Monday, May 5, 2014

U.S. Coast Guard FOIA release - Part 5

There are a couple additional memos related to the ship’s sale, but the remainder of the documentation discusses the excessing and disposal of the ship through GSA (which we know now was a violation of Federal Law) and the associated deadlines.

The tone and content of the messages seem to indicate that the Coast Guard was only concerned about getting rid of STORIS and had no concerns or interest whatsoever in preserving the ship. This is contrary to the expressed position from Admiral Papp himself to Judith Bittner, the State Historic Preservation Officer for Alaska. I was told by Deputy SHPO Jo Antonson that Papp had discussed the preservation of the ship with Ms. Bittner at an event to honor Coast Guard history in Alaska that was held in August 2012 (click for link). I was told that Admiral Papp had personally expressed positive support to Ms. Bittner for saving the ship.  What a farce.

The CG was only hanging on to the ship because of the Congressional request to hold the ship while a possible legislative donation could be worked out (which never took place thanks to petty politics.) This hold was to be through the end of the 112th Congress. Apparently the rent for the SBRF ranged from $30K to $51K a year for storage.
Again and again throughout the correspondence, the Coast Guard insists that the ship was free of encapsulated PCBs above the regulated levels of 50 parts per million, despite the fact that there is no supporting documentation to prove otherwise and the only document provided by the Coast Guard has the brief statement claiming the ship to be free of regulated PCBs was redacted. The correspondence states the ship was eligible for domestic disposal through GSA. The key words there are “domestic disposal.” The Coast Guard knew the ship shouldn’t go out for foreign disposal, particularly since it is stated in more than one place in the documents that the Foreign Military Sales Office was not interested in STORIS. The ship should not have been excessed and sold through GSA and she ultimately ended up in a foreign scrapyard, a violation of section 3502 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act. It’s against the law for U.S. Military vessels to be dismantled in foreign scrapyards.

There is also verbiage in the packet on Page 17 (originally pg. 64 of the CG PDF) that essentially lays out the need for the CG to get rid of the ship prior to the 2014 election cycle because Mark Begich would be up for re-election and would use the ship as a means of gaining favor with his constituents for re-election. So the CG wanted to get rid of the ship through GSA beforehand, possibly transferring the ship to the State of Alaska (or Ohio as was pointed out in another memo). That obviously did not happen.

There are deficiencies within this release of information, as there is correspondence that I know exists that would have been covered by the FOIA request that I did not receive. There is other correspondence that isn’t included, either. Then there is the matter of the materials that were requested that the Coast Guard denied having. That was the subject of the appeal submitted for April 28.

While the respect I have for my many friends and acquaintances who have served in the Coast Guard has not diminished, my respect and admiration for the senior command officers of the service has certainly been seriously diminished by the details revealed thus far. They have blood on their hands for contributing to the destruction of one of their own service's most historic and accomplished cutters.

What a sorry affair.

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