The More Things Change|
Loy: Homeland Defense Is Now "Job One" For U.S. Coast Guard
John A. Gaughan
Capt. John A. Gaughan, USCGR (Ret.), is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Maryland School of Law. During his active and Reserve Coast Guard career he held commands both at sea and ashore. He also served as the U.S. Maritime Administrator, as chief of staff to the Secretary of Transportation, and as deputy assistant to the President. He is now president of First American Bulk Carrier Corporation (FABC), a five-ship U.S.-flag vessel operating company.
The U.S. Coast Guard was formed 211 years ago as the Revenue Cutter Service, for the purpose of the prevention of smuggling and the enforcement of U.S. tariff and customs laws. This function was essential at a time when the new federal government derived most of its revenues from tariffs. Since then, the roles and missions of the Coast Guard have grown to include maritime mobility and safety, as well as national defense in times of war.
Some people perceive that the Coast Guard has taken on a new mission recently in the wake of the terrible attacks against the United States in New York and Washington on 11 September. The Coast Guard's increased security posture, designed to defend U.S. ports and waterways from the threat of terrorism, has led the public to view the service in a somewhat different light. Even some of the Coast Guard's own members have seen the maritime-security mission as a new one, tacked on to an ever-expanding list of jobs to do, and perhaps reducing their capability to respond to other missions.
The fact is that, in similar times of trouble in the past, members of this small service have risen repeatedly to defend the nation's shores against attack by enemies determined to destroy the American way of life. One has only to think back for a moment to the early days of the republic. Many people forget that the British invaded the United States and destroyed the newly built White House by fire in the War of 1812. The British fleet cruised the eastern seaboard, terrorizing coastal communities and capturing American merchantmen. That terrifying war severely tested the resolve of the new nation. During that war, the Revenue Cutter Service (RCS) formed the core around which the U.S. naval forces were reconstructed. Along with the Navy, the RCS cutters mounted many heroic missions to defend the maritime interests of the nation.
In 1814, for example, the Revenue Cutter Eagle stood against the Dispatch, a British brig of superior firepower, to protect the port of New Haven and to free an American merchant ship, the Suzan, from capture. Capt. Frederick Lee and the crew of the Eagle encountered the Dispatch after an all-night search off the coast of Long Island. When the morning mists lifted, just after daylight on 11 October, they discovered the Dispatch and the Suzan, the captured merchantman.
Outgunned by the superior Dispatch's firepower, Lee tried to escape into shallow water, and finally beached the Eagle near a 160-foot bluff, 15 miles northeast of Port Jefferson, N.Y. He ordered his crew to strip the Eagle of her sails and rigging, and to haul her guns ashore and up the steep bluff. Taking up a position at the top of the bluff, they fired down on the British ship, keeping the enemy from capturing the Eagle or coming ashore.
Throughout that day and into the next morning, the crew of the Eagle bravely defended their cutter and their coast. When their supply of ammunition ran out, the crew began retrieving the shot that the British had fired at them. They loaded the shot into their own weapons, using the ship's log and other sundries for wadding, and returned it in a rain of fire to the enemy. The Dispatch was forced to retreat.
The Eagle was captured the following day as she limped back into port, but the heroic spirit of her crew captured the attention of the American people, and earned their appreciation as well. The story of the cutter Eagle helped to bolster the hope and courage of a nation in hard times.
The Heritage of Liberty
That is part of the heritage of the modern Coast Guard. Today the men and women of the Coast Guard are upholding that heritage again by defending the liberties of the nation. The mission of maritime security is not a new one. Perhaps it is more urgent today than it was in early September, prior to the terrorist attacks, but it is no less important than it was to the Revenue Cutter Service in the early days of the United States.
There is no doubt that the events of 11 September present new challenges to the Coast Guard, as they do to every government agency charged with a national-security function. But in the Coast Guard's case those events also repeat "course-altering" situations familiar from the past--situations that the agency has successfully met for the last 211 years.
