U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2021 graduation ceremony in New London, Connecticut.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2021 graduation ceremony in New London, Connecticut. DHS Photo by Benjamin Applebaum

New Top Coastie Wants More Data Tools to Help Leaders Make Decisions

Adm. Linda Fagan’s “highest priority” is transforming the service’s talent management system.

The Coast Guard’s new commandant wants its leaders to use more data systems in operations to improve decision-making, even as the service contends with culture challenges and reports of harassment. 

In her first hearing before Congress since taking command June 1, Adm. Linda Fagan said one of her priorities was applying new technologies as part of an overall plan to improve the military service’s workforce. 

“Advances in technology, pressures on maritime supply chains and threats to the global rules-based order are changing demand for Coast Guard missions and changing the communities where our people live and work,” Fagan said during opening remarks of a July 14 hearing for the House’s Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation & Maritime Security. 

Fagan said incorporating data systems in Coast Guard operations “so our leaders can make the best decisions across every mission” was part of her vision for the service, which asked for $47 million in its 2023 budget request to maintain and protect its IT networks, bolster cybersecurity of maritime critical infrastructure, and conduct cyber operations to “deter and respond to cyber-attacks on the Marine Transportation System.” It also requested $7 million to help the service adopt modern software and provide its workforce with more mobile solutions, according to Fagan’s written testimony

The admiral’s discussion of using data systems for operations during the hearing was part of a focus on improving the Coast Guard’s workforce and culture. 

On the tech front, the Coast Guard has been working to expand its tech workforce and recently graduated its first tranche of cybersecurity majors. But those expansion efforts come amid rampant cultural challenges surrounding reports of sexual harassment and retaliation. 

Fagan, the first woman to lead the Coast Guard, testified that transforming the service’s talent management system was her “highest priority.” She said she aims to foster a diverse workforce and improve retention by “eliminating policy barriers that deter people from continuing to serve.”

She was asked about disparities experienced by the LGBTQ community in the service, which were left unaddressed in a 2021 RAND study on the Coast Guard’s gender, racial, and ethnic representation. 

“I am committed to creating a safe, fair environment for everyone that serves in the Coast Guard,” Fagan responded. “I'm committed to ensuring that where that does not happen and we have reports that there has been retaliation or harassment that we investigate those, that they are done fairly swiftly and in compliance with all the laws and policy and we cannot afford to not continue to seek the best environment for our workforce.”