There is not a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft from the last 25 years that Capt. James Martin hasn’t either flown or helped deliver to the front lines. For
the last five years, Martin has served as the aviation program manager in the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate (CG-9), overseeing the upgrades and missionization of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, procurement and delivery of
the new HC-130J Long Range Surveillance Aircraft and HC-144A Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and development of land-based and cutter-based Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Martin has leveraged his experiences as a Coast Guard aviator and aeronautical engineer to inform his role as the aviation program manager. He graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1986 with a degree in civil engineering and an eye on becoming an aviator, as his father had been in the U.S. Army. After his first assignment as a deck watch officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Spar, an ocean-going buoy tender based in South Portland, Maine, Martin reported to naval flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and was designated a Coast Guard aviator in December 1988.
Martin’s first aviation assignment was at Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco, where he flew the HH-3F Pelican. During this tour he became dual-qualified in the HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter upon that aircraft’s entry into Coast Guard service in 1990.
“Looking back on the H-60 acquisition, the entire replacement fleet for the H-3 was delivered in about a four to four-and-a-half year time period, and you didn’t have to deal with direct obsolescence in the middle of the acquisition,” Martin said. “As we look to smaller budgets and how to achieve a successful major systems acquisition, it’s a challenge when we are doing it in increments and over a very long period of time.”
In June 1993, he assumed the duties as the rotary wing maintenance officer at Air Station Clearwater, Fla., the Coast Guard’s largest air station, where he became an instructor pilot for the HH-60J and subsequently served as the assistant engineering officer.
After earning a Master of Science degree in operations research from the Naval Postgraduate School, Martin then served as the inventory manager at the Aircraft Repair and Supply Center, Elizabeth City, N.C., where he was responsible for Coast Guard aviation’s $800 million parts inventory. He was subsequently assigned as the aeronautical engineering officer at Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, where he qualified to fly the HU-25 Guardian aircraft and the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Martin served as the deputy chief, Office of Aeronautical Engineering (CG-41) at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and then reported as the commanding officer of the C-130J Aircraft Project in 2006, leading to his first experience in the acquisition community.
“I first got interested in acquisition when I was the deputy in CG-41, in those days we were still executing Deepwater, and there was a lot of frustration with that program,” Martin said. “As I left CG-41, I was the commanding officer of the C-130J aircraft project office in Elizabeth City, which was a satellite command that got me directly involved with the acquisition pipeline. A follow-up tour in acquisition was a very natural progression.”
After flying five different Coast Guard aircraft and being out in the field, a tour at Headquarters required a different mentality.
“When you are out at an operational unit, you can measure accomplishments on a daily basis, and every day you can go home and say, we got this done, whether it was the completion of a search and rescue mission or returning an aircraft from a grounded status to a fully mission capable status,” Martin said. “But at Headquarters that measure of accomplishment has to be done over a much longer timeframe, if not years, then certainly months. Since I’ve been here five years I can see how the organization has progressed from trying to re-establish acquisition expertise to now having developed that into a mature acquisition organization.”During Martin’s time in CG-9, the Coast Guard’s aviation program has become fully compliant with the service’s Major Systems Acquisition Manual, which details the processes and procedures that must be followed to ensure successful execution of each of the aviation acquisition projects.