As a multimission agency, the service was carrying out its myriad of responsibilities at an "operations normal" tempo prior to the terrorist attacks. This is evident from an examination of the Coast Guard's prioritization of its missions prior to 11 September. (In some mission areas the service had been forced to actually slow its operational tempo due to severe fiscal constraints, but with the exception of some local criticism the American public had taken little notice.) In its 2001 Report, which presents both the 2000 Performance Report and the FY 2002 Budget-in-Brief, the Coast Guard reported on its services to the country in five key areas--maritime mobility, protection of natural resources, maritime safety, maritime security, and national defense. The annual performance goals (with funding allocations in parentheses) are listed as follows in the report:
Maritime Mobility ($588.3 Million)
Navigation Aids--Maximize vessel mobility in ports and waterways;
Vessel Traffic--Eliminate vessel collisions, allisions, and groundings;
Domestic Icebreaking--Maintain maritime navigation in icebound areas; and
Polar Operations--Provide icebreaking capability to support national interests in the polar regions.
With more than two billion tons of domestic and foreign commerce worth one trillion dollars moving through U.S. ports and waterways annually, the Coast Guard's aids-to-navigation and VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) operations provide a vital and necessary safety function to the safe and smooth flow of cargo. The Coast Guard's icebreaking services keep commercially navigable waters open during the winter in the Mid-Atlantic, in the Northeast, and through the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and polar waters. This facilitates shipments of fuel and other cargo to all of these regions.
Protection of Natural Resources ($682.6 Million)
Oil Spills--Eliminate oil discharged into the water;
Marine Debris--Eliminate plastics and garbage discharged into the water; and
Living Marine Resources--Improve the health of fish stocks and other marine resources.
Commercial and recreational fisheries contribute an estimated $50 billion annually to the U.S. economy. In fiscal year 2000 the service boarded 6,622 fishing vessels to enforce safety and environmental laws. Accidents like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the New Carissa oil spill in Oregon illustrate the enormous magnitude of the environmental and economic impacts that can result from a marine pollution accident. Coast Guard pollution investigators respond to an average of 20 oil or hazardous chemical spills per day.
Maritime Safety ($846.7 Million)
Search and Rescue--Save all mariners in distress and property in peril;
Maritime Workers Fatalities--Eliminate crewmember fatalities;
Passenger Vessel Fatalities--Eliminate passenger vessel fatalities; and
Recreational Boating Fatalities--Eliminate recreational boating fatalities.
There are more than 78 million recreational boaters and 250,000 maritime workers in the United States. In FY 2000, the Coast Guard answered 40,068 calls for assistance and saved the lives of 3,365 persons in "imminent danger." Coast Guard marine inspectors boarded an average of 100 large vessels and 20 commercial fishing vessels daily for port-security checks and/or for safety examinations.
Maritime Security ($850 Million)
Drug Interdiction--Reduce the flow of illegal drugs;
Undocumented Migrant Interdiction--Eliminate the flow of undocumented migrants into the United States via maritime routes; and
Foreign Fishing Vessel Incursions--Eliminate illegal encroachment of the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone by foreign fishing vessels.
The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone is the largest in the world, covering 3.36 million square miles of ocean and 95,000 miles of coastline. The U.S. Coast Guard is the only federal maritime agency possessing the authority, the equipment, and the infrastructure needed to maintain a federal law- enforcement presence over this huge area. In FY 2000, the service interdicted 4,210 undocumented migrants attempting to enter the United States via maritime routes, and seized 50,463 pounds of marijuana products and a record 132,480 pounds of cocaine.
National Defense ($45.2 Million)
Military Operations--Provide core competencies when requested by DOD or the State Department; and
Military Readiness--Achieve and sustain complete military readiness for Coast Guard units as required by DOD.
As one of the nation's five armed services, the Coast Guard serves as an essential and complementary element to the U.S. national-security structure. Its maritime interception, port security, military environmental response, and peacetime engagement operations all are targeted to the service's unique capabilities. This array of operational capabilities uniquely positions the U.S. Coast Guard to be a leader in U.S. homeland security.
The Coast Guard's traditional allocation of resources reflects conventional priorities, but may now seem somewhat out of date. Maritime safety has almost always had the highest priority, followed by a maritime-security function--comprised mostly of preventing drug smuggling and illegal immigration, and enforcing laws, such as fisheries treaties--in the Exclusive Economic Zone. "National defense" frequently had the lowest allocation of funds.
Even Before 11 September
But that breakdown can be deceiving. Closer examination of these broad functions shows that approximately half of the Coast Guard's operating expenses projected for fiscal year 2002, even prior to 11 September, actually were spent on what would now be considered various homeland-security functions. Prior to 11 September, the prevention of drug smuggling and the interdiction of illegal migrants, for example, were viewed as two of the most significant threats to U.S. domestic security. Those missions, therefore, properly received a higher priority.
