A Job Hooligan's Navy: The Military Role Of The U.S. Coast Guard Into The 21st Century
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
Title: A Job for Hoolligan's Navy: The Military Role of the
U.S. Coast Guard into the 21st Century
Author: Thomas J. Vitullo, LCDR/USCG
Research Question: Is the Coast Guard still this nation's
fifth military service?
Discussion: This research project examined traditional
Coast Guard roles and missions from the pre-World War II era
to present. This was done to give the reader a grasp of
Coast Guard history and to draw any historical elements that
may support the findings and future options for the Coast
Guard's role in National Security Strategy.
The Coast Guard's tendency in the past, regarding its
role in national security, has been to relate its mission
solely to the service's traditional naval element. Other
options and elements of Coast Guard operations exist that
could be exploited in strengthening the Coast Guard role in
executing national security strategy.
The mission of Environmental Protection, Maritime
Safety, Law Enforcement and National Defense all function to
support the National Security and National Military
Strategies. The Coast Guard can continue to be a credible
instrument for policy into the next century. The Coast
Guard is slowly losing the "naval auxilary" component of its
cutters. Historically it was this component that kept the
service linked to the other military services. However, the
recent trend for cutters to not participate in operations
such as, Grenada (1983), Gulf Reflagging (1987), Panama
(1990) and the Persian Gulf War may be a trend for the
future. The Coast Guard cutter fleet of the future will
have to undergo significant change if it is to survive. The
cutters are primary tools in accomplishing the following:
(1) Acting as maritime interceptions platforms in coastal or
littoral waters, (2) Providing credible forward presence in
the Caribbean Basin and Latin American in conjunction with
normal operations, (3) Serving to expand the Coast Guard
role in training Third World navies, and (4) Asset available
for use by the CINCs and not just an extension of the Navy.
The service cannot afford the loss of its military
character that has carried it for 205 years. The service
needs to emphasize its security and military missions to its
personnel before another study determines the service may
better be served as a civilian agency.
Purpose of Study:
With a changing world order, and a greater portion of
our military assets becoming engaged in operations other
than war, what will be the U.S. Coast Guard's future role in
national security? The objective of this study is to
determine which Coast Guard missions support the National
Security Strategy and how Coast Guard assets could be best
employed in the future.
With the advent of the Post Cold War Era, the down
sizing of United States (U.S.) military forces and the use
of the military for "non-traditional" functions, such as
operations other than war(OOTW), how does the Coast Guard,
with its traditional maritime flavor and largely peacetime
missions, contribute to U.S. national security strategy?
The paper will examine what the Coast Guard's contributions
towards national security strategy have been in the past.
Based on historical data and survey information, the
question as to how the Coast Guard can remain a critical
contributor in future security strategies will be explored.
Captain Bruce Stubbs, U.S. Coast Guard, conducted
extensive research of this topic while assigned as the Coast
Guard Liaison Officer at the Naval War College. In his
research titled "The U.S. Coast Guard's National Security
Role in the Twenty-First Century," Captain Stubbs focused
the scope of his thesis at the the Coast Guard's role in
national security as it relates to naval warfare. Captain
Stubbs also proposed a collateral objective, that the
research would help to stimulate thought among Coast Guard
senior and junior officers on what the Coast Guard future
role should be.1
The study consists of three sections. First, a review
of Coast Guard operations from the pre-World War II era to
the present. This serves to set the stage regarding Coast
Guard support of National Security policies in the past and
how the Coast Guard has progressed to its current level of
support. The goal is to identify trends in Coast Guard
support of National Security Strategy, and suggest which
direction the Coast Guard should proceed in the future.
Second, a survey questionnaire (see Annex A) , reflects
opinions from various Coast Guard commands. There are two
reasons for use of the questionnaire. First, primary source
material concerning the topic is limited. Second, to garner
the opinions of those Coast Guard officers who may be in
positions where they will have the opportunity to influence
Coast Guard policy as it moves into the next century.
The survey analysis is of a political, not analytical
nature. The goal was not to obtain a definitive matrix
solution for each question. Political analysis provides a
means to measure opinion and to indicate trends.2 The goal
was to help stimulate thought on the topic and provide some
support to the author's opinions on future Coast Guard
support of national security. As a consequence, much of the
survey data is left to subjective evaluation by the author.
Captain Stubbs' research used a similar method. His
questionnaire was directed to current and retired Admirals
of both the Coast Guard and Navy and the various CINCs.3
The latest survey did not target that senior an audience for
two reasons. First, personnel at that level of
responsibility can be the protectors of "rice bowls" and not
necessarily willing to part with components (people +
missions' = money) of their particular service or command.
Second, it is the responsibility of mid-level and junior
leaders of the Coast Guard to look at the direction the
Coast Guard is heading. It is incumbent upon the future
leaders of the service to determine whether the Coast Guard
still has a role as a military organization. As those
senior members of the service that saw combat action during
the Vietnam War era retire, we must look at our past
military roles and decide whether they are still viable
operational options today.
The final part of the study consists of interviews with
the Branch Chiefs in the following offices at Coast Guard
Headquarters, Defense Operations and Cutter Management
Division. These branch chiefs represent, elements of the
Coast Guard that comprise the major components that support
the Coast Guard's role in National Security Strategy.
Additionally, these officers have extensive operational
experience dating from the Vietnam War era.
Problems with Study:
The first and major limitation was the lack of primary
resource material available. This is due to lack of
doctrine dealing with the subject in the Coast Guard.
Additionally, there has been a slow transformation of the
Coast Guard during the last fifty years, from a service with
a strong military component to one with increasing peacetime
Another factor was that the fluid nature of the
research topic lent itself to conjecture by the author. The
Coast Guard does not have concise publications like FMFM 1,
"Forward . . .From the Sea" or NDP 1. The lack of Coast
Guard doctrineprovides an additional element of
uncertainty. Where doctrine usually withstands the
changing of Commandants, other directives are often changed
as new Commandants take office.
Given the changes in the new world order, there has
been a significant increase in national security issues that
concern operations other than war (OOTW). Many of these
OOTW issues lend themselves to solution by elements of the
Coast Guard given the Coast Guard's multi-mission nature.
As a cousequence, an opportunity exists for the service to
have more than a supporting naval role in national security
The scope of the research question grew from the study
conducted by Captain Stubbs. However, as Captain Stubbs
states in his study, he may have been too narrow in the
scope of his thesis questions, concerned more with aspect of
the Coast Guard's role in national security as it relates to
naval warfare.4 This study attempts to broaden the scope by
reviewing all roles and missions that relate to the
President's National Security Strategy. Though the author
was able to arrive at valid conclusions, another step in the
research process, if time had been available, should have
been added. A second survey, providing the repondents a
rough outline of the study's results and seeking additional
input would have been useful in drawing additional
conclusions and fostering further debate by other Coast
HISTORY OF THE COAST GUARD FROM
PRE-WORLD WAR II TO PRESENT
FORMAL ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COAST GUARD
The Coast Guard was formally established on 20 January
1915, as a combination of the Revenue-Cutter Service and
Life-Saving Service. The Coast Guard was to "constitute a
part of the military forces of the United States . . . under
the Treasury Department in time of peace and operate as
part of the Navy, subject to the orders of the Secretary of
the Navy, in time of war or when the President shall so
This combination of two very different services may be
the source for the lingering feeling that the Coast Guard is
only partly a military service. The Revenue Cutter Service
saw military action during the Quasi-War, War of 1812, the
first Seminole War, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the
Spanish-American War.6 Having served in these conflicts and
maintaining a peacetime mission of regulating commerce on
the high seas, the structure of the Revenue Cutter Service
melded nicely with the military establishment in the Coast
Guard in 1915. The members of the Life-Saving Service were
not as accustomed to life in a military organization. Their
ties were civilian based. They lacked the structure of a
military organization and were very dependent on regional
and civic concerns vice national/international interests of
the United States.
Ellsworth Price Bertholf, Captain-Commandant of the
Revenue-Cutter Service, 1911-15, and of the Coast Guard,
1915-19, offers the following regarding the establishment of
the Coast Guard:
"The Coast Guard occupies a peculiar position among other
branches of the Government, and necessarily so from the
dual character of its work, which is both civil and
military. Its organization, therefore, must be such as
will best adapt it to the performance of both classes of
duties, and as a civil organization would not suffice for
the performance of military functions, the organization
of the service must be and is by law military. More than
120 years of practical experience has demonstrated that
it is by means of military drills, training and
discipline that the service is enabled to maintain that
state of preparedness for prompt performance of its
important civil duties, which . . . are largely of an
These two variations, one of a military organization
and the second of a civilian service, are the foundations of
the Coast Guard. These themes have been prevalent
throughout the Coast Guard's history, from periods of high
military involvement to an ever increasing role concerning
civic duties and operations other than war. With the end of
the Cold War the United States will be involved with a world
where threats come less from a comparable military force but
more from regional powers, increased low intensity conflicts
and greater domestic requirements. The Coast Guard may
prove to be the perfect organization for adaptive force
EXPANSION AS A PRELUDE TO WAR (1936-1940)
Before World War II engulfed the European Continent,
the civil roles and missions of the Coast Guard grew. Three
major acts of legislation expanded the civil/domestic roles
of the service.
