National Press Club

Coast Guard admiral tells American Legion Post 20 about shutdown lessons learned

May 31, 2019 | By Ken Dalecki |

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Melissa Bert addresses the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 at the Club on May 29.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Melissa Bert addresses the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 at the Club on May 29.

Photo/Image: Rex Stucky.

The U.S. Coast Guard learned lessons from "not being on top of messaging" during the nation's longest government shutdown that ended after 35 days in January. Rear Admiral Melissa Bert, Coast Guard director of governmental and public affairs, told a meeting of the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 Wednesday there is no way to separate internal and external communications.

"That's not the world we live in today," Bert said, citing as an example an internal shutdown memo that lead to an embarrassing skit on the late-night ABC "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"program. The memo listed simplistic ways unpaid Coast-Guard personnel would make or save money.

Public relations is being "democratized" by encouraging personnel to contribute social-media pieces for use on Coast Guard websites to illustrate its wide range of duties, Bert said.

"We span so many missions and every day is different," Bert said, citing everything from maritime safety and drug interdiction to humanitarian assistance and providing legal advice to developing coastal nations.

Top priorities for the Coast Guard include improving readiness, recruiting top-notch personnel by improving benefits such as tuition assistance for reservists and developing a modern icebreaker fleet to meet security challenges in the Arctic, Bert said.

Bert's prior assignments included being deputy director of operations for Headquarters United States Northern Command, Coast Guard Seventh District’s chief of staff, and chief of the Coast Guard's Maritime and International Law Office. She is a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and George Washington University Law School and was a national security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a military fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She has taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University and University of Miami Law School.

Bert commended the Legion for supporting the Coast Guard's mission and congratulated Post 20 on it's 100th anniversary year.

Speaker portions of Post 20 meetings are open to all Club members.