Guard people perhaps would stand up and applaud such an action, not recognizing the damage it would do. It would have been a foolish decision to resign. It would have made a substantial media splash but it would have deeply embarrassed the administration. Consequently, it would have made the situation extremely difficult for my successor, whomever it might have been. To step in under those circumstances and be effective at all, it would have been extremely difficult because without doubt the department, OMB, and the White House would have had the Coast Guard under grave suspicion for the rest of their administration and would have found it very difficult to trust the Coast Guard at all. So resigning was not an option that was seriously considered. I looked at it and discarded for the reasons that I've outlined.
Q: DOT's latest report on the Coast Guard Roles and Missions, the one from your tenure in office, recommended cutting back on oil-spill enforcement. Did you agree with that, and did that happen?
Admiral Hayes: I did agree with it, and it happened before I left. It happened by virtue of the fact that I reduced the number of people in our Marine Environmental Protection Program by a substantial number. I don't recall precisely what that was, but it was in the realm of between 200 and 400 people. They were removed from that Program principally because, as I mentioned a moment ago, I felt that we were simply getting into the business of over regulation.
I think there is another part to my decision that I can now speak very candidly about. I remained convinced all along that although an oil spill was a dirty, miserable, unsightly thing to behold, and it made a mess of beaches and killed birds and fish, as a practical matter and from factual studies that I've seen, no long-term ill effects on the environment have really ever been attributed to a major oil spill. All one has to do is look in the Gulf of Mexico and remember the millions of gallons of crude oil that came out of the Mexican Ixtap Well for three months or more. To my knowledge, no one has ever identified a major environmental impact from that spill, other than the unsightly Texas beaches that had to be cleaned up.
So I felt that the rule which required us to investigate every film on the water that we found in marinas and harbors certainly had had its effect. It made everybody environmentally conscious, and particularly so with respect to spilling any oil or petroleum products in our waterways. But the facts didn't support the kind of investment that we had in this operation. I do think legitimately that it was a good decision to do that, although politically it's a very tough one, because there's a great hue and a great outcry, of course, whenever there's an oil spill.
Q: To what extent did you agree with OMB's suggestion that the Coast Guard turn commercial vessel safety and icebreaking functions over to other agencies or even to civilian interests?
Admiral Hayes: Well as an agency head, you tend to be protective about your territory and your turf, and you don't like it when people try to make inroads and transfer responsibilities to somebody else. So first of all my natural reaction was in opposition to such a suggestion, at least partly for those reasons. I also felt, with respect to icebreaking, that our nation, since it borders on polar waters, simply needs to have an icebreaking capability for both national security and scientific reasons. If one accepts that as a legitimate national policy with respect to the Arctic, then I saw no valid reason to civilianize that function. After all, we were still at the height of the Cold War and if we did become involved in a hot war, the polar regions were going to be a very significant strategic area of concern to our country. Therefore, I believed we should have some military capability to operate in the polar regions. And if we didn't have any military people trained to undertake that role, certainly it would be a deficiency. Furthermore, the U.S. needed the capability to project its presence into the polar regions for other national security reasons. The Coast Guard icebreakers allowed the U.S. to be seen as players with interests to protect at both poles.
Secondly, I guess, I've not been persuaded that industry can necessarily do it cheaper than government. I think there's a myth here that somehow the private sector is more efficient and more effective than the public sector. Having now sampled both, I can tell you that I see the same kind of layering of staffs and poor decision making and bad management that has been such a major criticism in recent years of the public sector. I just don't agree. I think that one can go into both areas and find poor performance. My view is that some of the most substantive management improvements that have occurred in the philosophy of management have had their origins in government rather than the private sector. So as I say, I just don't accept that the private sector can do it better than the public sector in some mission areas. This goes to part of the Coast Guard as a multi-mission service.
Now, regarding the commercial vessel safety program--as long as there is a law which requires regulation of the private sector, you certainly can't have the private sector regulating itself without some level of government oversight. That just doesn't work. So the only other question is whether or not the commercial vessel safety program is better managed and administered in the hands of civilian personnel rather than military personnel, the latter being subject to frequent re-assignment and rotation for overall career purposes.
That question has been argued back and forth many times. I rather suspect that it doesn't make any difference. I think probably federal civilian employees can do it just as well as military people, and that the reverse is true. For example, the Coast Guard is held in extremely high esteem throughout the world with respect to its international participation with the International Maritime Organization, and by its safety and marine environmental protection and legal committees. We've been a world leader. Maritime safety today, throughout the world, is better, to a major degree, because of the influence of the Coast Guard and its very fine technical people. So I don't accept the premise that civil servants can necessarily do it better.
There is a good argument for continuity, of having seasoned inspectors who have served in a particular area long enough to know the local industry and to understand its needs. That's a quite legitimate criticism. As a military service, the way the Coast Guard's handled this in the past is not all bad. It could be modified by simply replacing some of our military billets with civilian positions. This would produce greater continuity in our MSOs.
Q: I know that you have a great deal of experience and have put a lot of thought into how the Coast Guard could best take reductions that are handed down. Do you prefer to see the Coast Guard take horizontal cuts--that is, to just reduce across the board? Or do you prefer to see vertical cuts, where entire functions are removed?
Admiral Hayes: Well, I've always felt that the 10 percent reduction across the board is the worst kind of management decision. It's a decision that, in my view, is a cowardly one, because it does not require you to make any tough evaluations of what's more important than another. It says, rather, that "I'm not going to expose myself to that kind of a decision, but, rather, I'm going to just make everybody suffer the same amount." I think it's a very poor way to respond to a budget reduction. Of course, from my earlier remarks, it's clear that the Coast Guard did not do that. In fact, we accomplished the largest reduction in personnel from our regulatory programs, and tried to tackle some of our overhead, which is a lot easier said than done. But I'm adamantly opposed to the 10 percent across the board reduction. I much prefer the tough management approach of looking at your programs and making decisions on a priority basis.
This approach occasionally leads to a decision to eliminate an entire mission. Ocean station weather patrol and Loran-A stations are classic examples. Both were stopped because in the first case the requirement died and in the second new technology replaced the current system. So, I feel this is the best management approach. I have serious questions in my mind, for example, about the extent to which we want to have vessel traffic services. At any rate, there are plenty of programs to evaluate with respect to priority when it comes to budget reductions. I don't have any problem with that. I was far more concerned over the implications of the way in which Reagan’s OMB asked, to a degree, the department, to make our budget decisions. OMB did not agree with a lot of the budget decisions which I made. OMB, by far, was more aligned toward reducing the Coast Guard to patrol boats. They were not interested in our having any jet aircraft. They questioned the size of our C-130 fleet. In these operational areas I remained adamant that we should continue to have a strong presence at sea to perform our law enforcement functions.
Admiral Hayes: I would like once again to refer to our discussion on budget reductions. The questions that deal with the Coast Guard's military readiness function and the way in which we strengthened our relations with the Department of Defense, particularly with the Navy, will shed some additional light on the steps that we took to counter efforts to eliminate the Coast Guard’s military role. I will talk a little bit about philosophy first. Then I’ll talk about the second roles and missions study.
Looking at the future and the on-going budget war I concluded that it was absolutely imperative for the Coast Guard to retain its military character and strengthen its military readiness role. By so doing, we could assure organizational survival unless the Congress decided to change the laws establishing Coast Guard functions and duties.
Q: The budget war you mentioned.
Admiral Hayes: Yes. You have to understand that this confrontation went beyond the preparation of the Coast Guard’s budget. I call it a war for the very simple reason that we faced a concerted, dedicated effort to fundamentally alter our organization. Virtually every single issue that came along, the roles and missions study, budget discussions on new aircraft or new ships, or whatever, became an opportunity to further the strategic objective by some people in the administration to dismantle the Coast Guard. So, I made many tailored decisions to counter their efforts.
I also decided that it would be extremely helpful for the Coast Guard to update and clarify its military role to support the Navy. There are a number of aspects regarding our military readiness function and our relations with the Department of Defense that I'd like to address in greater detail. But first let's discuss the roles and mission study as a prime example of the difficulty we faced.
The second roles and mission study completed in 1981 resulted from my initiative. Before the Reagan Administration came to office, I asked Secretary Goldschmidt to conduct the study since the Coast Guard had been in the department for a substantial length of time and had acquired a number of new or greatly expanded roles. He agreed that it was a good idea, particularly because of our OMB difficulties. The Secretary and I thought it would be beneficial to have a new definition of the Coast Guard’s roles and missions. This would allow all the players to use the same terms and work toward the same goals during our budget formulations. We believed that if all players agreed on why there was a Coast Guard and what jobs it should do then we would not have this contentious atmosphere where everything we did was questioned.
When the Carter Administration was voted out of office, we decided to put the study in abeyance. Since the Reagan Administration was new and appeared extremely supportive of the Coast Guard, I decided it was a beautiful time to conduct the study. Initially, I couldn't quite understand the problems we were having with the Department, particularly Mr. Trent, regarding the study. It would be a valuable educational study since it would give us a fresh look at the Coast Guard. No doubt we'd find things to improve and new policies to consider. In fact, OMB and the department at fairly high levels decided that the roles and missions study would be the means for effecting major change in the Coast Guard. As the study progressed it became clear that the military readiness function was going to receive the greatest attention. It also became clear that this study would serve as the basis to eliminate this function.
So from the time that study began, it was not really a study. The Coast Guard study team members found their counterparts from the Department, and particularly from OMB, distorted facts and twisted statutes to suit their own purposes. Conducting this study was very frustrating and very threatening. This so-called study went well beyond analysis to support the budget. The study called to question the fundamental reason whey the Coast Guard existed. That’s why I called it a war. We were fighting for our very existence.
The roles and mission study became a major vehicle to change the Coast Guard. Every recommendation, virtually every conclusion in that study, was fought over tooth and nail. We won as many as we lost, but we won the biggest issue. We kept our military readiness function. We were right. They were simply wrong and there was no way they could prove otherwise. But what a battle to prove them wrong.
A major factor in helping us win the battle over military readiness was a memorandum from the President’s national security advisory to Secretary Drew Lewis. It stated very bluntly that in evaluating the Coast Guard’s military readiness mission, care should be taken that the Coast Guard’s contribution to national security should in no way be adversely affected. This important memo was crafted through a collaboration among the Coast Guard, the DOD representative on the Steering Committee for the roles and missions study and the National Security Council.
Q: When you became Commandant, did you feel that the Coast Guard needed to have closer ties with the Department of Defense?
Admiral Hayes: Very much so, and particularly with the Navy. We had liaison officers with the Navy, and over the years we regularly sent our officers to the Naval War College and to the war colleges of the other armed services. But we hadn't explored our national defense responsibilities adequately for some time. So one of my initial strategic objectives was to cement much more firmly our relationship with the Navy and the Department of Defense.
Q: Did you feel that the Coast Guard should be represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff? And if so, why couldn't or didn't the Navy adequately represent the Coast Guard, since the Coast Guard falls under the Navy in military action?
Admiral Hayes: Well, first, I did not feel that the Commandant of the Coast Guard should be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in peacetime. In wartime, however, if the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was going to continue to be a member of the Joint Chiefs, then I argued that most certainly the Coast Guard Commandant ought to have a similar role, particularly since we had special skills and special knowledge to contribute. But, in peacetime, my argument was that we should have only representation on the Joint Staff. No major overseas contingency could occur without the use of the ports of our country. The ports would not operate effectively if the Coast Guard was not intimately involved in port activities, since we basically are experts in port operations.
So my view was that we should provide input to the Joint Staff on war plans that required extensive logistic support from CONUS. Additionally I believed that when the Joint Chiefs discussed issues in which Coast Guard expertise or capabilities could or should contribute, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should be present. I felt that it was quite legitimate for the Commandant to sit with the Joint Chiefs as a non-voting member and to provide his expertise. Two Coast Guard officers briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a very excellent briefing that the Chiefs highly complimented. The formal request went its normal way into the Joint Staff; then the politics of the various services came into play.
The proposal faced one fundamental problem. The Army and the Air Force were concerned over the possibility that even though the Commandant of the Coast Guard would not be a voting member, that he could eventually become one as did the Commandant of the Marine Corps. When the Commandant of the Marine Corps first sat with the Joint Chiefs, he was a non-voting member. Then Congress, because of the very strong political clout that the Marine Corps has on the Hill, made the Commandant of the Marine Corps a voting member. Now, if you look at the numbers, you have the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, and with respect to sea services versus others, shall we say, it's basically a 2:2 split. When the chairman is an admiral, it's a 3:2 split; when it's an Army or Air Force general, it's a 3:2 split on the other side. But if the Commandant of the Coast Guard became a voting member, then you conceivably could end up with a situation where forever there will either be a majority or at least a tie on the side of the sea services. So I'm sure machinations that went on had a little bit of their birth in that kind of concern.
At any rate, the Joint Chiefs unanimously accepted a much watered-down version of our proposal. The Coast Guard would assign a captain to the Joint Staff and the Commandant would sit with the Joint Chiefs when dealing with issues that involved the Coast Guard such as the Cuban Mariel Boatlift. The compromise, I think, satisfies the need on both sides.
