Free Markets, Free People

Coast Guard

Inspections for fire extinguishers take precedence over stopping the oil from reaching shore

Bobby Jindal is fit to be tied. The governor of Louisiana has had to essentially ignore the federal government and order sandbags lifted and dropped between barrier islands in an attempt to keep the oil away for the the state’s marshlands.

He also got tired of waiting on others to skim the oil that has gotten through the barriers and so he deployed barges that suck up oil. But the Coast Guard had other ideas. They ordered the barges to “cease and desist”.


The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

This is the type of stupidity for which federal leadership is being questioned. The sort of inflexible bureaucracy that can’t seem to put the oil emergency in perspective, give it priority and work around doing what it thinks it needs to do while allowing the barges to continue their work. Another example is the Corps of Engineers red tape that has delayed the construction of man made barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast.

Understandably, Jindal is frustrated about the barges (a governor cannot overrule the Coast Guard).

“They promised us they were going to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said. But “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.”

After 24 hours of constant pushing by Jindal (displaying leadership and trying to get the job done), the barges were finally released to get back to work. There was no reason for the delay, and certainly a work around could have been done to allow the barges to keep working. And Louisiana isn’t the only state having problems:

In Alabama today, Gov. Bob Riley said that he’s had problems with the Coast Guard, too. Riley, R-Ala., asked the Coast Guard to find ocean boom tall enough to handle strong waves and protect his shoreline. The Coast Guard went all the way to Bahrain to find it, but when it came time to deploy it? “It was picked up and moved to Louisiana,” Riley said today. The governor said the problem is there’s still no single person giving a “yes” or “no.” While the Gulf Coast governors have developed plans with the Coast Guard’s command center in the Gulf, things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s like this huge committee down there,” Riley said, “and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

For those of you still wondering why the leadership of the administration is being questioned as it pertains to this crisis, these are the sorts of examples that are apparently daily fare down there. They are why the effort has been called uncoordinated and “chaotic”. And they’re not because of BP.

They are also why you’re beginning to hear a lot more frustration expressed by those impacted by the chaos.

Leadership means taking charge, not managing by committee as Gov. Riley observes is the case he discusses. It also means cutting through the bureaucratic crap that often impedes efforts in a crisis – just as it is doing now in the Gulf.

If it is still unclear why people are charging lack of leadership, these incidents should help illustrate the problem.