Coast Guard Changes to Confront 21st-Century Threats
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2005 The U.S. Coast Guard has evolved to confront 21st-century security threats to the nation while continuing to perform more traditional duties, the organization's commandant said here April 21.
The Coast Guard has "adapted operationally and culturally to those threats to our security and safety" since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Adm. Thomas H. Collins said at Bolling Air Force Base, here, during his "State of the Coast Guard" speech.
When the Department of Homeland Security stood up, the Coast Guard transferred into it. Collins said that homeland security priorities have "refocused our operations."
Yet, the Coast Guard remains "committed to our traditional missions," such as search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, waterways management, and environmental protection, Collins said.
It's been "an extraordinary year" filled with Coast Guard accomplishments, Collins said, noting 6,800 security checks of foreign vessels were conducted since July 1 as part of enforcement of the Maritime Transportation Security Act.
Security at the nation's ports and waterways has been ratcheted up, the admiral reported, with new Maritime Safety and Security Teams posted to ports at Honolulu, New Orleans San Diego, Miami and Anchorage, Alaska. The teams were also engaged in security missions for the 2004 G-8 economic summit meeting held at Sea Island, Ga., both national political conventions, the Presidential Inauguration, the Super Bowl, and President Reagan's funeral.
The Coast Guard continues to support America's war on global terrorism, Collins reported, noting his service has established new intelligence and vessel-tracking centers and maintains partnerships with the National Intelligence Coordination Center and the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Collins cited his service's support to overseas U.S. military commanders, pointing to the death of Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, who was killed April 24, 2004, while protecting an oil terminal off the Iraqi coast in the northern Persian Gulf.
Bruckenthal was the first Coast Guard member killed in military action since the end of the Vietnam War. The Coast Guard mourns the loss of Bruckenthal, Collins said, noting the departed petty officer's sense of duty "is reflected in his fellow Coast Guard men and women."
The Coast Guard also continues to be actively engaged in the war against drugs, Collins noted. Coast Guard counter-drug operations in the past year produced "shattering results," he said, with the record seizure of more than 240,000 pounds of cocaine, exceeding the previous record by 100,000 pounds.
And, current Coast Guard anti-drug operations are outpacing last year's, Collins reported. Such interdiction missions keep drugs off the street and "save innumerable lives from the tragedies of illegal drug use."
The Coast Guard has also increased its efforts to prevent illegal fishing, Collins reported, noting that 4,500 searches of domestic fishery vessels were conducted in 2004, an increase of 1,000 over the year before. He said more than 130,000 pounds of illegally caught fish and other marine species were seized during these operations.
Coast Guard sea-going patrols have also "significantly reduced the instances of foreign fishing vessel incursions into the rich fishing grounds off Alaska," Collins said.
And, he observed, "it's been another high-paced operational year" for the Coast Guard, as his service continues to evolve and adjust its mission strategies, force structure, and capabilities "to get the job done."