Q: Early in your tenure, you stated that the Coast Guard had some serious weaknesses in military planning. What were those weaknesses and how did you plan to correct them?
Admiral Hayes: Well, the weaknesses really started with the inadequacy of our national defense tasking. I felt it had not really been well reviewed or adequately explored for a long time. There had been studies made, but not with any high level support behind them and with no substantial thought, other than an update of previous national defense responsibilities. It was a major weakness. Secondly, based on my experience as a district commander as well as staff duty in headquarters, I believed the Coast Guard paid little attention to the Coast Guard’s military readiness function, especially contingency or war planning. We were not doing a good job of thinking and planning for wartime eventualities.
I discussed this with Admiral Tom Hayward, CNO of the Navy, and out of those discussions came the creation of the Navy-Coast Guard Board (NAVGARD Board), jointly chaired by the Vice CNO and the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. Vice Admiral Scarborough did a superb job of helping to organize and make it effective as a planning tool. The importance of the NAVGARD Board is that it codified and put into place a formal mechanism for the Navy and Coast Guard to develop, at the service chief level, policy direction for both services to jointly plan their national defense responsibilities. They would ensure discussions on a continuing basis for planning each service respective national defense roles for linkage and coordination. This process and the tasking to the Coast Guard that eventually came, ensured the Coast Guard would have a strong national defense role and hence would reinforce its need to be an Armed Service. I wanted this not just because we had lousy war plans but I wanted in place a strong connection between the Navy and Coast Guard in peacetime so that it would be very difficult for OMB and DOT to minimize our national defense role. I did not want to lose our military character.
After all, since the Coast Guard by law has the responsibility to operate as a part of the Navy in time of war or national emergency when the President directs, then we should treat this responsibility seriously. This means committing sufficient people and training to make certain the Coast Guard was prepared to serve as part of the Navy.
I would like to mention one specific responsibility of concern to me. It seemed to me that the whole Navy organization that dealt with the control of shipping should have been studied for possible transfer to the Coast Guard. With the advent of the Navy's decision to close down its naval district commands the Navy had no organization to house an expansion of ports, harbors, and coastal duties sure to come in wartime. Of course, this was also part of the reasoning that led to the decision to create eventually maritime defense zones (MDZ) around our country. The Coast Guard would have the primary responsibility to assume the function of coastal defense zone commander in the event of war.
Q: You stated at one time that there was a possibility that the Coast Guard could assume the role of naval district commander in wartime. Is that the equivalent of what happened with the creation of the maritime defense zones?
Admiral Hayes: What actually happened, of course, was a little bit different. In essence, now our district commanders, under our area commanders, have the responsibility for that maritime defense zone. This is equivalent to assuming the former naval district command.
Q: For the Coast Guard, what is sea power?
Admiral Hayes: Both Admiral Scarborough and I felt very strongly that when people talked about sea power, including naval officers, rarely did they ever acknowledge the Coast Guard as a contributing element of sea power. Now, my argument was that the Coast Guard represented, depending on how you made the evaluation, about the sixth or ninth largest navy of the world. It didn't make much sense not to include that sixth or ninth largest navy as an element of sea power!
The Coast Guard is a significant element of the sea power of this nation because the definition of sea power includes more than combat power. Seapower is a much broader term today. We have substantial impact upon our merchant marine through our regulatory responsibilities. In many regions, Alaska being one of the most significant, the Coast Guard is the only at-sea presence. We represent this nation at sea for a variety of missions that have a high national interest. The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act established the 200-mile fisheries conservation zone. Or in other words, a zone of national interest extending 200 miles seaward. More recently, we've indicated that our interest in the 200-mile exclusive economic zone includes not just oil and gas, but minerals as well. This capability to provide Coast Guard presence is an element of our nation's sea power.
Remember that any nation that establishes jurisdiction or sovereignty over its adjacent sea must have the means to enforce its laws. If it doesn’t, the nation lacks credibility and this credibility reflects a deficit in that nation’s sea power and its maritime capabilities. The Coast Guard has greatly enhanced our nation's sea power. I do not for one moment suggest that the Coast Guard has any leading role to play in national defense. That's the Navy's business. I only argue that in looking at the whole subject of sea power the Coast Guard has a very significant role to play as do our fishing and merchant fleets. The Soviet Union understands that very well. They link their fishing and merchant fleets quite closely to national strategic sea power interests. Some top-ranking Soviet admirals have written fine articles on that subject.
Q: Do you feel that escort duty is an appropriate wartime role for our cutters?
Admiral Hayes: My answer to that has been an unequivocal "yes" every time the question has been raised. And then, of course, the obvious counter is, "Coast Guard cutters today don’t have the speed capability or the weapons capability that new technology has brought to Navy vessels." That may be true to a degree, but in wartime, there are never enough escort vessels for our merchant shipping. No matter the location of the transits in wartime, escorts are needed for some portions. And until the Navy has enough escort vessels to handle all escort needs with their peacetime forces, the Coast Guard will be a very significant player.
At the beginning of World War II the Coast Guard Secretary Class cutters represented the only ready reserve of escort vessels that this nation had. They performed extremely well. My view is that our 378-foot cutters could very easily be given some additional capability. If we don't keep the capability on board in peacetime, we can train our people to use it. I just feel very strongly that it would be foolish not to take advantage of the existence of those vessels and knowledgeable seamen.
Q: Did you effect any significant changes in the Coast Guard antisubmarine warfare tactics or equipment while you were in office?
Admiral Hayes: I think probably the most significant steps that were taken had to do with the aftermath of the creation of the NAVGARD Board. I recall not long before we established that board, the CNO had razzed me unmercifully about the Coast Guard's Barque Eagle and its use as a cadet training platform. His remarks generally suggested that a sailing ship was an antiquated approach to training in today's world. So I convinced him that before I'd permit him to keep that view he would have to sail Eagle. I also wanted to take advantage of such an opportunity for some quiet talks about the whole subject of Navy-Coast Guard relationships.
I arranged for him and Mrs. Hayward, along with myself and Mrs. Hayes, to sail on Eagle from Barbados to St. Lucia during a cadet training for 24 hours. We had some spanking trade winds blowing and just had a glorious sail. Of course, Admiral Hayward saw a whole host of leadership opportunities, with mistakes in leadership immediately evident by a flapping sail or a loose sheet. Watching the male and female cadets, barking orders and getting the job done, along with the obvious self-confidence they acquired scrambling up and down the ratlines and out on the yards to furl and unfurl sail, influenced his thinking about the whole concept of training. Also, as I pointed out to him, there's no better way for a young prospective officer to learn about the elements than on a sailing vessel. Here you're at the mercy of wind and wave and tide and current, and you learn very early, how to deal with the elements.
At the end of the 24 hours, he said to me, "Jack, how much will you take for her?" I allowed as how she wasn't for sale. And what Admiral Hayward did afterward was very, very significant. He went back and changed materially the midshipmen summer training program as a result of that 24-hour visit, or at least partly as a result of the 24-hour visit on the Eagle.
While we were together, I went over with him my concerns about the Navy-Coast Guard relationship. Admiral Hayward suggested that we consider putting together a NAVGARD Board, not unlike the NAVMARINE Corps Board that had existed for years. The NAVGARD Board would review wartime tasking, Navy support for Coast Guard readiness, and other service issues. We went back and gave our respective seconds-in-command tasking to determine whether this would be a good idea. The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Jim Watching, who subsequently became the next CNO, and Vice Admiral Scarborough, my Vice Commandant, conducted the study and recommended establishing the NAVGARD Board, with the Vice CNO and the Vice Commandant as co-chairmen and various flag officers as members. It was a very significant step.
Once established, I proposed to the CNO that we take another look at and earlier study on the Coast Guard’s wartime tasking that had not addressed fundamental issues. That second look generated some significant changes in Coast Guard wartime roles and missions, which, in turn, affected our peacetime approach to our military readiness, responsibilities, and functions. This was a very positive result in precisely the direction I wanted.
Many things concerning that relationship occurred during those years. For the first time, to my knowledge, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy testified before Congressional committees on the Coast Guard’s national defense responsibilities. That obviously enhanced the political support and recognition for the Coast Guard’s contribution as one of the armed forces of the United States. Yet at the same time, I emphasized to all our people, "We must be very sensitive about this and not overplay this role, because our peacetime functions are still the reason we have a Coast Guard. Also we must not devote too much of our energies and too much of our resources to that military readiness function in peacetime." It was a red flag of caution that I needed to wave periodically. This balanced approach prevented over-emphasis of the Coast Guard’s national defense duties. Such over-emphasis would provide ammunition to those who thought the Coast Guard should not play.
You know, the drug war will be over and done with and something else will come along to take its place. Fisheries, for example, will be increasingly important, the resources of the sea are in greater and greater demand. So priorities have to change. Balancing the Coast Guard’s roles and missions is a difficult task but an incredibly important one. We need to adapt to new priorities while not forgetting about the previous or ongoing priorities, including national defense obligations.
Q: I'd like to move into law enforcement, or would you like to continue this topic?
Admiral Hayes: Let me pursue this relationship a little bit further. One of the grave concerns I've already expressed was the outcome of the roles and mission study. I had no problem with whatever conclusions might come out of an honest evaluation based upon facts and available data. But it was clear that the conclusions, with respect to our military readiness role, had already been made before the study even began, and steps had to be taken to deal with it.
Some events had occurred that subsequently influenced future outcomes. The fall before we began the roles and mission study, I had attended a merchant marine conference. I had offered seats on my aircraft to a number of people attending the conference. Though I did not know it when I made the offer, one of them was the future Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security, Mr. Bing West. During the Conference, the White House (President-elect Reagan) called and asked him to assume the Deputy Secretary of Defense job. An important function of that office was liaison with the president’s National Security Advisor, at that time Judge Clark. Later on he became the Defense Department’s member on the steering committee for the Roles and Missions Study, which was chaired by Mr. Trent, Deputy Secretary of Transportation. Bing West became one of my staunch supporters during the many discussions by the steering committee on the outcome of the Roles and Mission Study. Together we drafted a letter from the Secretary of Defense to Judge Clark and attached a proposed letter from Judge Clark to the Secretary of Transportation. Basically, the Judge Clark letter said, "Whatever outcome there may be on the deliberations of the present Coast Guard roles and mission study, the President is very concerned that the military readiness capability of the Coast Guard not be diluted." Judge Clark signed the letter to the Secretary of Transportation, and the letter most certainly influenced the outcome of that study. Essentially, the Department accepted our military readiness role, and the study was released. We had won a major victory in our war.
It is important that that particular event be described, because it was one of the most important occurrences that solidified our military readiness role.
Interview Number 6 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG (Retired)
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: Sir, I just wanted to catch one more quick question about military readiness before we move into law enforcement. While you were Commandant, how much was the Coast Guard involved with helping developing countries set up Coast Guards or small navies?
Admiral Hayes: One of my strategic objectives dealt specifically with trying to promote Coast Guard-like organizations throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. The main purpose was to have organizations helpful to the United States in trying to deal with the influx of drugs. Most drugs originated from South America or Central America or some of the islands of the Caribbean. Little trafficking could be traced to such islands as Jamaica, Cuba, and others. Our effort was supported by the Department of State and the Department of Defense. However, DOD made it clear that they didn't want interference with their various liaison people stationed at the embassies throughout the area.
So we embarked on a rather modest program, and once again, really had some interesting things going when the administration changed. Because of all the other events, I have mentioned I really didn't have the time to devote to pursuing that objective as much as I would have liked. There's no question that throughout the world there's great interest in the way in which the United States has approached the separation of its maritime responsibilities by placing them either into the Coast Guard or a relatively few other agencies. The National Marine Fisheries Service obviously has responsibilities concerning U.S. fishing activities, and the National Ocean Survey has ship responsibilities at sea. Customs does a little bit of work with boats, although not very much. But for the most part, the Coast Guard provides the national capability for maritime services.
In my lectures at the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, some developing nations expressed interest in how the Coast Guard evolved and inquired why the collection of missions the Coast Guard does came together. When talking to the heads of developing nations and maritime organizations, I recommended they keep it simple or they would be overwhelmed in staff and capital costs and not have enough money left to operate. I recommended they not mimic the Coast Guard, but rather look at your requirements and national objectives and then determine how to organize your Coast Guard. Do not try to create your own "U.S. Coast Guard" with technology and equipment but rather look at the way the service evolved from relatively simple organization to its now complex organization. Evaluate equipment and technological needs to do the job but not more than can be maintained. Equipment should match the skills and technical expertise of those who use it.
Q: Several of my OCS [Officer Candidate School] classmates were from foreign countries. There was a fellow from the Yemenese Navy, a couple from the Haitian Navy, and a couple from Malau.