The first change provided for the enforcement of the
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The
legislation that accompanied this mission established the
Coast Guard as the United States' primary maritime law
enforcement agency. The bill enacted 22 June 1936 states,
"commissioned, warrant and petty officers were empowered to
make inquires, examinations, inspections, searches, seizures
and arrests upon the high seas . . . for the prevention,
detection and suppression of violations of the laws of the
United States, under certain limitations."8
The next was the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which was
designed to establish an American-flag merchant fleet
capable of carrying the foreign commerce of the United
States, and satisfy various defense needs during war.
Initially only a small portion of the act affected the Coast
Guard; the inspection and certification of lifeboats
carried aboard the vessels. This responsibility quickly
expanded to an increasing role in the Maritime Service.
This role included licensing and training of merchant
mariners, a significant task given the explosive expansion
of the merchant fleet following the legislation of 1936.9
The final piece of legislation affecting the Coast
Guard was the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the
Coast Guard in 1939. With the transfer came nearly five
thousand full and part-time employees, and sixty-four
vessels of varying size; and the responsibility of
maintaining some 30,000 aids to navigation, which ranged
from lighthouses and lightships to buoys and shore markers
of nearly every navigable waterway of the United States.10
As these civic missions were becoming established, the
threat of war in Europe loomed over the United States.
Although President Roosevelt's goal was to keep the U.S.
neutral, several measures were taken to protect vital U.S.
security interests. Many of these measures melded nicely
with existing Coast Guard missions.
The first of these was the inspection of merchant
vessels of belligerent ownership to decide if they carried
offensive armaments. This role expanded to include
overseeing the safe loading of hazardous cargoes aboard
merchant vessels bound for Europe.11
The next mission assigned the Coast Guard was the use
of patrol vessels and aircraft for Neutrality Patrol off the
northeast coast of the United States. The Coast Guard
patrol vessels that comprised this squadron had to forgo
civil missions to meet the new security demands. These
vessels were eventually reassigned to duties on strategic
weather stations and the Greenland Patrols through the
The final pre-war mission saw the Coast Guard assume a
forward presence role off the coast of Greenland in 1941.
Greenland was considered a strategic location due to its
proximity to the Atlantic Sea Lines of Communications
(SLOCS) and the valuable meteorological data that could be
obtained for German forces fighting in Western Europe. The
Danish people of Greenland requested assistance from the
United States in patrolling their coast. The State
Department considered the use of armed U.S. naval vessels to
patrol Greenland, but was concerned this would be construed
as an offensive act, something the U.S. did not desire. The
State Department decided the use of Coast Guard vessels
offered the best option, as Coast Guard cutters would not be
taken as an offensive act by the U.S.: yet they would still
provide a deterrence to German forces attempting to land in
THE WAR YEARS (1941-1945)
During World War II, the Coast Guard was a critical
element of the Navy for the following reasons: The size of
the Coast Guard at the outbreak of war produced a
significant force multiplier for the Navy; the capabilities
of the Coast Guard vessels and aircraft of like classes were
equally equipped to conduct various missions for the Navy;
the various peacetime missions of the Coast Guard acted as a
force multiplier, as there was no significant learning curve
for the Coast Guard personnel once they were chopped to the
The primary missions assigned to the Coast Guard were:
convoy escort (including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
duties), port security and beach patrol, coastal pickets,
manning of rescue craft during D-day, and manning of
amphibious landing craft for assaults in the Pacific and
Atlantic. Many of these duties meshed nicely with the Coast
Guard missions and skills developed during peacetime.
The Coast Guard did not just serve in these various
military roles on paper. Its actions, as operational
elements of the Navy, were no less distinguished then any
other unit. By mid-1943, the total number of German U-boats
sunk by U.S. Naval vessels was eleven. Of these, six had
been destroyed by Coast Guard cutters.13
The Neutrality and Weather patrols, which consumed a
large amount of Coast Guard assets before the war, turned
into the Greenland Patrol during the war. A majority of
Coast Guard assets saw service in the waters off Greenland's
coast. It was critical to the success of the Allied effort
in Europe to have accurate weather forecasts for that
theater and to deny the Germans the same information.
Greenland was a key location in predicting the Western
European weather patterns. As a consequence, the Coast
Guard became responsible for the capture of several German
secret weather stations in Greenland.14
At the end of World War II, Coast Guard and Navy
vessels of like class or design were equal in their
capabilities for Anti- Surface Warfare (ASUW), Anti-Air
Warfare (AAW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). This would
be the last time that Coast Guard and Naval vessels of like
class would be on par with each other. It would also be the
last time that the Coast Guard, as a complete service, would
serve under the Navy for national defense.
The Coast Guard was successful as a service during
World War II for the following reasons. First, this was
total war, there was no time for rice bowls or fear of
mission creep by one service into the realm of another.
Second, the Coast Guard's peacetime missions, though vast
and growing, as shown by the expansion just before the
outbreak of war, were not so great that domestic politics
would intervene to stop the use of Coast Guard assets
because of a possible reduction in their peacetime missions.
Third, the weapons system, such as gun batteries and anti-
submarine depth charges, used aboard naval war ships then
were of the nature that a vessel of like construction, like
Coast Guard and Navy vessels, could quickly be equipped to
meet the military missions.
Two missions from the Coast Guard's involvement in
World War II continue to this day in support of national
security strategy. The first is the Coast Guard
responsibility for Port Security operations. This
capability was recently demonstrated on a large scale with
operations in Southwest Asia. The Coast Guard deployed
several port security personnel to assist with operations.
This is also an area in which the Coast Guard is seeking to
expand in the future. Second, the Coast Guard cutters that
patrolled the Greenland coast before and during the war
provided a credible deterrence, without causing serious
political conflicts. The Coast Guard has been used in such
"forward presence" roles in recent history off the coasts of
Grenada and Columbia. The use of Coast Guard assets to
perform such functions, when the political situation is
sensitive, will be critical to future security concerns, as
diminishing DOD assets are stretched thin.
LOSS OF THE MILITARY ELEMENT OF THE COAST GUARD (1946-73)
Was the fate of the Coast Guard military component
sealed at the end of World War II? Prior to the end of the
war, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Waeshe,
formed a committee to help determine the future of the Coast
Guard. Vice Admiral Waesche remembered the tough struggle
at the end of World War I to retain the Coast Guard as a
part of the Navy.15 The goal of his committee was to detail
the peacetime duties of the Coast Guard, and to ensure a
speedy return of the service to the Department of the
To help facilitate the move, the committee downplayed
the military aspect of the service and concentrated on the
Coast Guard's civic duties. In this fight, Admiral
Waesche's planning committee prepared the Coast Guard
To enforce all applicable Federal laws upon the
navigable waters of the United States and its
possessions and upon the high seas; to develop and
promulgate safety requirements for the construction,
manning and operation of vessels (other than public
vessels) under the jurisdiction of the United States; to
develop, establish, maintain, and operate aids to
navigation and rescue facilities to promote safety on
the navigable waters of the United States and on and
over the high seas; and to maintain a military readiness
function as a specialized service with the Navy in time
The committee placed emphasis on the civic nature of the
Coast Guard missions. This was done to facilitate a quick
return of the service to the Treasury Department and to its
peacetime place in the government. The civic missions of
the Coast Guard were distasteful to the Navy, who were more
concerned with naval warfare.
Despite the efforts of Admiral Waesche and his staff to
produce a clear understanding of Coast Guard missions and
service to the country, a study by Congress attempted to
define the anomalous status of the service. In 1947/48, at
the request of Congressman Everett Dirksen, a study was
conducted to help ascertain the nature of the service and
explain the "waste and extravagance in Coast Guard
operations."17 Instead of identifying the Coast Guard as a
useless service, which could be reduced or abolished to help
government downsizing in the post war years, the study
helped to cement the Coast Guard's status for several
decades to follow. The opening remarks of the study offered
great comfort for any in the Coast Guard who thought their
future was at risk:
The survey findings . . . show that all of the duties
performed by the Coast Guard are in the public
interest. Also, each duty is a proper part and
responsibility of the federal government. The
performance of these duties represents a necessary item
of expense to the public, and they are now logically
classified or grouped for performance by one government
agency. No evidence has been noted that any other
agency of the Federal Government could perform these
functions at lower cost or with greater efficiency and
better adequacy of service than does the Coast
During the period that followed World War II Coast
Guard participation in major military engagements was mixed.
However, there was a significant increase in operations that
could be classified as OOTW. These types of operations have
grown significantly in their effect on current national
At the end of the war the U.S. Navy no longer wanted to
maintain the oceanic weather stations, which were critical
during the war for air commerce. In late 1947, when the
Weather station program began in earnest, the vessels used
by the Coast Guard were on loan from the Navy Reserve
fleet.19 The requirement to maintain these patrols would
remain in effect until the mid-1970s.
At the end of WW II a determination of what the Coast
Guard's role during war should be was made by Congress, the
Navy, and the Coast Guard.20 It was decided that the Coast
Guard's role during war "should be an extension of the of
normal peacetime tasks."2l With the Coast Guard cutters
involved heavily with civic missions, such as weather patrol
and search and rescue, there was little flexibility to
support the Navy during the Korean War. The Coast Guard
would assume increased weather station patrols, port
security tasks and search and rescue duties in the Pacific,
as U.S. forces deployed to the Far East. Despite the lack
of total integration of the Coast Guard with the Navy, as
seen during WW II, many Coast Guard missions were expanded.
