Security Studies Program Seminar
U.S. Coast Guard and the New Security Environment
Commandant of the Coast Guard
February 6, 2008
Three major items of discussion:
- The origin and background of the Coast Guard to its relationship to the rest of the US military and other similar organizations around the world
- The maturation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard's role within the department
- The Coast Guard, including how the organization is changing and improving itself
Part I: Origin and brief description of the Coast Guard.
- Coast Guard was created in 1790 as the “Revenue Marine.” Consisted of ten cutters, following the recommendations of Hamilton, to enforce duties. Originally alluded to in Federalist Paper 12.
- The Coast Guard is simultaneously one of the 5 armed forces of the US and a law enforcement authority.
- Compared with other, similar services, around the world it possesses one of the broadest portfolio of mission assignments.
- Commandant Allen was a signatory to the new maritime security strategy. The Coast Guard's role focused on its interoperability with other services, and countries and its role in prevention.
Part II: Evolution of the Department of Homeland Security
- There was initial bureaucratic resistance to combining agencies to form an overarching boarder defense agency. However, by November 2002, Legislation had been passed.
- The structure of the new agency had not been created by thinking about the threats and the way to address them, but had been formed by simply merging together 22 agencies simultaneously.
- Because of the difficulties during Katrina, Congress dictated the reorganization of the preparedness functions within DHS.
- Despite all of these setbacks, the DHS has done a good job getting set up. The Coast Guard and DHS both benefit by the Coast Guard being within DHS.
Part III: Changes within the Coast Guard Itself
- Allen was selected as Commandant shortly after his service as Principal Federal Official during Hurricane Katrina
- On arrival, he suggested several proposals, including creating adaptive force packages, and restructuring the Coast Guard's management systems.
- The main challenges the organization faces is continuing to adapt to new challenges, to create a change centric organization.
1. The purpose of CG hasn't changed, so what's the culture changing to? And is combining Navy and Coast Guard shipbuilding beneficial?
- While the mission set has not changed, certain missions have greater demand at different times, so the culture needs to adapt with these changes.
- Shipbuilding: the mission plan is different between the LCS and the National Security Cutter even though these ships look about the same. The Coast Guard places a premium on endurance and seakeeping rather than speed. The Coast Guard and the Navy need to mix and match assets in support of each other based on the employment of the vessel (i.e LCS could be effective in counter drug operations, NSC could be effective in Theater Security Cooperation.
2. What happened with Katrina?
- The process in place at the time was premised on local and state failure prior to federal assistance to coordinate a distribution of resources at the state level. However, the disaster was across state lines and FEMA regions and there was a lack of integration and coordination in dealing with the overall crisis.
- In New Orleans the levee breeches was in effect a weapon of mass effect without criminality, rather than simply being a hurricane. There was never a legal authority for federal preemption of State/Local authority.
- On assignment as PFO Allen went down, developed a response framework.
- Unify the federal effort.
- Create a joint planning effort between civilian and military responses.
- Make sure that there was a unified effort between federal, state, local authorities.
- New Orleans was swept by teams where federal resources supported local law enforcement.
- This forward deployed posture was contrary to the FEMA command structure.
- Lessons learned:
- While Katrina was an anomally and beyond the scope of response at any level, we need to understand preparedness responsibilities at every level.
- In doing so we must remember state and local responsibilities and authorities and not turn federalism on its head.
Rapporteur: Andrew Radin
back to Wednesday Seminars, Spring 2008