Moving into law enforcement, in the eyes of the American public, the Coast Guard has really best been known for policing the oceans for drug smugglers in the last few years. Did you encourage that image during your years as Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: No, not particularly. I think quite the contrary was the case. We tried, as a matter of general policy, to assure that our public relations efforts presented a balanced view of all Coast Guard functions. However, at the same time, we recognized that we were in a cycle of fairly heavy law enforcement responsibility. Yet if one looks at the budget during those same years, and during the years since I've retired, I think that the budget will show clearly that there is still a substantial expenditure on search and rescue, aids to navigation, and regulatory responsibilities including marine environmental protection. We did not intentionally try to present the Coast Guard solely as a law enforcement agency, but rather as a multi-mission agency, with maritime safety, maritime law enforcement, and military responsibilities. After all, the regulatory role of the Coast Guard is a pseudo-maritime law enforcement responsibility. So the two are very much interrelated.
Q: During your tenure as Commandant, there was some mention of the public image changing from Coast Guard being a good friend to boaters and ships' crews to the marine police. Do you think it that did or eventually will affect public support of the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: Well, I certainly don't think that it will or that it has affected public support of the Coast Guard. I think there have been some individuals boarded by the Coast Guard at inopportune times perhaps, and who criticized the Coast Guard for doing this. Inevitably, considering the number of boardings a year, occasionally some Coast Guard person will present a bad image of the Coast Guard before the public. But in all my travels, I obtained nothing but an indication of overwhelming support for what the Coast Guard was doing. Most boaters understood and accepted boardings as a needed and legitimate activity for the Coast Guard to conduct. The bottom line is that while a very little ill will was generated, an awful lot of support was generated at the same time. There was no long-lasting adverse reaction that would have a substantial effect on the public's support of the Coast Guard.
Q: Of the Caribbean Basin nations, were there any that openly opposed the Coast Guard's role in the drug war? Which ones went out of their way to be helpful?
Admiral Hayes: I can't really identify any one of the countries that I visited that really were uncooperative. At the same time, Colombia, for example, had a very large criminal organizations growing marijuana and shipping marijuana from the coastal regions of that country. Although lip service was certainly given to cooperation and occasionally actions were taken by Colombian troops in the marijuana fields, by and large, I would have to say that the overall cooperation from that country was minimal. The United States offered to help, develop substitute crops and other ways of keeping the economy unaffected. A change in crop could have been found and could have been pursued, but was not. So I would have to say that we were at least disappointed in the overall cooperation we got from Colombia.
The majority of countries either gave the Coast Guard blanket permission to board their vessels on the high seas for purposes of interdiction or at least agreed to consider a request for boarding on a case-by-case basis. Now, Colombia was one of those that was in the latter circumstance. They required that a Colombian flag vessel, if I recall it correctly, could not be boarded by the Coast Guard on the high seas unless we first obtained permission to do so. The diplomatic process to get permission became pretty effective. It would only be a matter of a few hours between the time the commanding officer of the cutter requested permission to board and the time the authority was obtained and passed back to him. So it didn't prove to be too much of a bar to effective operations at sea.
Now, I think most of the countries in that basin, at least certainly the government officials with whom we dealt, were as concerned about the impact of drugs on their own people. So the general spirit of cooperation, I think, was pretty good, except as I mentioned about Columbia.
Q: How much assistance did the Coast Guard receive from DOD in drug interdiction during your administration?
Admiral Hayes: Well, certainly not as much as is currently the case. The evolution of DOD involvement in drug interdiction is a very interesting one. Of course, the overall principle of posse comitatas which basically prohibits our DOD armed forces from engaging in domestic law enforcement operations, is quite proper and should never change. To me it's one of the strong arguments to keep the Coast Guard out of the Department of Defense. But at that time there was no reason, and there’s still no reason not to allow the Coast Guard to use DOD resources for information and assistance that makes the Coast Guard more effective in drug interdiction.
By the time I retired, we made arrangements for Navy Ships to carry Coast Guard law enforcement boarding teams. That, subsequently, of course, has taken place and is now routine. We already had received cooperation to use the radar picture from the Air Force’s and the Navy’s early warning aircraft. Also, naval vessels provided us with information on any suspicious sightings they had observed. So cooperation slowly developed or evolved rather than just rapidly being implemented.
It's a rather sensitive issue and one that has to be treated fairly carefully. After all, you can't argue both ways. If the Navy's role in today's world is to provide a strategic presence of the United States at sea and to have the capability of keeping sea lines of communication open and so on, then there's a limit to how much the Navy can dedicate its operating time to carrying Coast Guard people on drug interdiction efforts. A Navy vessel is a valuable and very effective at-sea operating platform, and when available, I think it's a very worthwhile approach. But it should be used very circumspectly because of posse comitatus considerations. I don't know, for example, whether yet a circumstance has arisen that would require that a commanding officer of a naval vessel consider the use of one of his weapons because a vessel being interdicted refuses to obey the orders of the boarding team. And supposing that the boarding team got in trouble, what does the naval vessel do? So there's some very, touchy rules of engagement associated with this operation that I'm sure have been very carefully thought through and, no doubt, promulgated. But at any rate, it's an area of concern and has to be dealt with in a sensitive manner.
I think overall, the history of this relationship is a good one. There may have been some who were extremely reluctant to see any DOD assets embarked upon this program or even involved in it, but I suspect they were the minority rather than the majority.
Q: During your tenure as Commandant, how much do you feel the Coast Guard really affected drug abuse and availability in the United States? There have been some comments that all interdiction has done is to increase the price of those drugs. Do you have a feeling on that?
Admiral Hayes: While I was Commandant, I testified--reluctantly--many times that in my judgment, the interdiction effort was nothing more than something that was necessary under the law. After all, if there's a law on the books, it should be enforced, but that certainly 10 to maybe 18 percent of the interdiction of the drug flow was not going to have much impact at all. At that time it certainly proved itself in the fact that the street price changed very little. My recollection is that in talking about it with my counterparts in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs, it was difficult to discern very much impact at all on the at-sea and airport Customs and port interdiction efforts. So there was a very definite question as to whether it was a good investment of time and U.S. resources. On the other hand a law of that nature is a part of the law of the land. I think it would be a terrible thing not to enforce that law. It would give the drug people open season and, in my judgment, certainly make matters worse. The ultimate answer is to turn off demand, clearly a societal matter.
Q: Do you feel like we're maybe facing, in many ways, a losing battle as we did during the Prohibition era?
Admiral Hayes: I don't know. It's a very difficult matter to deal with. I've remarked a number of times that this situation reminds me a great deal of some of the conclusions of Toynbee’s World History. What Toynbee did was try to examine civilizations from the standpoint of what contributed to their rise and also what contributed to their fall. One of his conclusions was that a civilization can destroy itself from within, as well as be destroyed from the outside. He felt that there were a limiting number of vices that a civilization could absorb before it created the seed of its own downfall. I suppose one can look at the Roman Empire as an example. When he wrote about the number of vices that a civilization could tolerate, he discussed both violent crime and violence in games and sports. An example was the old amphitheater, where different sporting events pitted man against beasts and men against each other with different weapons. That form of violence was a vice and a very insidious vice that undermined the very fabric of Roman civilization. He also identified the use of drugs, the use of alcohol, and prostitution along with two or three others. His view was that a civilization could only tolerate a certain number of those vices, before decay set in.
I think one can look at our own civilization and at least ask some pertinent questions about where we are with respect to that tolerance, and to what extent are we going to tolerate particular vices. We have laws against prostitution, but for the most part, they aren't particularly well enforced. We certainly have a lot of violent crime in our country, a high rate of alcoholism, and a substantial use of drugs. To what extent now is that affecting either the progressive improvement of our society or degradation of our society? I see indications right now that we've begun to turn the corner with respect to drug abuse and that a great deal of credit can be given to a lot of our youth who are becoming concerned themselves and interested in trying to do something about it. In our youth and with the parents is where the solution truly lies. Until you eliminate demand, a source of supply will certainly occur. I think perhaps the drug interdiction effort undertaken by the federal law enforcement agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies has had an impact. It's been a deterrent to a degree, but if nothing else, it's made highly visible the problem itself. It has forced people to seek alternative solutions. I don't think that the failure to interdict a high percentage of that drug traffic is necessarily all bad. In other words, I think it's had some salutary effects.
Q: When you talked about your tour as Commander of the 17th District, you talked a little bit about the 200-mile limit. What kind of increased demand did that put on fisheries' law enforcement personnel and equipment?
Admiral Hayes: At first, its impact was less than might have been the case if we had not already been enforcing a variety of international treaties concerning various fisheries. In Alaska, for example, there had already been a fairly substantial fisheries patrol effort for a good many years. It was necessary to increase that effort to a degree with increased aircraft and ship patrols. So the passage of that law had an impact on resource demands. I think it's pretty clear that increased in Coast Guard appropriations during this time went either to purchase more aircraft or to other purposes in support of our new fisheries responsibilities. I remember being a bit angry about it and, indeed, wrote a letter to the Commandant at that time. I protested the fact that almost nothing went into ships to increase the surface patrol effort. I felt the Congress and the administration had inadequately supported the Coast Guard when they gave us that responsibility and gave us no ship resources effectively to do it. We ended up, of course, having to take some of our multi-purpose vessels and change the emphasis of what they were doing to at least carry out minimally those responsibilities.
Q: Sir, do you have any other comments you'd like to make about law enforcement in general during your tenure as Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: I think it had an impact within the Coast Guard that we've not talked about. More emphasis was placed upon small-arms training and on carrying weapons when boarding vessels. Also the dichotomy between going out to rescue people and being sea-going policemen made it very difficult for our people. I think that was reflected frequently in the initial difficulties that our personnel had, particularly in being an effective law enforcement officer for the Coast Guard.
I pointed out to people many times that the Coast Guard's origins were entirely associated with the mission of law enforcement. Congress established the Revenue Cutter Service or Revenue Marine in 1790 for the express purpose of protecting our young nation's revenues. The ten cutters constructed at that time were law enforcement vessels of the United States. Indeed, it's very interesting that the officers were commissioned as officers of the United States of America and as Customs officers, because it was intended that they represent the full law enforcement authority of the new government of the United States. So from the outset, our organization has been a law enforcement organization, and people should not forget that.
I think the problem lies more in the emphasis. The proportion of effort by our people and resources placed on law enforcement at any particular time in our history causes the problem. People perceive that it has become such a significant function of the Coast Guard. Many believe that it draws resources away from our search and rescue mission--one that a lot of people consider to be the more traditional role of the Coast Guard. I have to point out that search and rescue came second; it didn't come first. We became a rescue agency because we had cutters at sea enforcing the nation's laws. We didn't start with rescue cutters. So I think it's very crucial that we remember our origins as well. History does, indeed, have lessons for us, and we just shouldn't forget that very significant aspect of the Coast Guard's original parent, the Revenue Cutter Service.
Q: Do you have any other comments you would like to make about
law enforcement before we move into immigration operations?
Admiral Hayes: No, I don't think so. I was going to point out, as a matter of fact, that as we move into immigration operations, we're not moving out of law enforcement. We're simply continuing to do precisely that, and that is help to enforce our nation's laws at sea.
Q: How did the Coast Guard get involved in the Cuban boat exodus in 1980, and how were you personally involved?
Admiral Hayes: The Coast Guard became involved because, initially, that exodus was a major search and rescue operation for us. The 90-mile stretch of water between Cuba and the Florida Keys can be extremely rough, and people attempted to transit the Florida Straits with the oddest collection of non-seagoing vessels that I think any of us had ever seen before. Literally, people used bathtubs. So the initial part of that operation involved the Coast Guard because of our search and rescue role. As the event transpired it became clear that it was posing more and more of a problem with respect to our immigration laws and Customs laws. The operation increased its emphasis on the law enforcement side, which reinforces my earlier remarks on the inter-relationship between those two functions of the Coast Guard.
I personally became involved to the extent of attending meetings at the White House, including some with President Carter. We talked about our national policy and an appropriate strategy to achieve our national goals. I think everyone recognized, particularly later on during the exodus, that Mr. Castro was conveniently allowing many criminals to leave in the exodus. This obviously generated some very difficult
problems for our country once they arrived. Decisions had to be made to determine what to do with these people and how to prosecute them or assure that they didn't become criminals on our own streets. By the way, the President clearly understood the role of the Coast Guard and how it coordinated the operation with the Navy. Fascinating discussions about returning "criminals" to Castro including by covert means by DOD.
My chief, office of operations, became the principal staff officer at headquarters working with the White House and the Department of Defense. The Vice Commandant played a role as well, a very able one. So we were involved from the top of the Coast Guard right down to the seamen aboard ship and the airmen in our aircraft.
Q: How well did the U.S. Navy coordinate with the Coast Guard in the boat exodus?
Admiral Hayes: I had great fun with my Navy friends, because I pointed out with great glee that, to my knowledge, for the first time ever in peacetime, there were naval forces under the operational command--or at least operational control--of the Coast Guard. I assured them that we'd look out for them very well. But to answer your question, it worked well. Again, a very sensitive problem. The Navy had to be very careful since Cuba was involved. The Navy could not allow to occur a direct confrontation with Cuban naval forces during the course of the operations. The Coast Guard had no problem whatsoever in testing the validity of the claim to Cuban territorial sea, but the Navy, of course, was not about to get involved in that kind of circumstance.
