Joint Chiefs Chairman Praises Coast Guard's Flexibility
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said last night that military and federal agencies should become more like the Coast Guard by stepping up levels of flexibility, mutual engagement and cooperation.
Speaking to the Coast Guard Foundation here, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen described his vision for the future of the U.S. armed forces.
“I’m fond of saying that the military should become more ‘Special Forces-like’ today -- more agile, lethal and networked,” the nation’s top military officer said. “But I also think we should become more ‘Coast Guard-like’ -- more flexible, more engaged with each other, more cooperative.”
On an average day in the United States, the Coast Guard saves 14 lives and assists 98 people in distress. It also boards and inspects 193 vessels and seizes about 1,000 pounds of illegal drugs, Mullen said.
“But their service entails so much more than that,” the chairman said. “The Coast Guard has seen action in every one of our nation’s major conflicts, and that tradition continues.”
Deployed Coast Guardsmen today are supporting U.S. operations abroad by building partnerships to help combat piracy, enhance port security and preserve the lawful use of common maritime areas.
“Our Coast Guard is truly a national treasure with a vast, global presence,” Mullen said.
The chairman reflected on past times, when national security generally began and ended at U.S. borders or on American shores.
“Nobody spoke of the threats from transnational networks, environmental attack, human trafficking, and failed states; threats were relatively well-defined,” he said. “Those days are long gone.”
The “cold truth,” Mullen said, is that many nations share such threats, which flow almost seamlessly from the sea and across national borders. Amid this security landscape, it’s critical to focus on aligning all elements of national power toward achieving common goals, he said.
In Iraq, for instance, Coast Guardsmen are helping to ensure the future of Iraq’s growing economy by working alongside Iraqi and coalition naval forces to secure the country’s two largest oil terminals. These ports in Basra and Khawr al Amaya supply 85 percent of Iraq’s income.
“As one young petty officer deployed to Iraq put it, ‘The most important part of our mission is that we are training them to do our job,’ the chairman said. “That’s a terrific statement of the degree to which the Coast Guard truly understands the need for partnerships, the need for change and for active engagement.
“No one does it better, in my view,” he added.
In addition, the Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps for the first time in history have dedicated themselves to a joint maritime strategy, Mullen said. This blueprint is aimed at integrating strengths and building relationships among maritime services.
The admiral said other federal agencies also could learn from the Coast Guard’s collaborative model.
“We need to capture the lessons we’ve learned through the strategy development process and use them as aids to navigating even broader interagency reform,” Mullen said. “Just as we have done with the new maritime strategy, the entire federal government must likewise orient its efforts on opportunities, not threats; on optimism, not fear; and on confidence, not doubt.”