The Coast Guard saw a significant increase in port
security duties during the war, mostly as a result of fear
that the Soviet Union could possibly explode a nuclear
device in a U.S. port. The Coast Guard Reserve component was
increased to help the short fall of resources available to
sustain the increased tempo of the port security mission.22
After the war the Reserve would continue to be the main
component of the Coast Guard Port Security Units.
During this period, the Coast Guard undertook some of
the first international military training with the Republic
of South Korea. In l946, a Coast Guard detachment, headed
by Captain George E. McCabe, organized and trained the
Korean Coast Guard Service. This service would become the
nucleus of the Republic of Korean Navy.23 The model of the
Coast Guard then, and now, is an excellent example for third
world navies to emulate.
As had been the goal in 1946/47, the Coast Guard
service in Korea was merely an extension of its peacetime
missions. The reorganization of the reserve forces helped
to establish permanent Port Security Units (PSU) that can be
activated during national emergencies.
The years immediately following the Korean War saw
little change to the traditional roles of Ocean Station,
Search and Rescue, and Maritime Safety. Though there was an
increase in the Coast Guard role in international
organizations, such as the International Maritime
Consultative Organization (IMCO), which was concerned with
maritime safety practices and navigation at sea, there was
little activity regarding the Coast Guard's military
capability during this period.
By the early 1960's the Coast Guard was again faced
with a lack of clear definition concerning its roles and
missions in the eyes of Congress. A roles and missions
study conducted by the Kennedy Administration in 1961 helped
to identify the service's major functions: port security,
military readiness, law enforcement, search and rescue, aid
to navigation, oceanography, and ocean station.24
The Coast Guard quickly assumed a major role in
international crises; ensuring the safety of thousands of
Cubans who fled their homes as Fidel Castro came to power.25
This role, concerning the safety of life at sea for
immigrants fleeing their countries, continues as a
significant Coast Guard mission today.
On 1 April 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred to the
Department of Transportation. The transfer of the Coast
Guard to the newly formed Department of Transportation (DOT)
initially met with some misgivings in the Coast Guard. The
loss of the service's military element was the major
concern. Initial opposition to transferring the service
caused concern that the Coast Guard would be dismembered and
its various functions spread throughout the government.26
The 1960's also brought a significant change to the
Coast Guard fleet, as two new major cutter types were
commissioned: the Reliance Class Medium Endurance
Cutter(WMEC), and the Hamilton Class High Endurance
Cutters (WHEC) . The former vessel was capable of 18 knots
and equipped with only a single 3-inch 50 caliber gun of
World War II vintage. The latter vessel had a true multi-
mission character, being 378 feet in length, capable of 29
knots and equipped with a 5-inch 38 caliber gun, air search
radar, 40 millimeter mounts, antisubmarine depth charges,
antisubmarine torpedoes and sonar. Though fewer vessels of
each class were built than the initial ship construction
plans called for, these vessels continue to serve the Coast
Both classes of cutter have received a mid-life
overhaul that should extend their service life an additional
15 years. Additionally, ship construction was conducted to
support the roles of navigation and ice-breaking. The Coast
Guard's assumption of the ice-breaking mission, both
national and international, came about because of the Navy's
desire to shed yet another civil role and concentrate on
The 1960's also saw the last engagement of Coast Guard
vessels in a war. As the war in Vietnam grew during the mid
1960's, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Roland,
was trying to figure a way to get the service involved. His
fear was that if the Coast Guard was limited to a support
role, as had been seen in the Korean War, the Coast Guard's
status as an armed force might be jeopardized.29
Coast Guard patrol craft fit nicely into the Navy's
Operation MARKET TIME, (the operation designed to conduct
coastal surveillance patrol). Initially, seventeen vessels
formed Coast Guard Squadron 1 in the summer of 1965. By the
Fall an additional nine patrol vessels joined the squadron.
Although the Commandant believed that if the Coast Guard
was denied a combat role it would begin to lose its military
flavor, there were Coast Guardsmen who were not enthusiastic
about going to war. Personnel on patrol boats who wished to
be excluded from going to Vietnam were not required to do
so. However, the Coast Guard had no lack of volunteers to
Patrol craft were not the only Coast Guard vessels to
see combat. In April 1967, Coast Guard Squadron 3,
comprised of WHEC class cutters, formed and sailed for the
Philippines. During the war the vessels from Squadron 3
would serve as part of the offshore assets for Operation
MARKET TIME. Additionally, the cutters would provide naval
gunfire support. By mid-1971, when the last of the large
cutters had completed service in Vietnam and returned home,
a total of thirty Coast Guard High Endurance Cutters had
participated in Operation MARKET TIME, including seven of
the new Hamilton Class cutters.31
Combat was not the only mission performed by Coast
Guard personnel during the war. With the surge in merchant
vessel traffic in the area supporting U.S. forces, the need
for an effective aid to navigation systems became apparent.
The Coast Guard deployed five bouytenders to help the
Vietnamese government establish and maintain a safe
navigation system. Additionally, Coast Guard Port Security
Units were deployed in theater to help with the explosive
handling mission. A total of 8000 Coast Guardsmen would see
duty in Vietnam, but not more than 1000 at any given time.
The role of Operation MARKET TIME could be described as an
anti-smuggling operation, or to use current military
terminology, as maritime interception operations. This
would be the last time Coast Guard vessels would serve in
such roles during war.
By the mid 1970s, the Coast Guard performed three
missions that support National Security and National
Military Strategy today: Port Security, International
Training, and Maritime Interdiction. First, the Port
Security Units, largely be comrised of Coast Guard Reserve
forces, would perform this military mission.32
Second, the Coast Guard role in training the Korean
Coast Guard after WWII has served as the model for the Coast
Guard role in future international training missions. Coast
Guard organization and training missions serve as a model
for many third world nations, which are less concerned with
global stature than regional stability.
Last, maritime interdiction has played as important a
role in the service's previous 200+ years as it will in the
future. Anti-smuggling operations would continue as a
mainstay of Coast Guard cutter operations after Vietnam.
Maritime Interdiction missions have varied from enforcement
of United Nation's embargoes to monitoring of foreign
fishing vessels off the U.S. coast.
AFTER VIETNAM INTO THE POST COLD WAR PERIOD (1974-1995)
The civic missions of the Coast Guard have grown
significantly during the last 20 years. In 1967 the
offshore fishery zone around the United States expanded to
twelve nautical miles from shore. The addition of the 200
nautical Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the establishment
of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation Act in the mid-1970s
expanded the Coast Guard's domestic law enforcement roles.
Additionally, the Coast Guard became the primary maritime
enforcement agency for the war on drugs at sea. The
maritime safety mission grew substantially with increasing
concern for environmental effects of pollution and hazardous
In 1980 the Coast Guard undertook what would become an
increasing role in the interdiction of illegal immigrants to
the U.S. In that year the Coast Guard began regular patrols
of the Windward Passage, between Haiti and Cuba. From 1991
- 1995 this mission would absorb a large portion of Coast
Guard afloat and airborne assets. These operations
eventually became known as Operation ABLE MANNER, involving
safety of life at sea, and enforcement of the United
Nation's embargo against Haiti in cooperation with U.S. and
foreign naval vessels.
In 1983, the tiny island of Grenada provided the
opportunity for Coast Guard forces to meet national security
needs in a traditional sense. During the invasion Coast
Guard assets assumed roles as search and rescue platforms
for the invasion forces. Though the Coast Guard played only
a minor role during the invasion, it was the follow-on
mission which melded nicely with its peacetime missions.
After organized resistance had collapsed and the country of
Grenada was attempting to reestablish order, a security
presence was needed. Two primary missions for the security
force existed. First, to prevent the escape of Marxist
fugitives and infiltration of weapons or military
contraband. Second, to demonstrate a continuing U.S.
commitment through naval presence. The Coast Guard became
the logical choice to accomplish these missions for two
reasons. First, the service had developed great expertise
in maritime interdiction and coastal surveillance. Second,
as principally a peacetime and humanitarian service, its
presence was less politically sensitive than having a naval
warship off the coast of Grenada.34
In the late 1980's, Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral P.
Yost, put forth an effort to emphasize the military aspect
of the service. During a Naval Institute seminar in 1987,
the Commandant stressed the service's defense mission; "The
Coast Guard has served in every one of our country's wars
and regards military readiness as its most solemn duty."35
Some of the major changes made by the Admiral Yost, during
his term as Commandant are: (1) To place a section on the
Officer Evaluation Report, for Warfare Skills.
(2) Implementaion of the Maritime Defense Zone (MDZ)
commands.36 Despite efforts by the Commandant to strengthen
the Coast Guard's military mission, his efforts seem minimal
during a period with a general downward trend in the
services military abilities.
In 1987, during the reflagging mission of Iraqi oil
tankers in the Persian Gulf, it was recommended by the the
Chief of Naval Operations, for the services of the Coast
Guard new 110' Island Class patrol boats to assist in the
mission. Congress blocked sending these vessels. The
concern was that there would be a significant loss of assets
to conduct drug interdiction operations.37 The service,
therefore, lost another opportunity to see military action.
With Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM in
1990/91, the Coast Guard played another role with its Ports
Security Units and the use of Law Enforcement Detachments
(LEDETS) aboard Navy vessels to assist in the enforcement of
United Nations sanctions. Again, Coast Guard cutters had no
From the Post-Vietnam war era the following missions
played a role in the Coast Guard's support of National
Security Strategy: Port Security, Forward Presence, and
Maritime Interdiction. Over the last 50+ years of Coast
Guard history the service has continually responded to an
increase in missions, most of them civil in nature. The
service has also been subjected to serious scrutiny
regarding its missions and the need for such an
organization. As evidenced after World War II and later in
the 1960's, the Coast Guard peacetime missions helped to
save the service from possibly being dissolved and its
missions assigned to other government agencies. Many of the
missions that fell upon the Coast Guard were cast aside from
the Navy as being non-glamorous or less military in nature.
These missions have, at times, helped to maintain the Coast
Guard's military flavor.
With the slow dissappearance of the traditional Naval
warfare role, what options remain for the Coast Guard
regarding support for the National Security and the National
Military Strategy? The next Chapter will discuss current
Coast Guard missions and their relationship with national
NATIONAL POLICY AND HOW IT RELATES TO THE COAST GUARD
NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY
Strategy at all levels consists of three elements:
ends, ways, and means.39 Nationally and internationally the
goals or policies of a nation are the ends. Ways are
translated into strategy. Means are the combination of the
elements of national power (military, economic, political,
social) and could be called tactics. The missions performed
by the the U.S. armed forces serve as means to support the
National Security and National Military Strategies. This
chapter will look at how the various Coast Guard missions
support these strategies.
Historically, U.S. national security meant only the
national defense and the nation's foreign relations
concerns. The singular challenge of the past half century
has given way to a more diverse set of security
challenges.40 The definition of national security has
broad meaning, beyond the defense and well being of a
nation's citizens, to global interconnectivity with other
nations. The world is changing from a bipolar world of
military superpowers, to a multipolar world that needs
regional stability to guarantee prosperity.
Threats affecting our nation's security are wide
ranging. Militarily, the U.S. is concerned with the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the
increasing threat of their use by terrorist groups.
Politically and economically, the U.S. faces mass migration
of people from underdeveloped countries to those that are
more economically stable. Internally, the U.S. culture has
been troubled because of the effects of illegal drugs. The
world's security concerns have become so interconnected that
influence from one region may have a wide ranging effect
across many continents and cultures.
The current National Security Strategy of the United
States provides the basis for national security policy.
President Clinton divides national security interests into
three primary objectives:
(1) ENHANCING OUR SECURITY
(2) PROMOTING PROSPERITY AT HOME
(3) PROMOTING DEMOCRACY41
Security priorities vary depending on whether they are
of survival, vital, major or peripheral interest. The means
to achieve security are dependent on the combination of the
elements of power. Historically, the Coast Guard's security
role has been that of a supporting arm to the Navy. With
the changing focus of national security, largely related to
military solutions, what elements of the national security
does the Coast Guard support?
The Coast Guard tends not to be directly involved with
security interests concerned with either survival or vital
roles. The service does have a direct role in those major
and peripheral areas that affect economic, social and
environment concerns of the nation.
The National Security Strategy places emphasis upon the
emergence of nonmilitary objectives to support our
security.42 Security objectives that directly relate to the
Coast Guard are as follows:
1) ENHANCING OUR SECURITY
o Maintaining a Strong Defense Capability: Though
military capabilities are critical to our
security, the Coast Guard is a contributing member
in the following areas:
- Providing Credible Overseas Presence
- Fighting Drug Trafficking and Other Missions
(including illegal migrant interdiction)
- Peace Operations
- Protecting Environment Resources
2) PROMOTING PROSPERITY AT HOME
o Economic and security interests are becoming
interwoven and dependent on activities
external to the United States.
o Ensuring the safety of economic markets.
o Economic expansion is dependent upon a stable
global environment and halting cross-border
o Providing for future U.S. energy needs.
3) PROMOTING DEMOCRACY
o Enlarging the community of democratic and free
o Promoting democracy and human rights as promoted
by the United States
o Humanitarian assistance programs and nation
In the new National Security Strategy, the President
suggests that the ability to develop public support for
these new and varying security priorities has become
increasingly more difficult.43 The frequency with which the
U.S. military has been deployed for humanitarian operations,
since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has far surpassed what
was experienced during the Cold War. With the Department of
Defense (DOD) down sizing, the requirement for services
capable of multiple missions has grown. The Coast Guard has
historically demonstrated a unique ability to assume new
missions without a loss of effectiveness in other areas. An
opportunity exists for the Coast Guard to become much more
involved with the DOD in operations that are of a
NATIONAL MILITARY STRATEGY
The unique nature of the Coast Guard, with its numerous
peacetime missions within the Department of Transportation,
has if difficult to fully identify its role in the National
Military strategy. As envisioned at the close of World War
II, the Coast Guard's military missions would be an
extension of its peacetime role.44 During the Cold War
period many solutions to national security issues were of a
military nature. This placed the Coast Guard at a
disadvantage, regarding national security strategy, due to
the civic nature of the service's missions.
The new National Military Strategy of the United States
provides a view of how the Military services will support
the President's National Security Strategy. The new policy
is based on four principal dangers that must be addressed by
the military: regional instability; the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction; transnational dangers (such as
drug trafficking/terrorism); and the dangers to democracy
and reform.45 This new strategy requires the appropriate
military capability together with economic, diplomatic and
informational elements of the United States' national
There are two major national military objectives:
promoting stability and thwarting aggression. The new
military strategy has three major components to provide for
its success: peacetime engagements, deterrence, conflict
prevention, and fighting and winning our nation's wars.
A review of these major components reveals how the
Coast Guard can support the policy in the following areas:
o Peacetime Engagements:
- Promoting democracy through military-to-military
contact, nation assistance, security assistance,
humanitarian operations, and counter-drug
o Deterrence and Conflict Prevention:
- Responding to potential adversaries and denying
them their goals through crisis response, arms
control, noncombatant evacuation operations and
o Fighting and Winning our nations' Wars:
- Responding to emergencies and integrating with
DOD assets to support national policy.
COAST GUARD MISSIONS AND HOW THEY RELATE TO NATIONAL
The Coast Guard's heritage dates to the Revenue Cutter
Service's formal establishment under the Treasury Department
in 1790, as a maritime organization responsible for the
enforcement of revenue laws and the prevention of
smuggling.47 Since then, the service's missions have grown
significantly. The basis for most of the Coast Guard's
authority is derived from United States Code (U.S.C.). Title
14 of the U.S.C. establishes the Coast Guard as a military
service always, not just in wartime.
The Coast Guard, by law, is one the five armed
services. However, its long history of peacetime missions
often gives it a less then traditional military flavor. The
Coast Guard provides the nation with a maritime capability
that is flexible in nature and with assets that are multi-
mission in nature.
AN AVERAGE COAST GUARD DAY
Board 90 large vessels for port safety checks
Process 120 seamen's documents
Seize 209 lbs marijuana and 170lbs cocaine worth $9.2
Conduct 191 SAR cases
Respond to 34 oil or hazardous chemical spills
Conduct 120 law enforcement boardings, identifying
Investigate 17 marine accidents
Inspect 64 commercial vessels
Save 14 lives and assist 328 people
Save $2.5 million in property
Service 150 aids to navigation
Interdict 176 illegal migrants
Coast Guard missions can be divided into four broad
areas: maritime safety, law enforcement, environmental
protection and national defense. These broad mission areas
are further subdivided into supporting mission areas:
- Recreational Boating Safety (largely handled by Coast
- Commercial Vessel Safety
- Search and Rescue (SAR)
- Waterways Management (largely consisting of Aids to
- Ice Operations (both domestic and international)
- Port Safety and Security
Within the Maritime Safety mission area, only the port
safety and security, and ice operations have a role in the
National Military and National Security Strategy.
- Interdiction of illegal drugs/contraband from entering
the United States
- Enforcement of the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic
Zone(EEZ) for fisheries and other natural resources.
- Interdiction of illegal aliens from migrating to the
- Enforce all other applicable laws and regulations which
correspond to maritime safety.
All of the supporting missions under law enforcement have
a role in current National Security Strategy or Military
- Preventing illegal discharges of hazardous material
into the sea.
- Coordinating spill response and cleanup activities.
- U.S. representative at various national and
international conferences on maritime environmental
- Regulatory inspection (a portion of port safety and
All environmental protection missions support the
current National Security and Military Strategies.
- Maritime Defense Zone (done together with the Navy)
- Port Security and Harbor Defense
- Maritime interception/embargo enforcement
(surveillance and interdiction)
- Cutter convoy escort capabilities (limited capability
All of the Coast Guard's peacetime operations support
the security concerns identified above. Operations may be
limited to a geographic theater of operations or hemisphere.
However, the Coast Guard's ability to conduct world wide
operations has been proven in the past.