The Navy was very useful in helping with our patrols. They filled in; they frequently provided helicopter support; and to the extent resources were available, they were most helpful. We had no command problems. Our rules of engagement were carefully put together and agreed upon ahead of time. It was a good operation. I called on Commander in Chief Atlantic, who, in his role as CINCLANTFLT, had responsibilities for that area. At that level, we came to a quick agreement with respect to the broad policy issues that were involved. So it worked out very well. That was, incidentally, Admiral Ike Kidd, who is one of my very favorite Navy people. He was a very pragmatic guy and one who is very decisive in action. So he was just a delight to work
Q: How well, in contrast, did the Castro Government cooperate with the Coast Guard in the Cuban boat exodus?
Admiral Hayes: They didn't cooperate with the Coast Guard or anyone else with respect to the boat lift. As I've already remarked, they used it as an opportunity to get rid of some rather low-caliber Cubans. They found it, I think, an opportunity to tweak Uncle Sam, and to do so with minimal risk of retaliation. And indeed, that turned out to be the case. There were some interesting plans developed as to ways in which we might return these Cuban citizens to Cuba, but for whatever reasons, the President did not decide to implement any of those plans.
I think many of us at the time felt rather strongly that we should have taken a stronger stance right at the outset and been rather hard-nosed about permitting this to occur in the fashion that it did. But having said that, I have to comment that no one really had any first-rate ideas on how to turn that around once the major exodus began. It really taxed our resources. We ended up pulling people out of the Great Lakes and sending them down to Florida in the wintertime, which they didn't mind at all. We just used every single asset that we could.
I have to say that the Coast Guard Auxiliary performed magnificently during that time, as did the Coast Guard Reserve, many of whom we called to active duty to help. It was an operation that made the Coast Guard stand tall and proud. I can't recall any part of it that really went awry with respect to our participation. When it was over, the President directed that one of his very special personal counselors come to the flag briefing and convey the President's personal delight over the professional way in which the Coast Guard had handled this. It certainly proved something that I've been convinced of now for many years, that the Coast Guard undertakes difficult missions with professionalism and talent and carries them out with great imagination and competence.
Q: You mentioned the Coast Guard Reserves. What duties did they perform and how did their activation impact on the budget process?
Admiral Hayes: The Reserve itself basically provided people who came into the Coast Guard, replacing Coast Guard regulars who could then be put into the Cuban operation. Probably not too many of our Reserve people ended up getting directly involved, although some did.
As far as the budget was concerned, we did receive some supplemental appropriations with respect to the Cuban operation. I don't recall the exact numbers, but I think that we were treated with respect and did not have to find all of the money within our appropriations.
Q: How much did the Cuban operations impact on other Coast Guard operations at the time?
Admiral Hayes: Both that operation and the concurrent drug interdiction operations certainly impacted quite drastically on other Coast Guard operations. We advertised--not without some malice of forethought, I have to admit--that providing ships from New England and providing support on the Pacific side for additional drug interdiction was going to impact on fisheries patrols. Also to a degree it would affect the response capability available for search and rescue. I tried to deal with that as honestly as I could, but, I also felt that if we were going to be given extra things to do, then we had to receive the financial support to match the additional duties. So I made it clear that the administration could not have it both ways, nor could the Congress. They could not give us additional work and expect that it wasn't going to have an impact on the mission performance. It did impact, and I made it clear that it was going to.
Q: How and when did the Coast Guard become involved in the Haitian interdictions?
Admiral Hayes: That was actually not too long before I retired. I think within 12 months of that date, if not a little less than that, perhaps. At any rate, the "when" was the latter part of my tenure as Commandant. The "how" occurred because more and more concern was being expressed over the arrival of Haitian immigrants off our shores. They were in our territorial sea more often than not and the boats they were in were either sinking or about to sink. Thus they were a search and rescue incident at the time and yet violating the immigration laws and often the custom laws of the United States. The defining moment in the Coast Guard’s involvement in the Haitian exodus came after 33 Haitians drowned literally yards off Miami Beach in [26 October] 1981. Something had to be done.
It was decided that it would be far better to try to stop this at the source, off Haiti. And near Haiti, it was at least possible to combine drug interdiction efforts with the interdiction of potential immigrants. We very carefully set this up with the Haitian Government. The U.S. Coast Guard entered into cooperative arrangements with the Haitian Coast Guard, and as a part of that, provided them with a lot of training, and a lot of help. It was determined that it would be an operation that would bring other federal agency officers at sea on board our Coast Guard vessels. We carried an agent of the U.S. Immigration Service on board our cutters, and the responsibility was quite clear. The decision whether the interdicted Haitians would be treated as potential immigrants was not the responsibility of the Coast Guard commanding officer, but rather the responsibility of the immigration officer on board. That, I think, worked out very well. Again, as far as I know, that program came off without a hitch and without any major political or international problem associated with it. We also worked closely with the State Department and ambassador to Haiti.
Q: Have any other military services been involved?
Admiral Hayes: To my knowledge, unless something has changed since I left office, no. No, none of the other armed forces were involved directly in that operation.
Q: Was the Coast Guard present in either case for any reason other than to protect life and property at sea and, of course, to represent and enforce our immigration laws?
Admiral Hayes: First of all, there was no background nor were there any specific incidents that led to the Coast Guard's involvement off Haitian shores that dealt with search and rescue or safety of life and property at sea. We would never have gone into that situation at all had it not been for a violation of the immigration and customs laws of the United States. Haitians in poorly constructed boats off their own shores are clearly not a responsibility of the United States. So at no time did the safety predicament of those people off their own shores enter into the decision to conduct this patrol. It was strictly to try to stop emigration from taking place at the source, rather than at the arrival point.
Q: To what extent did the Coast Guard actually save lives and property at sea during the Cuban operations?
Admiral Hayes: The number of lives saved was enormous and the amount of property saved was substantial. Ultimately a great deal of that property became the property of the United States Government and was resold, so that the cost of those operations in a very minimal fashion was at least partly underwritten from such sales. But the potential loss of life had the Coast Guard not been out there with patrol boats, cutters, aircraft would really have been horrifying. If you recall, the numbers that came across were in the thousands, and a great many of them ended up on the last leg of their journey on a Coast Guard or Navy unit of some sort.
Q: Do you have any other comments about immigration operations before we move into another area?
Admiral Hayes: Only to recognize that although many people, including many of our own personnel, wondered what we were doing in that kind of an operation, just to reiterate that it was an absolutely logical adjunct to the Coast Guard's maritime law enforcement responsibility. Once again, the Coast Guard has helped to enforce immigration laws since the early days of our nation, under the Revenue Cutter Service.
Q: When we talked about your major concerns when you entered
your tenure as Commandant, you mentioned Coast Guard personnel as being one of your primary areas of concern. I'd like to spend some time in that area. What did you personally do to encourage retention of Coast Guard personnel while you were Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: The thing I did most and spent the most time on, had to do with the pay and benefits of military people. I argued very forcefully before Congress, Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Transportation that what we paid our personnel, particularly our junior officers and junior enlisted personnel, was criminal. Here was a country, prosperous, advanced technologically, yet 18 percent to 20 percent of its military people qualified for food stamps. It was a disgrace. Along with the other service chiefs, other military people and congressional people, I tried to rectify that situation. I’ll always be very proud of my contributing part. As head of a service, as the Commandant I lent the full force of my office to a very aggressive stance on that issue. As I visited our units around the country I told our people that they didn't just have the right, but they had the responsibility to write their congressmen and President, and tell them about their economic circumstances and their poor living standards and to urge that something be done.
All of those efforts combined, clearly had an effect. The pay raise which occurred, I think, finally in about 1980 or perhaps late 1979, was richly deserved and long overdue. It had a major impact on retention. It helped to turn around the terrible reenlistment rates that the Coast Guard experienced in those days.
Admiral Hayes: Continuing to answer your question, I think one of the decisions that I made a little later on during my tenure as Commandant was one I should have made the day I took office. It was partly forced upon me by the budget climate that we faced. I decided not to retain nor permit marginal performers to reenlist. Unintentionally this decision resulted in a tremendous moral uplift! Getting rid of marginal performers made everyone’s work easier. When the reports started to trickle in on the benefits of that policy decision, we looked at each other and scratched our heads and said, "Why didn't we do this a long time ago?" Admiral Gracey has continued that policy very effectively since my retirement.
Many things that we did in the personnel arena resulted in higher levels of morale. I think that by establishing a strategic objective that deliberately identified the improvement of morale and welfare of our people and their spouses was a key factor. Making that a major strategic objective forced me in my budget decisions and everything I did to keep that concern uppermost in my mind. Without a doubt some of the people related capital projects that we ended up putting through our acquisition, construction, and improvement appropriation would never have normally survived the priority process. They would have fallen behind projects that were more directly related to mission performance and equipment acquisition and things of that nature.
Incidentally, when talking about strategic objectives, taking that approach to management forces upon the manager the necessity of making decisions that will achieve those strategic goals and objectives. Managers often don’t understand the obvious and often don’t place their strategic objectives in the proper perspective. I think, very candidly, that's one of the big differences between Presidents Reagan and Carter. President Carter simply had never enunciated clearly, perhaps to himself and certainly not to the American people, his strategic view of the world he was trying to create as President of the United States. President Reagan most certainly has done that. We may not agree with everything that he's enunciated, but he's very clearly identified about a dozen or so things that are his main areas of concern. You can look at his first administration and now the beginning of the second and see clearly that he's not deviated from those strategic objectives. So I can't emphasize too much the importance of going through the intellectual exercise of identifying those important futuristic sort of goals.
Then, of course, the decision process is important. One must make decisions that support the organization's probability of achieving those goals.
Q: Earlier you mentioned your disappointment in what many bachelor personnel had to accept as in-port quarters. Were you able to do anything about that?
Admiral Hayes: To a degree. I think by the time I retired, we certainly made some inroads into that disparity. I guess as long as there are bachelors, it will always be somewhat of a problem, but I think as long as it's identified, and commanders and top staff people keep it in mind as they make decisions on housing and barracks, at least we can minimize that disparity.
Q: In 1979 you said that you would like to see all enlisted personnel receive at least a variable reenlistment bonus. What happened in that area while you were Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: I think it fell by the wayside along with a number of other things that we wanted to do but simply didn't have the budget support to do. We carried that as far as we could, and then as the budget crunch became tighter and tighter, we simply had to back off on some programs. We just had no choice; the funds were not there. We had a choice of whether or not we were going to operate or pay bonuses, and in some areas, there just wasn't any question about where the priority lay. I think, for the most part, our people understood that, as long as their pay was reasonable and as long as they kept their principal benefits such as the commissary, the exchanges, and those sorts of things. Some of these other things, although nice, were accepted as a loss that at least could be dealt with reasonably by them at the time. Maybe they hadn't yet been the beneficiary of that program because we hadn't been able to get it off the ground. So there were a number of things such as this that, unfortunately, never came to fruition.
Q: What was done during your tenure to improve medical benefits for active duty personnel and their dependents and for retired Coast Guard personnel?
Admiral Hayes: It's hard for me to identify specifics. I know that we opened up opportunities for dependents of our military personnel, wherever we possibly could, to receive dental care. We did our best to enhance our Public Health Service operation and bring in competent doctors to help us carry that program out. Again, there were many things that we hoped to do that didn't materialize. At one point I was determined to join forces with the Navy. It has intact a major medical support program for its personnel, and it is reputed to be one of the finest. This occurred at the time when the Public Health Service was in such drastic trouble. There was every indication that there was going to be no Public Health Service. The question was: should we undertake our own health care? My reaction was "no." I saw no reason for us not to associate with the Navy Medical Corps and make use of naval hospitals.
Subsequently, of course, the Public Health Service was finally retained to a degree, and we continued to have that support, while, at the same time, we did get support from other armed service’s medical facilities. We entered into some agreements with the other services to use their medical facilities more frequently. That helped our people, too.
As I say, it's hard for me to point to very many specific major things that we did. I think we accomplished a lot of little things that altogether helped to improve the medical benefits of our people.
Q: At one time you planned on open-ended reenlistment, or at least mentioned it, for enlisted personnel. What became of that idea?
Admiral Hayes: What we were looking at, really, was a way to get around the psychological problem of reenlistment, of making a new decision every few years to either continue in this career or not. Commissioned officers agree to spend a certain amount of time on active duty just to carry out their service obligations, but beyond that, they then pursue the rest of their careers without any decision points other than a decision made by the promotion board that may adversely affect their remaining in the service. I felt that perhaps it was time to look at our enlisted personnel career structure and examine whether or not we shouldn't do the same thing with our enlisted personnel.
