Securing Our Maritime Borders: The Coast Guard’s Response to Today’s Emerging Threats
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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
The Coast Guard is the oldest United States seagoing service, having been founded in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service.
The Coast Guard’s missions have evolved over the past 220 years. Its missions now focus primarily on maritime law enforcement, maritime response, maritime prevention, marine transportation system management, maritime security operations, and defense operations.
The role of the Coast Guard continues to evolve today as a result of its responses to national emergencies and disasters. These events include the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and today’s national security threats.
Since 9/11, the Coast Guard has consistently grown to meet the ever-changing threats to our nation’s ports and coasts. This is no easy task; the Coast Guard has over 95,000 miles of coastline to protect.
Coast Guard Is Adaptable to Suit Different Situations
One of the most important strengths of the Coast Guard is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The Coast Guard can also quickly shift its mission focus without the need to change vessels or crew.
As a member of the Coast Guard for the past 20 years, I have witnessed several major changes. These changes ensure that USCG personnel remain equipped with the resources and mission directives they need to meet contemporary threats to our society and maritime borders.
Routine Coast Guard Patrols Can Be Rapidly Diverted to Search and Rescue Operations
Coast Guard vessels are equipped with many resources and tools, including rescue gear, weaponry and state-of-the-art electronic equipment. All of this enables crews to respond to a wide range of safety and security emergencies.
For example, as a Coast Guard vessel operator, I have conducted routine homeland security patrols around critical infrastructures. I have also been diverted to a nearby search and rescue situation, involving a sinking vessel that led to an arrest for narcotics trafficking.
Coast Guard Protects Critical Infrastructure and Gathers Intelligence
The Coast Guard places a major emphasis on critical infrastructure protection and intelligence gathering, which involves specialized training and resources. These resources allow the Coast Guard to respond to a wide range of high-threat situations, ranging from non-compliant vessels to actual attacks involving weapons of mass effect.
The Coast Guard has expanded its deployable specialized forces, including the National Strike Force, Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, Maritime Security Response Teams, and Maritime Safety and Security Units. An advantage of deployable specialized forces is that they can promptly mobilize to address emerging threats to maritime security.
The Coast Guard is a member of the interagency U.S. Intelligence Community that includes new national intelligence resources such as Maritime Intelligence Fusion Centers.
The Coast Guard also engages in field intelligence collection. This is important because the Coast Guard seeks to be proactive in identifying and addressing national security threats through its resources and inter-agency cooperation.
The Coast Guard will continue to evolve in response to natural disasters and threats to our national security. This service places significant emphasis on homeland security operations and intelligence analysis, and the further development of Intelligence Fusion Centers and the Coast Guard’s deployable specialized forces. As maritime threats in terms of narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and risks of terrorism continue to evolve, the Coast Guard will need to ensure that its personnel continue to be trained and equipped with the most state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and resources available in the future.
For example, the use of semi-submersible craft to ship large quantities of cocaine from South American routes will need to be met with technology aboard Coast Guard aircraft and vessels or perhaps the use of unmanned aircraft systems to detect this threat, prior to it reaching the shores of the United States. The future of the Coast Guard is likely to see the continued development of specialized forces that can be immediately deployed when national emergencies, disasters and homeland security threats arise.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been with the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security, contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has also received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.