trying to correct them so that you
don’t constantly make them, so
that you can avoid the cost overrun, so that you can avoid vessels
and helicopters and planes coming
late, being produced late.
In May, the Coast Guard
officially accepted the first
National Security Cutter,
Bertholf. You were concerned
the service was too hasty in
that decision. Why?
CUMMINGS: I’ve often said there
are basically three things that we
wanted with regard to Deepwater.
One, we wanted to get what we
bartered for. Two, we wanted to
make sure we got the equipment
that was necessary to provide for the
defense of our shores and our country, and for the Coast Guard to be
able to carry out its responsibilities. The third thing is we
wanted to make sure we had equipment that would do
We failed in all of those areas with regard to
Deepwater. After coming through all of that, after having hearings that were quite extensive, it just seems to
me that when ships are delivered, they should meet the
When the issue came up, initially, that they needed
some more time, my response was, “Well, OK, let’s take
a little bit more time and get it right.” I’d rather get it late
and right than early and wrong, so I had just general
concerns about outstanding problems with the ship.
Guard — Adm. Allen and others under his command
— who have said, basically, “We don’t have everything
that we need right now.”
And what has happened, particularly post-Sept. 11,
is there has been expansion of the Coast Guard’s
responsibilities. But does that say you then take some
of that responsibility away from the Coast Guard with
regard to things like LNG? No.
Why do you feel so strongly that the Coast
Guard should take the lead in added LNG
responsibilities around ports?
CUMMINGS: The Coast Guard has been training to do
this; that’s what they do. LNG is so dangerous that I
think it requires special attention to protect the public,
and we wouldn’t have the kind of regulations we do if
it were not so. We have to be in a position where whatever we do meets a certain standard, and the question
is what is that standard?
Agencies such as the local police, which may have
never had any experience with regard to these issues
and may not even know what LNG is, I just don’t think
that that is appropriate for anybody but the Coast Guard
The other thing we’re certainly concerned about is
we see more LNG [being transported] down the line
and we have to keep in mind that it was the Coast
Last November, a container ship accidentally
struck a tower supporting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The spill dumped 58,000
gallons of oil into the bay and the Coast Guard
was criticized for its slow response to the situation. How much of a black eye did the recent
hearings on the incident give the service?
CUMMINGS: I think it hurt them. When you have people who are supposed to be doing casualty investigations, for example, who are not equipped [or] trained
to do something as serious as that, I think that creates
a problem. I don’t think it made them look very good
One of the other problems was a failure to come up
with a reasonable calculation of how much oil had been
spilled from the very beginning and then, during our
hearings, we discovered some people who should’ve
known about the number of people who were trained
to be inspectors [but] didn’t know. That’s a problem.
I don’t see how you can hold people to any standard
of accountability if you don’t have the knowledge, and
that concerned us. But I think a lot of it has to do with
this organization being stretched.