Once they had completed their initial required time of service, the only decision they would have to make would be not to stay in the Coast Guard. A decision to stay wouldn't be necessary. Nor would there be any enlistment periods. This would affect such things as reenlistment bonuses and benefits, but I felt that that could be taken care of by identifying two times in a person's career when a major benefit would be paid, and that could be based upon performance. At the six-year point, which would be about the time when a small family was getting to the point where they'd like to have a house, that bonus would permit the person to buy a first house. Then again, at about the 16-year point or ten years later, that would give a nice sum of money for college education for the children.
So that was the concept. I still think it has a great deal of merit and perhaps one day will be pursued by some Commandant or by the other armed forces. Obviously, something of that significance could not be undertaken by just the Coast Guard and that was one of the reasons that it didn't get beyond the idea stage. We weren't able at the time to generate a great deal of interest among our sister services.
Q: How were education benefits for the Coast Guard improved while you were Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: We placed some additional emphasis, as I recall, on providing educational assistance at isolated stations. We encouraged our people to take advantage of some of our educational benefits while on active duty, rather than waiting until they retired or chose to leave the service. But I'm not sure that I can point to any major accomplishment or any substantive thing that we did.
Again, a lot of things occurred, such as improvement of our training schools. We substantially expanded the role of the Reserve Training Center at Yorktown in training and educating active duty personnel. We strengthened a number of our petty officer schools. We started the concept of the Chief Petty Officer Academy, which finally came into being under Admiral Gracey. So there were quite a few things that either were begun conceptually or actually put into place, but I don't think this was something that had a major impact on our people from the standpoint of education and educational benefits.
Q: You stated in one speech that there was a need to earmark training billets afloat. What did you mean by that statement?
Admiral Hayes: Well, the problem has been with us ever since there's been a Coast Guard. The personnel allowance of a ship is established based upon the best analysis of the personnel needs of that unit to carry out its assigned missions, to maintain the vessel and to operate all of its systems and to stand watches. For the people on board to be competent, it's necessary for them to be trained. Ships in particular fall into this category because ships find themselves with a certain percentage of the ship's complement always undergoing training just to keep abreast of the training needs of the personnel aboard that unit.
Our idea was simply to recognize this fact in the personnel allowance of the vessel and add 10 percent, so that you established manning standards of 110 percent instead of 100 percent. That would mean you could assign people to the ship up to 110 percent of its authorized complement and recognize that there would always be about ten percent of those people off being trained, and the ship would be able to operate at full strength. Once again, it never came to fruition, because we simply got in a position where we were decreasing personnel at a time when we wanted to do this. Again, I think it's a good idea. It may be a luxury that we can never afford.
Q: By the end of your tenure as Commandant, you had indeed realized an increase in reenlistment. You have mentioned several things that you felt led to that. Was there one thing more than any other that led to increased retention?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, sure. The economic well-being of our personnel clearly was the major factor. It was the major factor in our failure to reach reenlistment goals before the pay raise occurred. You could parallel the change in reenlistment figures directly to what happened in improvement of pay and benefits. I think perhaps some other things we did had an impact as well, but no doubt at all that pay was the principal factor.
Q: Earlier you talked about your initial reservation about an all-volunteer force. Have those reservations proven to be valid?
Admiral Hayes: Well, I've sometimes been misquoted on my reservations concerning the all-volunteer force. My good friend Larry Kord was Deputy Secretary of Defense for Personnel for a good many years during the Reagan Administration. He was a strong advocate of the all-volunteer force, and he and I argued about it a good bit. I contended not that we can't get the number of people that we need for an all-volunteer force, but that over time we will end up with professional class of warriors instead of a citizen force envisaged by our Constitution. Furthermore as these volunteer forces become more and more professional, they tend to become more and more self-serving, separate and distinct from the citizens at large and possibly less and less manageable by their civilian bosses.
Additionally, with the volunteer force, we lose the leavening influence of the great many people who are not going to make the military a career. These people would lend a freshness of attitude to question why things are done the way they're done. Without their presence, this is less likely to occur. We need to ensure the volunteer force has strong roots in the citizen body and reflects the values and general attitudes of the citizens at large.
Also from a resource perspective the volunteer force costs more. There is no question that it costs more than the selective service system. During the first enlistment you can pay minimum wage and discourage early marriage through minimal spousal benefits. If you want a volunteer to reenlist in today's world, you'd better be paying them a handsome wage or at least a competitive wage. Without question, the volunteer force generates an increased cost to our nation simply because the great majority of people on active duty are non-rated personnel. That's the way the pyramid works.
Finally, as you look at this whole issue, I have long felt that one of the healthiest things that can occur in a young person's life is to stop and think for a couple of years about where he or she is going. This pause lets the maturing process have a chance to weigh a little more heavily upon a person's decision as to what his or her future ought to be. Two or three years in the armed forces does absolutely no harm to anyone's future. Indeed, with the number of years that people are living these days, I suggest that it could be a very significant part of every person's life. Military service has great benefits. It teaches responsibility, discipline, and opportunity to be away from the academic environment for a few years and contemplate a different world. It also allows the individual to look at what the real world is like before trying to decide what sort of life he or she should lead. I think our nation has a responsibility to assure our citizens have this opportunity.
In conclusion, I believe every citizen has a fundamental responsibility to serve our nation in some capacity for a period of time to demonstrate the great worth of this tremendous republic that we have built.
Those are my reasons, and my view is they're compelling ones. I didn't mean to lecture. I feel very strongly about this issue, and I think it needs to be looked at in the right context. We can get people into the armed services in peacetime if we give them enough incentive to do so. However, it’s these other concerns that I've expressed that I think should make us rethink the all volunteer force.
Q: In 1982, the Coast Guard eliminated about 50 public affairs specialist billets. In making that decision, did you evaluate the offsetting value of having public affairs specialists keeping the Coast Guard more actively in the public eye would increase retention and public support, leading to a greater budget strength?
Admiral Hayes: I, frankly, don't recall the specific detail of what you've described. I think that what happened was that in this instance, it was a straight priority decision: operating personnel were more important that support personnel. We really didn't have much choice except to identify the people who, shall we say, least contributed directly to mission accomplishment, and that meant staff. It wasn't just public affairs specialists staff people that were cut. I know a great many others who we cut out of our staffs as well. That was one time when I did demand a corresponding 10 percent or so reduction in staff. I simply recognized that if we reduced program people, then, damn it, they weren't there to be supported anymore by staff and some of the staff could go as well. I did force that as best I can recollect.
No, I did not consider retaining the public affairs specialists to improve our budget situation. I would say their presence did not have a material impact that I could identify, at least, in this situation. I think the reason that we managed to survive our budget crisis at least reasonably well had to do more with what the Coast Guard was all about and the aggressive stance that was taken. Yes, I'm sure that our public affairs people helped in getting that story to the American public via the media. But if I had retained them, would it have changed things for my successor in a positive way? I just don't know. All I can say is when you're looking at a rather lean organization, in the first place, and trying to reduce personnel, there is virtually no one that you feel comfortable to eliminate. But at the same time, those decisions must be made.
Q: Sir, you were credited with being, really, the major force behind including women as full or equal partners across the whole Coast Guard. What reservations did you have at that time, and has the move you made proved to be a good one? I also have one follow-on question after that.
Admiral Hayes: I've given you some background as to what happened when I was Commandant of Cadets. So quite clearly, at that point in my career, which wasn't too far away from my selection as Commandant, I had philosophically expressed my beliefs over women in the armed forces and the direction that our country was going. I felt our society had to make this decision. It was a political decision and not a military decision. I argued then and subsequently as Commandant and still believe that there are no technical arguments, sanitary arguments, or performance arguments that suggest women should not have the same opportunity as men to pursue a career in all the armed services. It's a philosophical, psychological, and societal question that had to be faced.
When I became Commandant, I began to be deluged with policy decisions on how to treat women in various career paths with respect to how many to let into the Academy, and that sort of thing. I finally concluded the numbers approach was the wrong way to go. I decided that given women in the Coast Guard and at the Academy, women would have equal opportunity for careers and, share equal responsibility as well. Women would be fully integrated with no barriers. They would share the bad assignments with the men, the isolated duty, the shipboard life. There were really no show-stoppers. We would change personnel policies and we would make the necessary sanitary adjustments to our ships and facilities. My goal was to remove any impediment to equal opportunity.
You know, the sanitary thing is absolute nonsense when you think about it. There isn't a private home that has separate men's and women's facilities. Furthermore, many office buildings have bathrooms with a lock on the door, and whether a man or a woman uses it is a non-problem. So, the sanitary argument is absolutely erroneous. Unfortunately, many of our cutters did not lend themselves to mixed crews because of the berthing spaces. The entire enlisted crew slept in "gang" berthing compartments. There was no solution constructing separate berthing for the female enlisted personnel on these ships as the 180-foot boat tenders. I would not permit the assignment of enlisted women to cutters that could not provide separate berthing. Now, officer berthing did not present the same problem since for the most part our cutters have two person staterooms for the officers. So, there was no reason in the world not to have female officers assigned to cutters with staterooms.
Now, one of your questions was, "How well has it worked?" Well, all I can say is that by the time I retired, I couldn't point to a single major factor that suggested the decision adversely affected the performance of the Coast Guard. I awarded Coast Guard medals to female coxswains, reviewed outstanding fitness reports on female commanding officers of patrol boats, and found nothing to suggest a change.
Now, along the way, clearly the man's world felt threatened, and among those who felt most threatened, I think, were our chief petty officers, particularly officers-in-charge of our shore facilities. They had experienced through their entire career a man’s environment. There had been no women sharing sea stories, somewhat crude language being used, the joshing back and forth, the physical contact of men that like and respect each other and who play games. All of that was subjected, all of a sudden, to a change that had to encompass females. It was a terrible shock to those people. I suspect that some men have not recovered from it yet.
In the long term, is this a good idea? I still have philosophical reservations with respect to the use of women in combat where they directly engage the enemy. I believe that the policy is correct as long as society dictates that women be in our armed forces. I think the worst situation of all is that faced by the graduates of our other military academies, because ostensibly they're going there to become a line officer, except those who choose to specialize. And yet there's no way in the world they can compete with the men, because they will not be able to have the combat related duties that the men have. And these combat related duties are a part of the desired career path to flag rank. So women are never going to have equal opportunity--career opportunity--in the other armed forces, no matter what is on the face of it. I think that is a terrible thing to do to young women. Now, I guess I have to acknowledge that hopefully they go into that with their eyes wide open and know ahead of time that, in fact, they're not going to have equal career opportunities.
One of the principal reasons that the other armed forces do not provide equal career opportunity for their women is Title X of the U.S. Code, which basically forbids that women enter into combat in the armed forces of the United States. They can have support roles but not be directly involved in combat. I like to ask audiences, when I speak, where are American women in combat today. Well, people say, "Well, they must be in Afghanistan or Israel or a place such as that." No, the answer is that the only place, to my knowledge, that American women are in combat-like situations, American women in combat, is in the United States Coast Guard in peacetime. They carry weapons, they've been trained to use those weapons, and, in fact, have made decisions which have resulted in the use of weapons. So, in essence, they are in combat. Of course, that's principally associated with our drug interdiction operations. But the commanding officer of a Coast Guard vessel has full authority and responsibility for the act of using force when necessary and in defense of life and property of the Coast Guard.
So it's a specious argument. We're about as hypocritical a nation with respect to our women's rights now as perhaps any.
Q: In the case of going into active war and the Coast Guard in military operations under the Navy, what policy did you lay down for women as vessel commanders?
Admiral Hayes: Our women assigned to cutters attend refresher training and participate in Navy warfare exercises. They are fully trained to operate our weapon systems and make operational decisions. I simply maintained that if our women happen to be assigned to a cutter of the United States when war broke out, I required that the women remain on board and do the jobs for which they were trained.
Q: Even in conflict?
Admiral Hayes: You see, that's a decision for somebody else to make. If, as was true in Vietnam, the Coast Guard was not transferred to the Department of Defense and remained under the Department of Transportation, then I don't believe the Title X prohibition would apply. It would be an interesting problem for somebody to test. But should we do that? It seems to me that if war broke out, then Coast Guard women ought to be placed in exactly the same situation as the rest of the women in the armed forces. I think it would be improper for it to be otherwise. But you know, that's a decision that somebody would have to make. It would be a very difficult one, because I would venture to say that an awful lot of our women, possibly even the majority of them, would choose the active duty role rather than be placed in a support role.
Q: What proved to be the biggest problem encountered in including women as full partners? If there was such a problem, was it one that you were able to predict?
Admiral Hayes: I think I've already identified the biggest problem. It's generally the relationship between men and women. I prefer not to call it a problem; it's rather a fact of life. As long as men and women are different, there's absolutely no way in the world you're going to confine them at the same unit, whether it's a shore station, a ship, a Loran station, an aircraft, or whatever, without the psychological and other differences that exist between men and women having an impact. Now, whether that impact's going to be good or bad will depend on many different circumstances. In some ways it will be good.