A dilemma for the Coast Guard has been that there is
not a clear delineation between mission areas. This is
evident when reviewing the support missions for national
defense. Many of these are spinoffs from daily mission
areas. This is further complicated when trying to see how
the various missions support national security and the
national military strategy. A problem has been the Coast
Guard's ability to clearly define the service's common
purpose. The Coast Guard needs a governing service doctrine
in this area. a doctrine would provide clear
guidance on the Coast Guard's role in national security and
a better understanding by service members of the
relationship with the DOD.
The Coast Guard's link to military operations and
support of security policy has previously been with the
Navy. The Navy-Coast Guard Board or NAVGARD Board, as it is
commonly referred to, was established to provide high-level
coordination and recommendations on major policy issues of
mutual interest to the Navy and Coast Guard.50 The next
section will analyze whether the NAVGARD Board remains the
best mechanism for the Coast Guard's support of national
CURRENT RELATIONS WITH THE DOD
The NAVGARD Board was established in 1980, with four
1. Advise and make recommendations to the Chief of
Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Coast
Guard on policies, concepts, and issues which
require high-level Navy/Coast Guard coordination.
2. Consider and recommend Navy-Coast Guard positions on
Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) initiatives
which mutually affect their services.
3. Consider and recommend Coast Guard-Navy positions on
Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST)
initiatives which impact the naval services.
4. Consider and make recommendations on naval warfare
capabilities, doctrines, objectives, and related
requirements in support of national strategy.51
This mechanism has provided a valuable path for
supporting current/future weapons systems and the roles of
Coast Guard forces in national defense. It was an adequate
mechanism when the primary national security risk was based
solely on a military solution and the Coast Guard's
participation was linked closely to naval warfare.
Since the end of the Cold War, the Coast Guard's role
in national military strategy has been strengthened with a
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DOD and DOT on the
use of U.S. Coast Guard capabilities and resources in
support of National Military Strategy. This MOA was signed
in November 1994. Three primary areas regarding the Coast
Guard's national defense roles were agreed upon as follows:
- Maritime Interception Operations
- Environriental Defense
- Deployed Port Operations-Security and Defense 52
However, this MOA was initiated by the NAVGARD Board
and is still dependent on the link between the Chief of
Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, as
is the NAVGARD Board. The problem is two-fold: First, the
Coast Guard continues to link its national security role
with that of national defense or military solutions.
Second, with the DOD in its eighth year of a draw down, and
third year of roles and missions studies, all services may
be looking for other means to minimize reductions on top
(people + missions = money). The Coast Guard may find
itself in competition with the DOD and particularly the
Additionally, the various service chiefs are no longer
the "War Fighters" for the U.S. This role has shifted to
the combatant CINCs. The Coast Guard and the U.S. may be
better served if some functions for national security
affairs are shifted away from the liaison with the Navy and
placed with the various CINCs.
SURVEY DATA AND ANALYSIS
The author sent a survey questionnaire, at Annex A, to
various Coast Guard commands to obtain opinions regarding
the Coast Guard's role in supporting national security
strategy. The object of the survey was to obtain personal
opinions from service members. The survey was not designed
to prove a certain theory or provide a definitive solution
for the Coast Guard's security options.
The survey went to the following Coast Guard commands:
Coast Guard Area Commanders Office of Cutter Operations (2),
Coast Guard Districts Commander Chiefs of Operations (10)
Commanding Officers Coast Guard High Endurance Cutters (12),
and Commanding Officers Coast Guard Medium Endurance Cutters
(26). The groups were divided in the survey analysis as
shown in figure (5-1).
Figure (5-1) also shows the response numbers by groups.
The goal was to obtain a 50 percent response in the survey.
Though the percentage was not as high as desired (36
percent), the data was valuable in providing a wide range of
No response was received from group one. This group
will be omitted in the subsequent analysis matrixes (figures
5-2, 5-4 to 5-6)
QUESTION ONE: Should the Coast Guard continue to design
and crew cutters based on an ability to assume the role of a
naval combatant? The question was particularly directed at
the Coast Guard cutter fleet. The lack of a role for the
cutter fleet in the Persian Gulf may have signaled an end to
the naval warfare mission for future cutters.
The response to this question was an even split. The
major theme in most of the responses was that Coast Guard
cutters first need to be built and manned to formally
support Coast Guard operations (SAR, maritime interdiction
and law enforcement). The Coast Guard uses Navy Command and
Control systems and Communications technologies to support
many of its peacetime missions. The use of these systems in
peacetime is justified by the naval warfare mission that
many cutters might have to preform.
The Coast Guard weapons systems are "on loan" from the
Navy. The systems that are employed by the Coast Guard are
often near the end of their service life. The need for
complex and expensive weapons systems, however, is losing
its appeal to some respondents. Technological advances in
weapons systems have outgrown the Coast Guard requirements
in the naval warfare arena. In the November 1994 MOA
between the Department of Transportation and the Department
of Defense, the major defense mission for Coast Guard
cutters would be Maritime Interception Operations. This
mission is accomplished in a relatively low-threat
environment and melds nicely with Coast Guard routine
execution of peacetime duties.53 By using Coast Guard
assets in this role combat effectiveness is enhanced by
redirecting naval combatants to higher-threat missions.54
The combination of the above two elements reinforces the
need for large Coast Guard cutters. Though the cutters do
not necessarily need to be configured as naval combatants.
During my interviews with the Branch Chiefs of the
Office of Defense Operations and Cutter Management at Coast
Guard Headquarters, they described what is called the
"Slippery Slope" theory. The Coast Guard has had limited
growth or even a declining capability in the naval warfare
missions in comparison to the Navy since World War II.
This declining capability is compounded by the lack of
serious participation by Coast Guard cutter assets in a
Naval Warfare mission, since Operation MARKET TIME in
Figures 5-3 A-C, depicts this theory for the three
major Naval Warfare areas Anti-Air Warfare(AAW), Anti
Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW)
Figure 5-3 A graphically contrasts the AAW capabilities
between the Navy and the Coast Guard from the end of World
War II to the present. The various peaks in the Navy graph
can be attributed to advances in radars, missile systems,
and command and control capabilities. The upward swing on
the Coast Guard line can be attributed to the addition of
the MK 75 Gun Fire Control System (GFCS) on the 270 Class
WMEC and the Phanlax Close in Weapon System (CIWS) and MK 75
GFCS on 378 Class WHEC. The AAW systems that are currently
in use aboard Coast Guard vessels are self protection
systems only. These systems were not designed for, nor do
they possess, the capability as an offensive weapon.
Figures 5-3 B, graphically contrasts the ASW
capabilities between the Navy and the Coast Guard from the
end of World War II to the present. Again the various peaks
on the Navy graph can be attributed to advances in sonar,
torpedoes and command and control capabilities. The
downward tail on the Coast Guard line can be attributed to
the removal of all ASW equipment from 378 Class WHEC.
Figure 5-3 B: Comparison between USN and USCG ASW
capabilities from 1945 to 1995.56
Figures 5-3 C, contrasts the ASUW capabilities between the
Navy and the Coast Guard from the end of World War II to the
present. The various peaks on the Navy graph represent
advances such as surface to surface missile, AEGIS system,
phased-array radars, and command and control capabilities.
The small upward spike, followed by the downward trend on
the Coast Guard graph, represents the initial installation
of the Harpoon weapons system aboard 378 Class WHECs and
then their recent removal.
Figure 5-3 C: Comparison between USN and USCG ASUW
capabilities from 1945 to 1995.57
As depicted in the graphs, Coast Guard WHEC class
cutters have lost a large portion of their naval warfare
capability, particularly in ASW and ASTJW. These losses
bring the naval warfare element of the cutter mission area
to an extremely limited status. This raises the question
whether the Coast Guard still has a viable naval warfare
Some survey participants did suggest that the Coast
Guard can conduct maritime interdiction and limited forward
presence operations in the Caribbean with its current naval
warfare capabilities. These opinions support the Maritime
Interdiction Operations capabilities as identified in the
November 1994, Memorandum of Agreement, between the DOT and
DOD on Coast Guard defense capabilities. The Coast Guard
can provide a force multiplier if needed, by relieving naval
combatants of duties a in low threat environment.
The long standing tradition that cutters are an
integral part of the blue water naval combatants must give
way to Coast Guard missions that support National Security
policy. In future Coast Guard cutter design efforts,
considerations must be given for rapid expansion of the
naval warfare mission if a significant crisis arose. Coast
Guard assets may be needed as the follow-on echelon of naval
forces and future cutter designs should support a quick
transition to combat readiness. However, the Coast Guard
has lost the "naval warfare" connotation with its afloat
QUESTION TWO: Should the Coast Guard seek a greater
role in OOTW type missions in the future? With the end of
the Cold War, and the national security strategy being
focused less on a singular military threat, the United
States has seen a significant increase in OOTW. The Coast
Guard historically has been a front runner in missions of an
OOTW nature (anti-smuggling law enforcement, refuge
As one respondent phrased it, "OOTW is what the Coast
Guard does for a living. We should continually examine ways
we can do more." The Coast Guard has continually sought
this type of mission throughout its history. The
examination of the Coast Guard's past indicates the
service's ability to take on increased OOTW missions to
support national security. This is evident in the increased
roles the Coast Guard has assumed in law enforcement,
environmental protection, and maritime safety duties during
the last fifty years.
One respondent suggested that this does come at a
price. Operations off Haiti and Cuba in l994 had a serious
draining effect on other peacetime missions of the service.