While many people observe that the events of 11 September have fundamentally altered the focus of the federal government in general, and the missions of the Coast Guard in particular, one can argue that, for the Coast Guard at least, the change in focus is equivalent in most respects to a course correction designed specifically to respond to the latest threats to the sovereignty and security of the U.S. homeland. Adm. James M. Loy, commandant of the Coast Guard, has described the change as a helm command--"left full rudder."
The Coast Guard assets that arrived immediately in New York City and Washington, D.C., to meet increased port-security, force-protection, and search-and-rescue requirements had been diverted from other missions--e.g., fisheries enforcement and drug interdiction. Those other missions, however, are not substantially different from the interdiction of potential terrorists. Indeed, the Coast Guard can hunt for terrorists while still enforcing the maritime laws of the United States--but obviously will need additional funding and personnel resources to carry out both missions simultaneously.
New Readiness Initiatives
The most important challenge for the Coast Guard in this new environment probably will be to continue to carry out the missions that were being performed prior to 11 September, while also responding vigorously to the terrorist threat. Even prior to the events of 9-11, Loy had identified the restoration of Coast Guard readiness as a top priority for the year 2001 and beyond. Within the "rubric" of readiness, he said, he wanted to restore the work force (Future Force 21), to execute the integrated Deepwater Project, to invest more heavily in information systems and technology, and to lead the Maritime Transportation System initiative.
These initiatives all directly complement the "new" assignment now given to the service: to lead the maritime-security slice of the homeland-security matrix under Governor Thomas Ridge, director of homeland security. The challenge for the commandant and the service's senior management will be to find the correct balance between the Coast Guard's current missions and the added resources necessary first to achieve, and then to maintain, the new level of what Loy calls "Maritime Domain Awareness," or MDA.
When Loy describes MDA as "constant, unyielding, vigilance" he is using words similar to those used by Alexander Hamilton in his initial charge to the men of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. These same words describe the challenge Loy's forces face today in making sure that the nation's ports are secure, while at the same time ensuring that legitimate cargo is able to move as quickly and seamlessly as possible under the heightened new security atmosphere.
Funding has been a problem for the Coast Guard in recent years, and still is. Prior to 11 September, the service already was struggling to compete effectively for its share of discretionary domestic spending under the current budget rules. While there has been much heated rhetoric about emergency supplementals and the need to immediately provide the funds necessary to carry the fight to the terrorists and to strengthen America's domestic defenses, the proof will be in the funding--i.e., when the money is actually appropriated, and when the Coast Guard can actually begin spending it.
In addition, the constraints on--some would say micromanagement of--how the service can allocate the various subcategories of funds provided to achieve maximum benefit for the taxpayers will continue to present roadblocks that would keep the service from achieving its goal of restoring readiness.
The role of the president's new "Homeland Security Advisor" in this situation is still very much an open question: will he be merely another "Czar" in the long line of such luminaries, but without the necessary control and budgetary authority needed to make a real difference? Or will it be different this time? The answer depends in part on whether the duties assigned to Governor Ridge remain under White House--i.e., presidential--control or whether homeland security is put under a new congressionally authorized and funded cabinet-level agency. The outcome of what could be a broad and lengthy policy debate may well have a significant impact on the Coast Guard's success in achieving any of its strategic goals.
Coast Guard Commandant Loy is emphatic in describing the new "Job One" for the Coast Guard: "To aggressively take the lead in the maritime dimension of homeland security." Ironically, this old/new mission is a collaborative follow-on to the ongoing efforts by the Coast Guard in development of the Marine Transportation System (MTS) concept as a counterpart to the views of the aviation sector within the Department of Transportation (DOT). The events of 11 September have now put a new urgency into, and new accent on, that effort.
The Coast Guard is viewed by most knowledgeable observers, not only in DOT but in both Congress and the White House as well, as the ideal "executive agent" for the maritime segment of homeland security. A military service with law-enforcement capabilities, disaster-response experience, and, most importantly, the platforms and people needed to carry out an array of missions (even those as yet undefined) must be a welcome part of Governor Ridge's portfolio. The service's use of and experience with the Incident Command System (ICS) in responding to a broad spectrum of domestic emergencies--e.g., plane crashes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes, etc.--put it into a unique position to bridge the divide between federal and local authorities.