One thing the women have done in the Coast Guard, I'm absolutely convinced, is they have raised the overall professionalism of our service, because in competition with men, they've been fierce competitors and they've forced the men to shape up or, as the expression goes, ship out. I think that's probably had a very positive effect. The women who choose the service as a career will always be fierce competitors, because they'll recognize that they probably will almost always be at a disadvantage, if only in numbers. If you look at the numbers in the Coast Guard today, my understanding is that we
are still having problems recruiting as many women as we'd like to see on active duty to provide the spread of opportunities to all of them.
So if there's a problem, it's fundamental to the differences between men and women. The fact that men and women marry and have children. If they’re both married and both are on active duty in the same service, how do you assign them, and do you ever put them in the same operating unit? There are many questions that have to be answered and policies established. But as I say, the big problems that were forecasted simply did not happen. At our last get-together in Washington of Commandants and Vice Commandants, we asked Admiral Gracey what was happening, and had any major problems been identified. My recollection is that he said no, that there were the obvious problems that you always have, but none that we couldn't reasonably handle.
Q: My last question, in terms of personnel, is very specific to the Commandant. That is: how much influence does the Commandant have over the choice of his successor?
Admiral Hayes: The Commandant has a substantial amount of influence over the choice of his successor. After all, the persons who know the individual flag officers best on a comparative basis are the Commandant and the Vice Commandant. The Vice Commandant normally writes flag fitness reports, and the Commandant reviews them; they both are involved in that process, and so both are very knowledgeable. They have the greatest knowledge of both strengths and weaknesses of the various flag officers.
Now, I would suspect, since I don't know what happened with previous Commandants, I would suspect that to some degree the decision might be more forcefully made by one Secretary than another. A Secretary might, during the course of his or her time in office, have had an association with a Coast Guard flag officer that particularly impressed him or her. That association might sway the decision, and it would be against the Commandant. I understand one former commandant who I will not identify did not have his first choice selected by the Secretary. Instead the Secretary selected this commandant’s second choice who subsequently became the next commandant. I have no factual information at all to base this example on, but it is my understanding it occurred as I described.
However, I can tell you generally how the process worked with my successor. I provided the Secretary with, I think, six flag officer fitness report jackets, and suggested that if he wanted to review more, he was welcome to do so. I had carefully screened all my flag officers, and any flag officers even remotely in contention were among those six I had initially submitted to the Secretary. I suggested that the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary make independent judgments, and that the three of us separately come up with a first, second, and third choice. As I say, sometimes the Commandant wins and sometimes he doesn't. I don't know how often that occurs, but I would guess that probably the Secretary takes his first choice more often than not. Indeed, often the choice is so logical that there shouldn’t be any difference in opinion. I'm not going to tell you what happened with respect to my successor, as to whether or not my first choice became commandant. It would be improper to do so. But the process generally went as I described. The three of us compared notes. I made comments. They asked questions, and then, of course, the final judgment was made. The selectee’s name goes to the White House, and before the selectee is notified, the White House gives its blessing. The Senate does not give advice and consent before the decision is announced, as is true with other presidential appointments. But the White House must approve the choice.
Once clearance has been obtained, the Secretary normally calls the selectee. Admiral Siler and Brock Adams did that together, and Secretary Lewis and I did it together. It is a very effective process. I did do one thing. I won't tell you how it turned out, but I suspect that it had not been done before, and a number of flag officers grumbled about it. I wanted to test the waters and find out what the top management of the Coast Guard thought about the person who ought to step into the job. So I required all my flag officers to provide me with their one, two, three choice for my successor. The results of that were very interesting. So a lot of pieces went into the development of the decision, and all of the information developed basically was available to the Secretary.
Interview Number 7 with Admiral John B. Hayes, USCG (Retired)
Subject: Admiral Hayes' Distinguished Career in the U.S. Coast Guard
Interviewer: Lieutenant (junior grade) Michael Mansker, USCG
Q: On the subject of Coast Guard hardware, what needs led to the
development of the new 110-foot patrol boats and the SWATH vessels while you were Commandant, and how much influence did you have in the design of those vessels?
Admiral Hayes: I had a fairly substantial input into the design of the newer class vessels. We were operating in an arena that was demanding so much of our patrol boats. It was pretty clear that we needed to develop a replacement program for our 82- and 95-foot vessels, particularly for the 95-footers. The replacements should be developed so that we wouldn't get caught short as those vessels approached their last years of usefulness. We tried developing designs for new patrol boats that would be a lot more sea-kindly for our crews. At sea on a 95-foot patrol boat or an 82-foot patrol boat for an extended period of time, it's just an extremely fatiguing operation, even for a young person. Fatigue destroys operational effectiveness, or at least diminishes it. Also whether people like to admit it or not, the 82- and 95-foot patrol boats are certainly conducive to seasickness in bad weather. That's true even of good sailors sometimes. So particularly with respect to that SWATH vessel, we sought to find a much more stable platform at sea. If it would have supported a light helicopter, this could have been an advantage and, indeed, perhaps reduce some of our air operating costs by permitting us to have a lighter and less costly helicopter in the inventory for at least part of our operations. So a number of factors were involved in our exploration of new designs.
That is one of the reasons we procured the surface effect ships. I think my experience in Vietnam, where we operated patrol boats at sea for extended periods of time by using larger ships as mother ships to provide food and fuel and the necessities of life proved we could certainly do it, but this practice is very hard on the patrol boat crews. In Vietnam, for example, I think we operated our 82-footers at sea somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of the time, which was quite an accomplishment. So again, we looked for designs that would minimize maintenance requirements and fatigue problems.
I think that covers, generally, the design portion of your question with respect to the size and the why-do-it. I've already identified the "why," basically. It's related to simply the age of the fleet, the continuing demands at sea, and in the hope, obviously, that with a vessel that size, we could perhaps reduce the number of larger vessels eventually that we might need, at least for that kind of job.
The size of a Coast Guard vessel has always been a subject rife with different viewpoints. I have always felt, for example, that our 270-foot cutter was really designed as too small a vessel for the needs of the Coast Guard of today and tomorrow. We crammed into almost a medium-size vessel the kinds of things that we've had in our 378 and 327 classes. I think we will find the 270, although I’m sure it’s a very fine sea boat and one very useful to us, has an inherent design fault. The 270 is too small to do everything we'd like it to do.
So going from 82 and 95 feet to 110 feet, I think, simply recognizes that in today's world and with today's technology, we required a little larger platform to accommodate all the capability that we wanted.
Q: Since you mentioned the 270's, do you feel that those vessels were designed with enough speed to meet our needs?
Admiral Hayes: You know, that was one of the biggest arguments of all, I suspect, in designing the ship. I think the answer is the speed is probably adequate. It's a rare circumstance to use the speed of a 378-foot cutter, for example. Granted, in wartime at higher convoy speeds, then the speed of an escort vessel becomes quite critical. During combat against vessels that have a distinct speed advantage over you, that isn't a good idea. But we probably made a good decision on speed for the 270. If it had been a larger sized cutter, I would question it a good deal more, but the 270 will be a marginal escort vessel, useful for not much more than coastal convoy escort. Otherwise, in carrying out peacetime missions, the 270-foot cutter will not chase a high speed cigarette boat, but it's a rare fishing vessel that goes more than 12 to 15 knots. So the 270’s speed for its peacetime missions is quite adequate.
It would be interesting to read reports from the commanding officers on how they view this issue, but nothing I've read so far suggests a major disadvantage. Bear in mind that virtually all ships of the Coast Guard, other than the 110-foot, 327-foot, and the 378-foot cutters, have the comparable speed range of the 270.
Q: In addition to the major vessel acquisition plan during your tenure, the replacement of the HH-52 helicopter was also planned. Do you have any comments about the replacement for the HH-52?
Admiral Hayes: The replacement for the HH-52 is the HH-65 Aerospatiale helicopter. A good deal of the planning for that procurement occurred well before I became Commandant. To my mind, even though the Coast Guard received criticism for its decision it's one of our finest procurements. The people who were managed that procurement did an impeccable job, one of high integrity and substantial innovation on how they evaluated various contenders for that contract. There is no doubt that for the purposes we're going to use that aircraft, we procured the best helicopter available in the world.
Q: What were the criticisms?
Admiral Hayes: A major criticism was leveled at our selection of a second foreign designed aircraft. The fixed-wing French Falcon 20 or HU-25 was the first. The Bell helicopter was the major U.S. contender for the HH-52 replacement. There was no question that the management of Bell believed they would get the contract. But again, I will simply argue very strongly that our people recommended the right aircraft for that procurement. Bear in mind the decision authority for a major procurement lies with our civilian bosses. The Deputy Secretary of Transportation makes that decision. Normally, such a decision would not fly in the face of the principal recommendation of the user agency, but most certainly the option is there for our political bosses to make a different decision. I point that out only because people often do not understand that the Commandant does not make major procurement decisions, but rather someone in the political hierarchy, like the Deputy Secretary of Transportation.
Specifically in regard to the HH-65 helicopter, I think the twin-engine capability will be a major improvement, if only from a safety standpoint, and the avionics and other technical capabilities of the aircraft are far superior to the HH-52. I think we're going to find it to be a magnificent aircraft.
Q: Were there criticisms about the small size and short range?
Admiral Hayes: Since we hadn’t operated the aircraft by the time I left, it was difficult to forecast whether those things would be a problem. Based on our stated operational requirements, I believe this helicopter would do the job for which we bought it for. I certainly do not recall the endurance or the size of the aircraft being a major question.
Q: Did you have anything else that you'd like to say about equipment acquisitions while you were Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: There was one other issue that proved quite significant to the Coast Guard in terms of our budget confrontation with the Reagan Administration. This issue was the second contract for our 270-foot cutter procurement. The first procurement was for four 270-foot cutters. We still had approved to build nine more for a total of thirteen to meet our requirements.
First of all, I obtained an agreement from the Carter Administration for a multi-year procurement for the remaining nine vessels. I argued that both the Coast Guard and the tax payer would profit by that decision in terms of individual vessel costs and the compatibility of systems that would be installed on the vessels. Secondly, I convinced the Department people, who review all major Coast Guard procurement, that it would be extremely beneficial to the Coast Guard over the long run.
I thought it most cost effective to require, as a part of the bid specifications for the second contract, identical major systems to those installed on the four vessels from the first contract. That meant the engines, generators, evaporators, pumps, and all major equipment would be the same. Standardization would greatly simplify logistic support for the class of vessel as well as crew training and generate economics of scale by using the same equipment in all 13 cutters.
There was substantial question over awarding the second contract, in effect, to a shipyard that hardly existed. Tacoma Boat built the first four 270's. They lost out to Direktor Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island, for the second contract for nine more. At the time Direcktor was awarded the contract, the company had no shipyard in Newport. Whether or not that has worked out, of course, I simply don't know. But contracts are awarded on the basis of whether or not the bidder is responsive and responsible. Since the shipyard which was going to build the vessel didn't exist the responsibility basis of the bidder was questioned. The responsibility basis was decided in the Coast Guard's favor during a subsequent court hearing. So those outside the Coast Guard and our judicial system supported the techniques that we used to evaluate the competitive bidders in that particular procurement.
I mention that because there have been a number of criticisms over Coast Guard procurement practices and how well we've done. I guess I think we've done pretty well. I think our people have proven themselves to be pretty competent at that procurement business.
Q: Shifting gears a little bit, the Coast Guard has always been a great goodwill ambassador to other countries. Were there any particular examples of successful goodwill missions while you were Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: I visited many countries of the world to further U.S. national interests in regard to maritime matters or issues involving bilateral coordination. What impact this had diplomatically and from an international political viewpoint, I think it's very hard to say because of the lengthy time and complex processes to negotiate an issue, coordinate an activity, or reach concurrence on a policy. The Coast Guard is looked upon by other nations with great respect, a lot of admiration, and often a great deal of envy. So visits by the commandant to other countries or to countries with coast guards or countries interested in establishing a similar organization has overall a positive effect.
Was there a particular event or a particular trip that stands out above all others? One that certainly proved particularly effective was a two-week trip in the fall of 1978 to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Honduras, and one or two of the Caribbean island countries. At each location I talked to our embassy people and to the host country government people who had responsibilities associated with Coast Guard missions. One principal issue we discussed was the drug problem and how we could work together to interdict the flow of drugs. These initial discussions laid the groundwork for subsequent coordinated efforts and operations. My initial meetings had identified the key players and organizations. Follow-on meetings with my staff and representatives from those countries talk about specifics and details for enhanced mutual support. That trip would be one of the most significant ones I made.