The services within the DOD are also starting to receive
additional tasking beyond their traditional core mission of
preparation for war. Some survey respondents indicated that
the Coast Guard should only support OOTW as it relates to
current Coast Guard missions and not get into a contest with
the DOD over possible future roles.
During the past forty years the other services have
concentrated solely on preparation for war. The Coast
Guard's multi-mission nature lends itself as a model for DOD
and particularly the Navy for the future.58 The Coast Guard
serves as an example in the following ways: First, by being
able to conduct humanitarian operations while remaining
prepared for war. Second, by not taking the simplistic hawk
vs dove view of the world as the Post Cold War period
unfolds. Last, by not equating the success of the service
to budgetary dollars. All the services must remain focused
on finding creative ways to solve future problems.59
It would be a mistake to sit idly by, as the DOD
expands into mission areas that could be solved with current
Coast Guard resources. The major obstacle is doctrinal,
which is how to employ Coast Guard forces. One respondent
gave the best option for a future course of action. The
Coast Guard needs to establish liaisons on the CINC staffs.
The CINC is the current "war fighter," and this involves the
use of United States assets in OOTW. It is no longer the
various service chiefs who decide how to employ forces, but
the operational CINCs. A Coast Guard liaison on each of the
CINC staffs would provide an avenue of support by Coast
Guard assets in national security issues.
The current liaison with the DOD through the NAVGARD
Board and liaisons on the CINCLANT and CINCPAC naval fleet
staffs may be adequate for dealing with procurement of
weapon systems/equipment and training programs. However,
the Coast Guard needs representation at a senior level on
the CINC staffs. This will ensure that all aspects of the
service are used to support security threats.
Capt K. Kirkpatrick, USCG, in his research at the Naval
War College, on the Coast Guard and the adaptive planning
process, presents the following solution to this problem:
First, the Coast Guard must look at the broader role of
supporting the CINCs as opposed to primarily supporting the
Navy.60 The Coast Guard must look at its roles in
relationship with the deliberate planning process and in
conjunction with the Navy and the CINCs discern how the
service meets U.S. security needs.61 Second, the Coast
Guard must present its national security and defense roles
to the service members, the Department of Transportation,
National Security Advisors and to the Department of
Defense.62 Given the diminishing nature of naval warfare as
an area for support of national security strategy by the
Coast Guard, it seems the Navy may not be our best liaison.
better balance in the employment of its Law Enforcement
Assets? The high pace of Alien Migration Interdiction
operations has had a deletrious effect on Coast Guard
operations over the last several years and whether more
traditional law enforcement missions (Drug smuggling and
fishery enforcement) have suffered.
This question may have been too regional in nature
given the varying comments received from many survey
The Coast Guard Law Enforcement role can be divided
into four major areas:
* Anti-smuggling/Drug Enforcement
* Fishery Enforcement
* Alien Migration Interdiction
* General Law Enforcement (Vessel Safety at Sea)
The major theme in most of survey respondents who
thought that a balance already existed was that the pendulum
had swung too far in the direction of drug enforcement
during the "Miami Vice" hey days in the 1980's. During that
period there was a large commitment by the Reagan
Administration to increase the war against drugs. As the
primary maritime enforcement agency it was natural for the
Coast Guard to take a leading role. This leap in emphasis
in drug law enforcement may have caused a seemingly
disproportionate relationship to the other law enforcement
Other respondents said that because of alien migration
operations over the last 3-4 years, the cutter's ability to
conduct law enforcement operations in the drug or fisheries
fields had suffered. The knowledge of law enforcement
regulations and their practical application is a highly
perishable skill for cutters law enforcement members, if not
regularly exercised. These types of losses could be equated
to the loss of war fighting skills by other DOD forces, if
they were to solely engage in OOTW type operations that did
not exercise war fighting skills.
One respondent indicated that the Coast Guard must be
ready to answer "all bells" as they occur, but the service
can ill afford to allow certain mission capabilities to
atrophy due to increasing operations tempo in a particular
area. Where does this leave the operational units, which
must balance training for future missions with the high pace
of current operations? First, it should not be the sole
responsibility of each command to ensure that they are not
deficient because operations have limited their ability to
train for other missions. Both staffs and planners must
provide operational schedules for varying operational
missions to ensure that adequate time, resources, and
exposure to other missions exist for all units.
With the war on drugs slowing, and the loss of funding
under the drug umbrella, the Coast Guard has seriously cut
back resources for this mission. Trying to support
components of national security strategy that fluctuate due
to political influence, and high media visibility (as with
the Haitian and Cuban operations), is difficult. The Coast
Guard may suffer through operational peaks and valleys that
are politically driven, having adverse effects on mission
QUESTION FOUR: Is the Coast Guard in need of
reorganization? This final question in the survey caused
the most concern and confusion among respondents. The goal
of the question was to see whether the current Coast Guard
organization (particularly at the Headquarters level) and
the various operations elements of the Coast Guard that can
support national security policy lack the proper internal
organization to maximize effectiveness.
The fourth survey question failed to produce the
expected result that there was a need for reorganization.
Though the responses were mixed, one survey participant put
it best, "The public needs to see one Coast Guard on the
As discussed earlier, the Coast Guard missions that
support National Security are not clearly defined. The
elements are divided among four major offices of the Coast
Guard; Navigation, Operations, Readiness and Reserve and
Marine Safety (NORM). Some respondents said that to
disestablish "NORM," and return to a concept of an
Operations Directorate would cause a serious power
imbalance. However, given the changes in National Security
and National Military Strategies in the Post Cold War era,
the Coast Guard must seek to better organize how it will
support these areas.
HOW THE COAST GUARD CAN SUPPORT FUTURE SECURITY STRATEGIES
"The Coast Guard cannot significantly improve its naval
wartime performance until it concentrates more of its
resources on that objective during peacetime. . .
especially if it acquires new or expanded naval
wartime missions in the near future."63
During the 1980's, when the DOD was experiencing
significant growth, the above quote, stressing a firmer
commitment to the Coast Guard's naval warfare capabilities,
made sense. Strengthening the Coast Guard's naval warfare
component would also reinforce the service's support of
National Security and National Military Strategies. The
Coast Guard did experience some growth during this period
with the establishment of Maritime Defense Zones(MDZs) and
the placement of improved weapons systems on the WHEC Class
cutters. However, growth in the national defense mission
area has given way to changes caused by the arrival of the
Post Cold War period.
The Coast Guard has continually seen action in our
country's wars. Threats to national security can no longer
be addressed solely with military solutions. The U.S. needs
to be flexible in its ability to respond. The Coast Guard
officer corps no longer possesses the skills or platforms to
be naval "Surface Warfare Officers." However, this does not
mean the service should not remain a part of the military.
As the first Commandant of the Coast Guard, Ellsworth Price
"Its organization, therefore, must be such as will best
adapt it to the performance of both classes of duties,
arid as a civil organization would not suffice for the
performance of military functions, the organization of
the service must be and is by law military. More than
120 years of practical experience has demonstrated that
it is by means of military drills, training and
discipline that the service is enabled to maintain that
state of preparedness for prompt performance of its
important civil duties, which . . . are largely of an
Recently, the Coast Guard has sought to strengthen its
role within the DOD in support of National Security and
Military Strategies with the November l994 Memorandum of
Agreement. This agreement provides three areas as to how
the Coast Guard can support national defense roles and
missions for the future: (1) Environmental Defense
Operations, (2) Deployed Port Operations Security and
Defense and, (3) Maritime Interception Operations. However,
as previously discussed the Coast Guard's link for security
missions remains through the NAVGARD Board and the liaison
between the CNO and the Commandant of the Coast Guard.
In order for the Coast Guard to remain a valuable asset
for future national security strategy the service must
accomplish the following. First, the service must be able
to clearly articulate what it has to offer in support of
future national security objectives. The dilemma is,
how does the Coast Guard solve this problem? The service
needs to establish doctrine to pilot its relationship with
national security. Cdr Waterman, USCG, conducted research
in this area based on the thesis that internal Coast Guard
policy guidance does not communicate a coherent vision of
the service's national security potential.65 Many senior
and mid-level Coast Guard officers are neither conversant in
National Security nor National Military Strategy, or how the
Coast Guard can support these policies.66
The lack of doctrine makes the service a continual
target for well intentioned studies. Recent efficiency
proposals, such as the l982 DOT study and the l9B4 Grace
Commission, provided recommendations to privatize and
subdivide or eliminate the Coast Guard.67 In its own
defense the Coast Guard must provide clear doctrine as to
how it supports national security and military policies.
Doctrine would establish common framework, purpose and
guidelines for future planning and decision-making about the
Coast Guard.68 By establishing a means to continually study
the National Security and National Military Strategies, and
how Coast Guard missions support them, the Coast Guard would
also help educate its personnel, reinforce service morale
and service identity.
This will require more than a Commandant mission paper
or vision statement to accomplish. The raw materials for
such a doctrine exist in the following: (1) The 1994
Commandant's Direction, (2) Commandant's Long Range View
and, (3) the 1994 Memorandum of Agreement with the DOD.
