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Border Security Initiative Boosts Coast Guard Funds

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2002 – President Bush is launching a border security initiative that includes new funds for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Members of U.S. Coast Guard Port Security Unit 311 clear their pier during training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on March 5, 2001. Photo by Petty Officer 1st class Jim Hampshire, USN.
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

New threats demand a new approach to how the United States protects its borders, according to White House officials. Border security must protect the country from terrorist attack, illegal migration and drugs and all other external threats. At the same time, they said, security measures should pose little or no obstacle to legitimate trade and travel.

The president is slated to present his fiscal 2003 budget request to Congress Feb. 4. White House officials say the new budget includes $10.7 billion for border security, an increase of $2.1 billion from the 2002 budget. The added funding begins the process of achieving the president's vision of the border of the future.

If approved, the president's 2003 budget would increase the Coast Guard's homeland security mission by $282 million, for a total of $2.9 billion.

In coordination with these and other homeland security agencies, the Coast Guard is developing ways to track all vessels operating in the maritime domain, within or transiting to U.S. ports and coastal waters. The program is aimed at providing accurate information, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance of all vessels, cargo and people well beyond traditional U.S. maritime boundaries.

Coast Guard forces would also provide "point defenses," White House officials said, for high-risk vessels and coastal facilities such as nuclear power plants and oil refineries. Close coordination with local, state and federal agencies that protect America's harbors would ensure a "protective envelope is sustained at different threat levels," White House officials said.

The Coast Guard helps protect U.S. ports and coastal areas from terrorism and maintains border security against the entry of illegal drugs, illegal aliens, firearms and weapons of mass destruction. Since Sept. 11, White House officials estimated, the Coast Guard's port security mission grew from about 1 percent to 2 percent of its daily operations to between 50 percent and 60 percent.

Coast Guard officials have mobilized more than 2,000 reservists in the largest homeland defense and port security operation since World War II. The officials say their units have increased their readiness and patrols to protect the country's 95,000 miles of coastline, including the Great Lakes and inland waterways.

Coast Guard units have conducted more than 30,000 port security patrols and 3,000 air patrols since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. About 7,500 foreign-flagged ships make 51,000 port calls annually -- Coast Guardsmen boarded nearly 1,800 high-interest vessels and escorted more than 5,100 vessels in and out of port since Sept. 11.

And in addition to meeting the call for heightened homeland security, Coast Guard units continue in traditional missions. They've conducted more than 6,200 search and rescue missions, helping more than 9,700 mariners and saving 689 lives. They've maintained more than 120 security zones and interdicted nearly 600 illegal migrants. They've seized more than 33,500 pounds of cocaine and 13,600 pounds of marijuana.

 

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