I visited the People's Republic of China in the late winter of 1981. This proved a useful and a significant trip. The State Department saw my visit as an opportunity to expand relations with the Chinese to further U.S. national objectives. The Coast Guard interacts with a great variety of different government officials of a foreign country since most countries do not centralize all their maritime activities in one agency. The State Department saw the Coast Guard as the means to increase the number and scope of Chinese government officials for the U.S. to interact with to further U.S. interests in China. Furthermore, we had legitimate areas of business in the Coast Guard to discuss with the Chinese such as SAR agreements and inspections of oil platforms by our Coast Guard personnel in Chinese ports. I should tell you that when the clearance for my visit went to the Pentagon, DOD raised no objections except the OPNAV staff did not want me to visit the Chinese CNO! You see the DOD military service chiefs had not been allowed into China yet, and the Navy did not want the Coast Guard Commandant making that first, historic visit. I agreed for inter-service harmony. However, I should also note that frequently the Coast Guard is welcome to foreign countries that do not prefer to have a DOD presence. The U.S. Coast Guard presence is much more acceptable. The Chinese official I dealt with on that trip eventually represented the PRC at the International Maritime Organization assembly meetings every other year. That subsequently proved to be a very valuable contact in some of the politics during IMO assemblies. Again, I would judge that as a significant trip, if only for that reason. It turned out that many people I met in my travels also showed up at the IMO assembly meetings. There were a variety of payoffs. I met the commandant of the Japanese Coast Guard, which, of all the coast guards of the world, is perhaps the one most like our own. We became good friends and interchanged ideas. At one point, they sent some of their people to the United States, and we sent some of our people over there on an exchange basis. So many, many positive things generate from these visits that all together contribute to our nation’s international objectives.
Q: In your 1980 State of the Coast Guard Address, you
mentioned a decision support system that would meet the needs of the Coast Guard for the next two decades or so. What did you mean by decision support system, and were you able to obtain this system that you desired?
Admiral Hayes: I thought if we considered what communications systems do, what electronic systems do, and what computer systems do we would conclude that all these systems support decision processes based on data transmitting. The more I thought about it and discussed it with my staff and operational commanders, the more I wanted to successfully apply all available technology to enhance all our decision-making processes.
Basically, what we tried to provide the best possible capabilities for making decisions. It was one of my eight strategic objectives that I pursued, and that focused attention on it, obviously. It led to the decision to establish the new Office of Command, Communications, and Control. I already mentioned this earlier in the interview. We didn't call it what it really should have been called, for, shall we say, turf protecting reasons, rather than good management reasons. But nevertheless, we established that office basically to develop Coast Guard decision support systems.
As I previously stated, we pulled together the communications division out of the Office of Operations, the electronics division out of the Office of Engineering, or at least most of it, and the data systems division out of the Comptroller's shop. I think it still was a good move. I'd be very much interested in hearing the reaction of some of those who are currently involved in trying to make that work, and I'd be intrigued to find out how well that concept actually proved itself in reality.
Q: While you were Commandant, were you able to reduce energy use by the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: We definitely did as virtually everyone else in the nation reduced energy use. This was emphasized in operational decision making. It was emphasized in the actual conduct of operations by commanding officers of individual units and by aircraft commanders. Our shore units were required to develop their own energy conservation plans.
One of the more interesting developments that the Coast Guard embarked upon that really didn't start out as an energy conservation measure, but most certainly had conservation of energy results, was the experimental work week at the Coast Guard Headquarters. During the latter part of the Carter Administration, just before the Reagan Administration came into office, the Coast Guard participated in the experiments that were being conducted on various work weeks. We were assigned a four-day work weed with ten hour days. We decided to work Monday through Thursday with a three-day weekend. Now, the results of that experiment exceeded my and most people's expectations. First of all, the acceptance of that decision by people who had participated in it a year later was very close to 90%. There were definite indications that improvement had occurred in productivity. It's quite obvious that if you work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, you immediately eliminate 20 percent of all coffee breaks and 20 percent of the commutes, and, of course, that's a major energy savings. Also people have a little extra time at both ends of the day to do things, in perhaps a quieter atmosphere than is otherwise the case. With respect to the building, it lowers energy costs to heat, cool, and light since the building is not occupied for three days versus two days. So there were several very interesting payoffs that came out of that experiment.
I have to add, with a bit of humor, that when Secretary Lewis arrived and was informed about the Coast Guard's work week, his reaction was, "You've got to be kidding. You mean to tell me in government today there are people who are only working four out of five days?" And it didn't take very long before that experiment was terminated, and the Coast Guard went back on a five-day work week. I still feel that from the standpoint of people's morale and giving them opportunities to do things that otherwise are not easily completed under the time constraints of a two-day weekend, the experiment work week advantages. I think in order for it really to work, you need to have most everybody else doing the same thing. But I must say that that three-day weekend was just delightful, and the extra two hours really weren't that bad. At the end of Thursday, everybody was tired, but at the end of Friday, everybody was tired, too, so I'm not sure that was significant.
Aside from that, there were, of course, many small conservation of energy steps that were taken by all of us in those days, and it was one of those steady programs of the Coast Guard that don't have any startling attributes to them, but one that, I think, turned out to be quite effective.
Q: What is your definition of aquaculture, and how does that pertain to the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: I believe aquaculture is a process to raise marine-related products useful for human or animal consumption. Aquaculture, obviously, is one of those activities that takes place in the marine environment and can occupy marine territory. It is one of the uses of water that competes with other uses of water such as fishing and recreation.
Q: Do you see the Coast Guard ever getting involved in regulating aquaculture?
Admiral Hayes: At the moment I see very little need to regulate it, other than to do so in connection with coastal zone planning and that kind of thing that goes on these days. But to try to regulate the operators, I, frankly, don't see where the Coast Guard would have any direct regulatory impact. Now, if there were some possibility, that those operators would be polluting the waters, I suppose in our marine environmental protection role, we might possibly become involved in a very minor way to exercise some regulatory control, but I would think it would be minimal.
Q: Why, during your tenure, did you refer to the 1980s as the "decade of the oceans"?
Admiral Hayes: Everybody obviously looks for catch phrases to make an idea popular and bring it to the attention of everybody. I, along with a number of other heads of maritime agencies in Washington, had felt that for a long time the oceans had received inadequate attention by our policy makers, by budget decisions and by congressional actions. I organized a little group called the Ocean Principals that met about once a month. I don't know whether that's still going on or not, but the purpose of getting together was to identify ways that might influence the course of events in gross terms. If we agreed, for example, a particular policy would be beneficial, then through our won departments we would approach our individual Secretaries on to convince the President on the worthiness of that policy and request the President to approve it.
One idea we agreed upon was to promote the idea that the 1980s be called the "decade of the oceans." That term was bandied about a good bit during those years. I'm not sure how much influence it finally had over decisions relating to ocean matters, but at any rate, that was what was behind the idea. It wasn't invented by me. Again, it's one of those things that's very difficult to measure. I have no idea whether it resulted in greater emphasis on ocean-related activities. Some major decisions were made during the early 1980s concerning ocean matters. The Law of the Sea conference finally became a treaty, which we refused to sign because the politicians did not agree with some of the provisions. The nation expanded its interests at sea by establishing a 200-mile economic zone, recognizing that we would conduct deep-sea mining. Congress itself passed a number of laws significant in marine-related matters.
I just chose to talk a good deal about the subject, because, international trade was not diminishing. Nations throughout the world were becoming more and more dependent upon each other through trade relationships. There still is no alternative to the carrying of bulk cargo by ship. Also, uses of the sea were proliferating. You just asked me a question about aquaculture, for example. Recreational boating has expanded tremendously. Offshore oil and gas exploration and development is now a matter of routine. Our country has placed a great deal more emphasis on fishing. Smugglers used the oceans more and more to transport drugs or aliens. So for all these reasons, it was time to generate more top-level policy interest about ocean matters and maritime-related matters.
Q: What was accomplished in boating safety areas during your four years as Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: Well, interestingly enough, I was directly involved in the early establishment of the Office of Boating Safety and was one of the first officers assigned to the Boating Safety staff. I made decisions while Commandant that substantially diminished that program and reduced the resources, both dollar and people resources, devoted to recreational boating safety. I did so, basically, in recognition of the fact that the program had essentially succeeded, and it had reduced fatalities and boating accidents to a very significant degree. In the face of our budget reductions I decided I could reduce that program without adversely affecting the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from boating accidents. We eliminated the boating safety detachments and reduced to a much lower level the number of dollars allocated to the program. That is not to say that it remains an insignificant program of the Coast Guard, but I think, properly, we just modified its priority a bit and shifted emphasis to other areas.
Q: Why did the Coast Guard move its headquarters from the DOT building to its present location at Buzzard's Point in Washington, D.C? Was that idea well accepted within headquarters?
Admiral Hayes: Let me answer the last question first. I think, initially, the move from the DOT headquarters building (Nassif) to Buzzard's Point was not very well accepted by the majority of people. The location with respect to available ground transportation, with respect to neighborhood, was definitely not as good as the DOT headquarters building. So, I think, particularly our civilian personnel disliked that relocation.
Now "why did I do it?" At the time I became Commandant, the Coast Guard already had two of its offices located at Buzzard’s Point. That was the Office of Boating Safety and the Office of Research and Development, I believe. During the first few months as Commandant, I had other staff components relocated from the DOT headquarters building. The Department squeezed us along with other agencies in the Department from the Nassif building. It was obvious this was only going to get worse, not better, and that slowly but surely, we were going to be scattered to different locations. I felt that rather than have that occur, it would be better to seize the initiative and find a location for our entire headquarters that would be satisfactory for as long into the future as I could see. This would allow the Coast Guard to be the one doing any future squeezing as far as anybody else occupying space in "our" building.
Also, very candidly, at that time, I was concerned about the future of our organization. I was not terribly pleased with the support by our department over recent years. I wasn't at all sure that DOT would continue to be the best place for the Coast Guard. And so I thought relocation would give future commandants more options in thinking about where he was lodged in the government.
Finally, it placed the Coast Guard Headquarters near the water, and I remain convinced that the city will develop the waterfront area and that it will becomes a prime location in downtown Washington. As that occurs, transportation will improve. So I felt that the disadvantages, some obviously imposed upon our people in the short term, would be outweighed later on by the advantages of that location. I won't argue in favor of that decision, but those were my reasons for making the decision.
Q: The Pollution Response Branch of the Office of Marine Environment and Systems responded to about 24 major oil and chemical spills during your tenure. Do any of these stand out in your mind as being particularly dangerous or difficult?
Admiral Hayes: Yes, two immediately come to mind. One occurred in the Gulf of Mexico when a Mexican well blew down in the southwestern portion of the Gulf, and poured millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for a period of months. That particular event turned out to be a significant problem for our Eighth Coast Guard District Commander, Rear Admiral Yost. The oil spill polluted substantially the beaches of Texas. It was a major problem for our people. I must say, in retrospect, as I think I mentioned earlier, that in the aftermath of that, other than the cosmetic problems that it caused and the dead birds and fish, there apparently have been no lasting environmental effects from that spill, and that has to be, without any close exception, the largest oil spill that has occurred in the world to date.
The second one that comes to mind is the spill near Chesapeake Bay. This was a toxic chemical spill overseen by the Captain of the Port, Baltimore. At that time I believe it was Captain J. William Kime, now the present chief, office of Marine Safety. It was a little bit different sort of problem. There were inherent dangers in the spill, and there were significant political problems. The media were, to a degree, a bit hostile over the actions of the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. So it stands out more from that kind of impact than from the actual harm done as a result of the spill. At the moment, I don't recall any others.
I do remember an interesting event while I was district commander in Alaska. A Russian fishing vessel went aground on Kayak Island in the Gulf of Alaska, and remained aground for a substantial period of time. What was interesting about that case was that it started out as a search and rescue incident, during which the Coast Guard tried to free the vessel. It then became a major potential pollution incident with respect to the vessel’s fuel leaking into the Gulf of Alaska. Once the fuel was removed it became a salvage incident. There were problems associated with each aspect of that incident. I mention it because although it certainly was not a major pollution incident, it could have been a significant one because of the great concern of the people of Alaska for those very rich fishing grounds in that northern portion of the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound. Although that took place before I became Commandant, it is an operational incident that I was directly involved in that, again, demonstrates the way in which the Coast Guard, as a multi-mission agency, can operate so very effectively with so much versatility.
We have organized one of the most effective, if not the most effective, response organizations anywhere in the world. This begins with the National Response Center in Washington and is implemented by our marine safety offices and captains of the ports as the persons who will assume on-scene command for a polluting incident. The whole system has just worked out extremely well. I had no part in inventing it, nor did I have any part in setting up that organization. I have nothing but plaudits for the people who developed it, because it works amazingly well.
Q: While we're in the area of pollution response, just prior to your becoming Commandant, the Public Information Assist Team was created to assist Coast Guard personnel in the field during oil cleanups. Did you think that was a wise use of Coast Guard personnel?
Admiral Hayes: Oh, I think absolutely. To me, one of the best approaches to training which we have devised is the special captain-of-the-port training at Reserve Training Center Yorktown. Here captains of the port are put into a real life scenario with irate reporters, angry environmentalists, and upset private citizens. While responding to these concerned people, the captains of the port must lead efforts to stop the pollution and to begin clean-up. They must make decisions as to what to do about the incident designed to place as much stress as possible on them and their staffs. And it's clear from the real world, as well as those training exercises, that one of the most crucial needs of the on-scene commander is a crackerjack public information specialist to deal with the media. So I think absolutely having a small nucleus of media professionals to support a major polluting incident or even potentially dangerous incident is an excellent capability. It is a first-rate way of providing capability to captains of the port without buying a lot of extra staff and extra overhead that most of the time will not be used. After all, captains of the port are not involved in significant pollution incidents 365 days a year.