Though this material discusses in generic terms what the
Coast Guard does and provides direction for the service,
they are not suitable as doctrine. The Coast Guard needs to
capture what exists in service manuals, standard operating
procedures, policy statements and memorandums of
understanding and agreements with other services into a
concise standard for support of national security
strategy.69 An important step has been taken in this area
with the assignment of a Coast Guard Liaison Officer at the
Naval Doctrine Command in 1994.
From the service's origin, as the Revenue Cutter
Service, the Coast Guard has been involved in all major
military conflicts of the United States. The role of the
Coast Guard, as an armed extension of the Navy during war,
has great historical value and provides tradition to the
individual service members. To cast aside a mission which
the service has performed so well is not easy. The time is
upon Coast Guard leadership, however, to think less about
naval warfare missions, as the main element for supporting
the National Security and National Military Strategies and
more on the use of other elements of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard must divorce itself from the notion
that national defense and naval warfare solely equate to
support of national security. The organization has
continually tried to relate the national defense mission
only with assets that may operate in a hostile environment.
With the blue water threat to the U.S. lessened, the need
has arrived to look at other areas of the Coast Guard for
support of security policy. Captain Stubbs drew the
following conclusion for the Coast Guard's large cutters
(WHEC and WMEC classes) in naval warfare during his study:
There will be no justification for the Coast Guard's
large cutters, medium and high endurance, to retain combat
systems, sensors and weapons. Coastal defense requirements
for the CONUS based MDZ commands will not generate the need
for combat systems for these cutters. . . The Coast Guard's
patrol boats have utility in regional conflicts as coastal
patrol and interdiction assets. If the Navy decides that it
has no requirement to deploy them to such a conflict, these
cutters too will have no need for combat systems. The only
requirement for weapons systems will be law enforcement
duties and low-order confrontations with other nation-
states. Basically Coast Guard cutters will become a family
of offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and possible loose their
naval auxiliary status.70
In performing its peacetime missions, such as maritime
law enforcement, migrant interdiction operations, and port
safety and security the Coast Guard operates in the OOTW
environment daily.71 The service remains a major
contributor for OOTW type operations because of its
familiarity with that operating environment.
Despite the changes in threat to U.S. security, there
remains a valid need for the military element of the Coast
Guard into the next century. Recent operations off Haiti
and Cuba prove that the Coast Guard can quickly adapt
to a changing environment. During the months prior to the
U.S. troops going ashore in Haiti, Coast Guard cutters
preformed dual roles. First, as a humanitarian service
saving the lives of thousands of Haitian migrants. Second,
as a member of a multi-national force responsible for
enforcement of the United Nations embargo against Haiti.
Once troops were ashore in Haiti, some Coast Guard
units which were previously involved with the humanitarain
and enforcement efforts, had to quickly change modes of
operation and become part of the Harbor Defense Forces in
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. At the same time other Coast Guard
units were redirected from Haiti to conduct migrant
interdiction operations off the coast of Cuba, in the
vicinity of Havana. The multi-mission nature and
flexibility of the service during this period suggests the
Coast Guard can maintain a military mission, yet still
conduct its peacetime duties.
Third, the Coast Guard must seek out and gain
representation on the various CINC staffs. Keeping the
Coast Guard's ability to support future National Security
and National Military Strategies tied solely to the Navy may
be hazardous. As the Navy seeks to expand her roles and
missions, the Coast Guard may find itself in direct
competition for missions. The Coast Guard must seek a
broader role of supporting the CINCs, as opposed to
primarily supporting the Navy.72 Captain Kirkpatrick, USCG,
offers the following, as to how the Coast Guard can best
contribute to the CINCs missions.
Internally to the Coast Guard should:
1) Form an organization responsible for national
2) Determine the service's national security role.
3) Articulate this role to the service, the DOT
Externally the Coast Guard should:
1) Place officers on CINC's planning staffs
2) Redefine the Coast Guard relationship with the
Navy in national defense matters.
3) Articulate to the CINCs what the Coast Guard
has to offer in the national security and
Additionally, without proper support on the CINC
staffs, the U.S. government is denied the advantage of being
able to use all available resources to resolve security
concerns. The capabilities of the Coast Guard have not gone
unnoticed. John White, chairman of the Commission on Roles
and Missions of the Armed Forces, states, "The Coast Guard
provides a model we ought to think about, they have terrific
Last, the Coast Guard must expand its role
internationally. The Coast Guard can serve as the role model
for many Third World navies. The Navy currently executes a
majority of the maritime aspects of the U.S. Security
Assistance Program (SAP).75 However, the Navy lacks the
expertise and understanding of how to relate to third world
services, due to the nature of their missions. The Coast
Guard offers the following to SAP. First, the organization
of the Coast Guard is much like that of many Third World
Navies.76 The small size of the Coast Guard demands that
its personnel and mission be multi-dimensional. Coast Guard
and Third World units may find themselves doing law
enforcement, or humanitrarian service all in the same day.
Second, the Coast Guard holds a unique status from that of
the Navy and other DOD services. The diplomacy carried by a
naval combatant may not be the proper choice when trying to
strengthen relations with Third World countries.77 Third,
Coast Guard cutters and patrol craft are similar to those in
use by Third World countries. The high technology in use in
the Navy provides little common ground for professional
exchanges. The Coast Guard does have an active role through
its Mobile Training Teams. However, these teams have been
unable to keep up with the demands placed upon them.78
The wide range of missions the Coast Guard performs
requires that the service maintain some level of military
capability in support of the National Security and National
Military Strategies. The Coast Guard is slowly losing the
"naval auxiliary" component of its cutters. Historically,
it was this component that kept the service linked to the
other military services. The Coast Guard can continue to be
a credible instrument for national security by: (1) Acting
as maritime interception platforms in coastal or littoral
waters, (2) Providing credible forward presence in the
Caribbean Basin and Latin America in conjunction with normal
operations, (3) Receiving an expanded role in training Third
World navies, and (4) Becoming a tool available for use by
the CINCs and not just an extension of the Navy. These
roles for the Coast Guard become increasingly more important
in light of the DOD draw down and the nation's committment
to be able to respond simulataneously to two major regional
contingencies. The use of Coast Guard assets will allow for
the deployment of DOD assets to more traditional military
roles. The major challenge for the Coast Guard is that it
must better define how it will support these strategies in
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Twenty First Century. Naval War College, Newport, June 1992,
2.Louis White, POLITICAL ANALYISIS, Technique and Practice.
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3. Stubbs, 2.
4. Stubbs, xl-xli.
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7. Johnson, 33.
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11. Johnson, l72.
12. Johnson, 175-177.
13. Johnson, 138.
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16. Johnson, 257.
17. Johnson, 263.
18. Johnson, 263.
19. Johnson, 266-270.
20. Johnson, 281.
21. Johnson 281.
22. Johnson, 281.
23. Johnson, 281.
24. Johnson, 29O.
25. Johnson, 321.
26. Johnson, 340-343.
27. Johnson, 326-328.
28. Johnson, 327-328.
29. Johnson, 331.
30. Johnson, 332.
31. Johnson, 331-337.
32. Johnson, 282.
33. Johnson, 344, 347-349, 356-360.
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40. William Clinton, National Security Strategy of Engagement and
Enlargement, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1994, i.
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42. Clinton, 1.
43. Clinton, 29.
44. Johnson, 281.
45. John M. Shalikashvili, National Military Strategy of the
United States, Washington, i.
46. Shalikashvili, i.
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Press, Annapolis, 1978, 16-17.
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January 1995, 30.
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Instrument of National Security. Naval War College, Newport,
February 1992, 17.
50. COMDTINST 5420.23B, Navy and Coast Guard Board. Washington,
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51. COMDTINST 542O.23B, 1.
52. Memorandum of Agreement Between the Department of Defense and
the Department of Transportation on the Use of U.S. Coast Guard
Capabilities and Resources in Support of the National Military
Strategy. Washington, November 1994,1-6.
53. Robert Kramek, Memorandum of Agreement Between the DOD and
DOT on use of Coast Guard Capabilities and Resources in Support
of the National Military Strategy, November 1994.
54. Kramek, 6.
55. Interview with CAPT Jay Creech, USCG, USCG HQ, G-OCU.
Washington, December 1994. Intreview with CAPT Don Grosse, USCG,
USCG HQ, G-ODO. Washington, November 1994.
56. Interview with CAPT Jay Creech, USCG, USCG HQ, G-OCU.
Washington, December 1994. Intreview with CAPT Don Grosse, USCG,
USCG HQ, G-ODO. Washington, November 1994.
57. Interview with CAPT Jay Creech, USCG, USCG HQ, G-OCU.
Washington, December 1994. Intreview with CAPT Don Grosse, USCG,
USCG HQ, G-ODO. Washington, November l994.
58. Ronald Fraser, For a Flexible Navy, the Coast Guard is a
Model, Navy Times, Marine Corp Edition 13 Feb 1995, 29.
59. Fraser, 29.
60. Kent Kirkpatrick, The Coast Guard and the Adaptive Planning
Process. Naval War College, Newport, May 1992, 2.
61. Kirkpatrick, 2-3.
62. Kirkpatrick, 3.
63. Ronald Fraser, "The Coast Guard: Quo Vadis?" U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings. Annappolis, 1984, 40.