The Coast Guard's working relationships with the maritime industry, with which it has had many "shared responsibilities," also will be invaluable as the nation seeks to further define "homeland security" and determine exactly what that term means: Is it a primarily public or mostly private responsibility? Or both? Does industry bear the principal burden for port security, or does the Coast Guard? The honest-broker role the Coast Guard has played so well and so frequently in the past will be a major bonus factor during the coming months of debate on policy and procedures.
The Calculus of Normalcy
Even when all policy questions are answered it will not be easy. The calculus of what is "normal" has changed forever; the battle has come home and changed the perception of security. The foreboding warnings in the report of the Hart-Rudman Commission on Terrorism--namely, that the United States is vulnerable to an attack on its homeland, and that the military could not defend the nation against such an attack--are now etched in the consciousness of every American.
The new "Maritime Security Condition One" is equivalent to the old "Bravo-2" status for the Coast Guard. A higher state of alert will be the norm from now on. The service will need additional funding and more personnel as well as physical assets (cutters and aircraft, primarily) to return to normal and carry out its new homeland-security responsibilities. Its initial responses, on 11 September and immediately thereafter, came from the meager "surge" capability within the organization. To continue the expanded list of port-security duties for any protracted period, the service will require substantially more active-duty personnel, an increase in the Coast Guard Reserve program, and redistribution of its Operating Expenses (OE) account to meet maritime security needs.
The Coast Guard already is engaged in what some have described as the largest port-security operation since World War II. During that cataclysmic period, the Coast Guard grew by a factor of ten. Most likely, a similar large-scale change will not be necessary, but there must be at least some growth.
The service's funding strategy calls for holding the line on current numbers while making the case for a significant "plus up" to close the gap between requirements and capability. Loy and his advisors are confident that the service can get all of this "functionally" right internally and gain support for the outyear funding requests from the homeland security advisor. In the meantime, Rear Adm. Terry M. Cross, assistant commandant for operations, is spending countless hours trying to hold the stretched fabric of the service's multifaceted capabilities together to meet all of the current competing demands for Coast Guard services.
With regard to shaping the future of the organization, the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater Systems Project is intended to recapitalize the service's aging offshore fleet over 15 years or so with a new and different inventory of ships, aircraft, and sensors. The recapitalization analyses for platforms, aircraft, information-gathering, integration, display, and dissemination all point to the need for platforms and systems that will better carry out the maritime-security missions of the service and its sister agencies, whether military or civilian.
Execution of the project will depend heavily on a consortium of private industries that are bidding to design and build the platforms needed to meet specific performance goals and provide the capabilities that the service has outlined as necessary. When one asks Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman, the director of the project, what 11 September means to the Deepwater Project he succinctly answers, "America needs it sooner, rather than later!"
Commandant's "Night Orders"
Loy will retire from the service in late May. His four years of leadership will leave a strong legacy of vision and decisive action that have helped the Coast Guard meet its present challenges, and prepared it well for the future. When asked what he would put in his "Night Order Book" for his successor he provided the following quick list:
Steady as you go.
Raise the visibility of the service and its value to the public.
Carry out the strategic plan.
Reaffirm the findings of the "Roles and Missions" study.
Challenge your boss.
Hold onto the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect.
Maintain the fabric of the organization.
Get "Future Force 21" (Personnel Management Initiatives) in place.
Press on with Deepwater.
Work collaboratively within and without government.
Carry out your duties forcefully and within the Constitution.
Hold people responsible.
So it remains true, in the Coast Guard as elsewhere: The more things change, the more they remain the same. More than 200 years after being given major responsibilities, despite not enough resources, the Coast Guard continues to strive to serve the needs of the American people--under new but in many respects similar conditions. One compensation is that the value of the Coast Guard to the nation, no matter what criteria are used, is becoming more and more apparent every day to more and more people.
The often "unsung" heroics of the Coast Guard's people garnered welcome and well-deserved attention from the media worldwide in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks. The task of the current and future leadership of the Coast Guard is to make sense of the consequences of this latest "course-altering" event in the service's distinguished history, and to balance the resources available and the use of Coast Guard personnel to best serve the needs of the nation.
The next commandant will be well-served by heeding the "night orders" laid out by the current commandant.
For more than two centuries, the U.S. Coast Guard's proud motto "Semper Paratus" ("Always Ready") has been not just a goal to strive for, but a literal description of the Coast Guard itself, its people, and its code of service to the nation. With continued bold leadership, it will continue to be so.