Q: Did you concur with the findings of the boards of investigation in the sinking of the Cuyahoga and the Blackthorn?
Admiral Hayes: Those were two incidents during my four years that caused me more personal anguish and frustration than anything else that happened. It did so because there's a very special bond that exists among seamen. Anytime a ship is lost, for whatever reason, you have your own personal agony over that, even if you didn't know a single person on board. In the Coast Guard, you almost always know at least one of the people who lose their lives in an incident such as that. To lose two ships during a relatively short period of time was devastating, particularly when the Coast Guard hadn't lost a vessel probably since World War II. It was unprecedented and for both of them to be collisions raised a lot of serious questions about the way in which we qualified people for command and the way we trained our people.
I am one of those who feel very strongly about the responsibility of command. There are some things that a commanding officer of a ship simply can't delegate to anyone else. Obviously, the commanding officer cannot be on the bridge 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 30 days a month. There has to be some delegation to the officer of the deck. That's done through night orders and the ship's organization book, as well as Coast Guard regulations, which provide for what is expected of the officer of the deck and what his or her responsibilities are in notifying the captain of problems as they arise.
I have perhaps a different view of courts-martial than some people. A court-martial is as much designed to protect the commanding officer and the personnel involved, as it is to find the facts and prosecute, to the extent necessary, anyone who has performed inadequately. To that extent, I suppose I would have to express some dissatisfaction over what happened. As a former commanding officer of Coast Guard cutters, I have made mistakes. Fortunately, none of them have caused damage. But understanding what led to those mistakes, I have even less patience nor do I have any feeling of sympathy for major errors in navigation, particularly in piloting and piloting orders. I feel that both of those incidents could have been prevented and should have been prevented by adequate on-board watches and actions by the personnel concerned. This is not the place to judge any specific individuals, and I would refrain from doing so. Rather, I'm suggesting that neither of those events should have occurred; both could have been prevented. And therefore, in each instance, there should have been punishment associated with the incidents. I was not satisfied that the punishment was adequate, considering the loss of life and the circumstances in each instance.
Q: Did you feel that the principle of responsibility for one's actions was undermined? Accountability, I guess, is the word I'm looking for.
Admiral Hayes: Accountability, of course, is at the whole heart of command or any position of responsibility. That's almost inherent in the word "command," in the word "leadership." If one assumes command, there is a personal responsibility to assure that one remains fit for command. If there's any question in the commanding officer's mind about that, then it is his or her responsibility to make that deficiency known to his or her seniors and let them decide whether or not they are willing to risk his or her continuing in that position of responsibility. So I lay on the commanding officer a great deal of personal responsibility for assessing his or her own personal and physical capability to continue in command and the responsibility to assure that in carrying out his or her command function and duties that he or she does so in as professional a way as is possible. Looking at both those incidents, I have to say that certain things that occurred need not have occurred had that kind of professional conduct on the part of those involved been present.
Q: Did anything good come out of these two tragedies? Certainly they were tragedies.
Admiral Hayes: Well, out of a tragic incident almost always some good occurs. I think that both of the incidents forced the Coast Guard to look at its internal training programs. There were many recommendations that came out of the investigations and the court-martial proceedings, that, I think, greatly improved the Coast Guard's training posture. For example, the requirements concerning a much higher degree of qualification of officers of the deck, and a more detailed description of the qualifications we expected in our commanding officers. Both of those actions resulted in improved individuals for those positions. The requirement for a better understanding of the rules of the road on a more frequent basis was, I think, absolutely necessary and brought the Coast Guard essentially up to the same kind of standard that we were demanding of our merchant marine. There was substantial encouragement for people to upgrade themselves with respect to their knowledge of navigation and piloting. So, of course, out of that did come some good things. I'm sure that the Coast Guard today is probably better and more qualified to do its job than perhaps was the case at that time. Although I've said to many that it's awfully easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to a casualty and write all sorts of new rules as the answer to making sure that it doesn't happen again. We basically don't accept that as a good course of action in the Coast Guard.
In retrospect, I think at the time this occurred, for the most part, our internal practices and our internal training were pretty good. After all, in highly dangerous circumstances, we had been operating ships and boats for a great many years with minimal adverse results and minimal casualties. So I don't think one could point at the Coast Guard at that time and say that all of a sudden in our history, we had a lot of incompetent people going to sea. In my view, for example, neither of those commanding officers could, by any stretch of the imagination, be called incompetent, at least not with respect to their training and their professionalism. They made critical mistakes and were held accountable. However, you have to be pretty careful in making generalizations from incidents such as that and it is absolutely essential that those in command and their subordinates be held accountable. I am not necessarily convinced that this occurred in Cuyahoga and Blackthorn. In the aftermath of those incidents we did strengthen many aspects of training particularly for those going into command and executive officer assignments, such as rules of the road examinations, command screening, and eventually establishing a PCO/PXO school.
Q: While you were Commandant, what did you think was the Coast Guard's hardest mission to fulfill?
Admiral Hayes: If you're speaking in terms of accomplishing objectives, quite clearly, the most difficult mission was--and is--the drug interdiction mission. We embarked upon virtually an impossible task. The majority of our personnel are well aware of that, which makes it very frustrating to them. And even though great quantities of drugs are intercepted, there are still plenty of drugs available on the street for a price that people can afford. So without doubt, that has to be the most difficult job for the Coast Guard to perform, recognizing, literally, our inability to achieve our objective at current levels of resource. I doubt that no matter how much money poured into the interdiction program, it would never be entirely successful.
Q: What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment as Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: Surviving. And although I said that facetiously, I'm not at all certain that perhaps it isn't true. After all, I did take a rather aggressive tack during the entire four years, arguing as persuasively as possible, not only on the Hill, but within the administration and before the media, that the Coast Guard was inadequately supported. During those four years, I did a number of things on the thin edge of whether or not it was a proper thing for the head of a military agency to do. And I refer to some of my actions on the Hill as well as elsewhere.
Perhaps in a more serious vein, I would have to say somebody should judge. It’s not for me to decide. I thoroughly enjoyed my association with our Coast Guard people. It's the only thing I really miss in retirement. I can't say enough about the excellence and tremendous professionalism of our Coast Guard people, from our admirals right down to our seamen. I would single out our people’s accomplishments, our people’s performance service-wide during the 1980 Cuban exodus as the most outstanding event during those four years. They received accolades from every quarter, and quite properly so. They performed magnificently, and they did not fail the country in some very demanding and challenging circumstances.
Q: What would you say was your greatest disappointment as Commandant?
Admiral Hayes: The greatest disappointment lay in observing the political environment that developed, particularly during my last year and a half when I really couldn’t trust the administration people I dealt with on a regular basis. It was a very unsettling situation that I disliked intensely. I had always found--without exception, during the course of my career that if one dealt with people in a truthful, straightforward and moderately aggressive fashion, you could expect the same kind of respect returned as you displayed toward those with whom you were interacting. I became appalled at the quality and caliber of some of the people with whom I had to deal. That was my biggest disappointment.
You might expect me to say that I didn't achieve my financial objectives for the Coast Guard, but I'm a political realist. At a time when the entire government is suffering from deficit spending, certainly one can't expect a single agency to be singled out for major increases, unless there is a particular reason to do so. I did feel ample justification to accord the Coast Guard the same kind of support as the other armed services received. In a very practical fashion, that was my biggest disappointment over the four years with regard to a particular course of action I anticipated would occur but didn't. The people disappointment was a separate matter and a much more personal disappointment--that is, a disappointment that made the last year and a half such a hostile, unfriendly experience.
The failure to convince the administration to treat us in the same fashion as the other armed forces is certainly mine. Whether anybody could have changed the way in which they viewed the Coast Guard, I simply don't know. It's obvious my successor has not been able to do so either, although he's had successes in areas that I didn't and perhaps failures in some where I succeeded. For whatever reasons the Administration has the Coast Guard is not clearly treated in the same fashion as the other armed forces today. I think that's too bad. I think that had we received the increased support that the other armed forces got, today we could have a far, far more effective organization to deal with these vexing operational problems.
Q: If you could go back to the beginning of your tour as Commandant, is there anything that you think you'd do differently or approach differently?
Admiral Hayes: Well, you can always view the past with 20-20 hindsight, and if you couldn't, with the knowledge of what actually happened, go back and improve, it would be a pretty sad state of affairs, it seems to me. On the other hand, some events are not going to be significantly changed by that knowledge. I probably would, in retrospect, change certain decisions or perhaps change the way in which we went about those.
Sure, to identify one or more specific things, is pretty difficult. I think, in retrospect, if I had known immediately upon the Reagan Administration's taking office what I found out six months later, I would have taken a lot different action, shall we say, in the months before they took over and in the first few months of the administration. For one thing, I would have done my utmost not to conduct the Coast Guard roles and missions study. I think that turned out to be a substantial mistake.
Q: In that it was used against the Coast Guard?
Admiral Hayes: Yes, in the fashion I described earlier. On the other hand, the way things finally turned out, it may be that history will judge that perhaps it wasn't. It's a very dangerous thing to take the knowledge that the future provides when the future becomes the present, and then go back to an earlier decision and try to determine what you might have done. If you had made a different decision, then there would have been different forces that came into play, and how are you going to judge whether that would have been a better approach? I just find it a very, very difficult question to answer responsibly, because all the significant decisions that were made, such as those having to do with women in the Coast Guard, our capital plant, the budget decisions, etc. I wouldn't have acted much differently in most of those major policy areas, even knowing what I do today.
Q: Thank you, sir. If you could tell a young officer anything to help him or her in their career, what would that be?
Admiral Hayes: I would talk to him or her mostly about leadership and concern over his or her people and their professionalism and their sense of responsibility. Because when all is said and done, without talented people the Coast Guard has and has developed, without the superb camaraderie and professionalism and even with all the modern equipment in the world, we would still perform in barely an acceptable or maybe even an unacceptable fashion. So the first priority is personal concern for your people should never lessen no matter what the rank or the job. I could identify a series of things to talk about, but you asked me to identify the most important, and to me that's perhaps the most important thing.
I was asked an interesting question at one of the Academy Foundation Directors' meetings: if I were to single out the most important thing to pass on to my successor, what would it be? That is a similar question, and it's a very difficult one to answer. You find it very hard to identify, for example, a particular incident or a particular situation, a particular problem or issue that stands out as more important than anything else. The reason for that is it depends upon your viewpoint. It depends upon perceptions of other people as to what's important and what isn't important, and as you evaluate and analyze that question it just becomes very difficult to say, "This is far more important than anything else."
But perhaps when you're talking about the person beginning a career in the Coast Guard, you talk about self-education, a constantly inquiring mind, never accepting "what is" as satisfactory. It's absolutely vital that in an organization such as ours you get a person of impeccable integrity and at all times absolutely honest along with many characteristics in human endeavors that are important. But I'd still come back to leadership. To me, whether you're the commanding officer of a unit, the head of a staff, or the Commandant of the Coast Guard, to maximize your accomplishing objectives, you have to do it through people. You have to have dollars, but they're strictly something that people use to buy things with. You have to use people to accomplish objectives. The greater the ability of the senior to motivate subordinates, the greater productivity will be and more effectively that group will perform as a team. I think that probably the standout concern of a young officer is to develop that particular talent called leadership. It's been submerged too much in the word "management" in the past, and it needs to be brought back out, set aside, and made so visible that it's a constant irritant to everybody in a position to exercise leadership. When I say "irritant," I mean irritant to the extent that it's a prod, that's constantly pressing people into better leadership practices and ways of dealing with their people.
Q: What would you like history to say or to remember about Admiral John Briggs Hayes?
Admiral Hayes: Thinking back on what I just said, I suppose if my response to your question on the young officer was valid, then I probably would hope that history might say I led the Coast Guard well.
Q: Do you have any other comments that you would like to add to your oral history?
Admiral Hayes: When I became Commandant, Admiral Siler, my predecessor, handed me a little notebook on words of wisdom from the incumbent Commandant to his successor concerning things that he thought were worth passing on. I recall vividly one from Admiral Chet Bender went something like this: "When I became Commandant and put four stars on my shoulder boards, I assumed that when I made a decision or gave an order, that it would naturally be carried out. Nothing turned out to be further from the truth. And I suggest to my successors that first, when you make a decision or issue an order, put it in writing. Secondly, establish a mechanism that will make certain that you find out whether or not that decision or order has been carried out. And third, follow up, follow up, follow up." That turned out to be an absolute gem of an admonishment to pass on to each succeeding Commandant, because it most certainly was true. It recognizes people and staffs and their concern over their "territory."
And make no mistake about it, some Coast Guard people are bureaucrats, whether they're civilians or military people. I left about 10 or 12 or more such homilies for my successor, and perhaps that might be a good way to close the interview out. Semper Paratus!