64. Johnson, 33.
65. Waterman, ii.
66. Kent Kirkpatrick, The Coast Guard and the Adaptive Planning
Process. Naval War College, Newport, May 1992, 16,17.
67. Bruce Stubbs, 'The Coast Guard's Dilema," U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings, April 1987, 44.
68. Waterman, 24.
69. Bruce Stubbs, "A Defense Doctrine for the Coast Guard," U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings, October 1989, 120-122.
70. Stubbs, xlvii.
71. Louis Orsini, The Right Service for the Job - Security
Assistance and the Coast Guard, Naval War College. New Port, May
72. Kirkpatrick, 2.
73. Kirkpatrick, 8.
74. William Matthews, "Other Agencies Should Share Burden of
Peace," Army Times, November 1994.
75. Orsini, ii.
76. Orsini, 15.
77. Orsini, 16.
78. Timothy Cook, "Finding a New Niche," U.S. Naval Institute
Proceeding, Annapolis, December 1992, 86-90.
Johnson, Robert Erwin. Guardians of the Sea, History of the
United States Coast Guard, l9l5 to the Present.
Annapolis Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987.
Geurtner, Gary L. Search for Strategy, Politics and
Strategic Vision. Wesport: Greenwood Press.
King, Irving H. Washington's Coast Guard Annapolis
Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1978.
Stubbs, Bruce B. U.S.Coast Guard's National Security
Role in the Twenty First Century Newport, RI: Naval
War College Press, 1992.
White, Louise G. Political Analysis,Technique and Practice
Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1983.
Clinton, William. A National Security Strategy of
Engagement and Enlargement. Washington: The White
House, July 1994.
Dalton, John H. Forward . . .From the Sea. Washington:
Department of The Navy. November 1994.
Powell, Colin. National Military Strategy of the United
States Washington: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, January
Shalikashvili, John. Military Strategy of the
United States Washington: The Joint Chiefs of Staff,
U.S. Coast Guard. The Commandant's Strategic Agenda
Commandant Instruction 16000.21. Washington. 21
U.S. Coast Guard. The Commandant's Long-Range View
Commandant Instruction M16014.1D. Washington. 31
U.S. Coast Guard. The Commandant's Direction Commandant
Instruction 16010.12. Washington. 10 August 1994.
U.S. Coast Guard. Minutes from the NAVGARD Board Meetings.
U.S. Coast Guard. Program Direction for the Defense
Operations Division Washington. 28 October 1994.
U.S. Joint Chiefs. Joint Warfare of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Joint Publication 1. Washington. 11 November 1991
U.S. Marine Corp. FMFM 1. Washington. 1989.
U.S. Marine Corp. The Role of the Marine Corps in the
National Defense Washington. 1991.
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Washington. 28 March 1994.
Abel, Ltjg Christopher A. (USCG) "Forgotten Lessons of
Riverine Warfare." Naval Institute Proceedings
January 1982, 64-68.
Adams, Lcdr Michael R. (USCG) . "Navy Narcs." U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings September 1984, 35-37.
Barnabee, Ltjg Randall A. (USCG). "A New Course for Marine
Safety." Naval Institute Proceedings.
December 1992, 90-93.
Bradely, BM3 Norman D. (USCGR) "Waging Peace." U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings December 1991, 52-54.
Brigham, Capt Lawson W. (USCG). "The Coast Guard in Review."
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings May 1994, 139-142.
Brigham, Capt Lawson W. (USCG). "The Next Commandant's
Challenges." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.
December 1993, 28-29.
Brigham, Capt Lawson W. (USCG). "The Coast Guard in Review."
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Naval Review l992,
Brown, Lcdr Alan (USCGR), "The Coast Guard Reserve: Ready
for What?" U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings December
Collier, Cdr Michael W. (USCG). "New Cruising Cutter." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings April 1994, 72-74.
Cook, Lt Timothy A. (USCG). "Finding a New Niche." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings December 1992, 86-89.
Fraser, Cdr Ronald (USCGR). "The Coast Guard: Quo Vadis?"
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings February 1984, 40-45.
Fitzgerald, Capt Carmond C. CUSCG) and Olson, Capt John R.
(USCGR). " Answering the Call." U.S. Naval Institute
Proceedings December 1992, 94-96.
Fitzgerald, Capt Carmond C. (USCG) and Mehaffy, Capt George
L.(USCGR). "One Coast Guard." Naval Institute
Proceedings December l993, 30-32.
Kramek, Ens Joseph E. (USCG). "The Crowded Deck." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings December l993, 48-52.
Kime, Adm J. William (USCG). "Looking to the Future." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings December l99l, 62-63.
Kime, Adm J. William (USCG). "Waging a War to Protect the
Seas." Naval Institute Proceedings October l99l,
Kime, Adm J. William (USCG). "Change." Naval Institute
Proceedings December l993, 26-27.
Kurz, CWO Gary (USCG). "Looking For Adventure?" U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings December 1993, 35-37.
Larzelere, Capt A.R. (USCG). "The Coast Guard and the
Southeastern Frontier." US. Naval Institute
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Revolution." U.S. Naval institute Proceeding. September
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Going with the Commercial Vessel Safety Mission." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceedings December 1993, 4O-41.
Moore, Capt Robert G. (USCG). "Hip Boots or Blue Water? An
Examination of the U.S. Coast Guard and its
Future." U.S. Naval Institute Proceeding Naval Review
Nelson, BM3 Kurt R. (USCG). "War and Peace: A New Look at
the Coast Guard." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings
December 1993, 43-44.
Orsini, Cdr Louis J. (USCG). "In Need of a Plan." U.S.
Naval Institute Proceeding December 1991, 59-61.
Stanley, HS2 Michael S. (USCG) . "The Real Coast Guard."
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Stubbs, Bruce. "The Coast Guard's Dilemma," U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings April 1987, 44-48.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (con' t)
Stubbs, Bruce. "A Defense Doctrine for the Coast Guard,"
Naval Institute Proceedings October 1989, 120-
Venzke, RADM Norman C. (USCG ret). "Should the Coast Guard
Stay in the Icebreaking Business." Naval Institute
Proceeding December 1992, 97-98.
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U.S. Naval Institute Proceeding December 1993, 45-47.
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USSOUTHCOM Missions in Central America. Naval War
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Cunningham, Capt B.G. CUSCG) and Saunders, Cdr N.T. (USCG).
Regional Security in the Eastern Caribbean; Policy
Direction and United States Coast Guard Involvement.
Naval War College, Newport. March 1985.
Kirkpatrick, Capt Kent (USCG). The Coast Guard and the
Adaptive Planning Process. Naval War College, Newport.
Orsini, Cdr Louis J. (USCG). The Right Service for the Job -
Security Assistance and the Coast Guard. Naval War
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Newport. March 1986.
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for Regional Contingency Operations From Current Navy
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Coast Guard as an Instrument of National Security.
Naval War College, Newport. February 1992.
Subject: TRADITIONAL ROLE OF COAST GUARD MILITARY OPERATIONS
IN THE PAST
1. Coast Guard involvement in major military conflicts in the
past focused on the cutter fleet. At the end of World War II,
the military capabilities of the cutter fleet serving during the
war were parallel with similar type combatants of our sister
service. Since World War II, the nature of war has changed
significantly. As the complexity of war changed, the Navy's
technology to wage war grew proportionately. For the Coast
Guard, our afloat warfighting capabilities have grown in spurts.
Recently, they have begun to diminish with the removal of various
weapons system from some cutter classes.
The limited role played by Coast Guard afloat units during
Operations Desert Shield/Storm signaled a seemingly greater
domestic role for our cutters. Major contributions were Squadron
staffs/LEDETS/Reserve Port Security units.
The Coast Guard's role under DOD control is vague. Considering
the current world political/military environment, should we seek
to continue designing and manning cutters based on an ability to
assume the role of a naval combatant?
Subject: ASSUMING THE LEAD IN OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR (OOTW)
2. The current DOD roles and mission study are hoping to better
define the DOD services role in OOTW. Conventional warfare may
be outdated. The Coast Guard has emerged as a front runner with
our ability to conduct operations other than war.
Should the Coast Guard push for a greater role in these types of
operations in the future?
Subject: EMPHASIS ON THE DRUG WAR
3. Operations with main emphasis on law enforcement have been
hampered over the past three years because of migrant
Given that both drug trafficking and migrant flow are considered
security concerns under the new Presidential security strategy,
should the Coast Guard seek to focus attention back toward
efforts in drug and general law enforcement arenas?
Do you believe that an adequate balance among Coast Guard mission
Subject: RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SECURITY ASSETS AND OPERATIONAL
ELEMENTS OF COAST GUARD
4. Current organization of Coast Guard Headquarters, Area Staffs
and Districts fail to place the Coast Guard operational elements
that relate to Coast Guard security assets in a clear internal
organization. Coast Guard Headquarters, Office of Law
Enforcement and Defense Operational (G-O), which is the Coast
Guard's traditional link to its role in national security
affairs, controls only a small portion of operational mission
The new national security policy contains security concerns that
parallel Coast Guard missions. Should the Coast Guard expand the
responsibilities of the operations staff to possibly include the
following: Readiness and Reserve, Marine Safety (port
security/operations) and Environmental Protection and Navigation
and Waterways Management?
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