Of the world’s 41 recognized maritime fleets, the one ranked at No. 37 in age puts to sea daily with aged ships and planes, out-of-date communications gear and nearly obsolete sensors. This fleet must protect the coastlines and territorial waters of one of the largest nations on earth by performing myriad missions: apprehending drug smugglers, patrolling the seas for illegal fishing, responding to environmental crises and performing all manner of lifesaving functions. The pace has stripped the fleet nearly to the bone, resulting in a service with people nearly as worn out as the equipment they operate. There’s not enough money for the fleet to cover this year’s expenses, much less invest in new equipment.
This may sound like the Russian Navy, but – unfortunately for America – it’s not. It’s the dilemma of the U.S. Coast Guard, a service that contributes as much as the other armed services to the national defense, but without nearly the financial support. Indeed in 1999, the Coast Guard hauled in more money in illegal drugs – $4 billion – than it got from Congress for its entire annual budget.
Despite the recognition during the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review that many of the threats facing the United States today and in the foreseeable future have a maritime nature and that the Coast Guard’s mission is well-suited to meet those threats, the service was forced to cut its operations by 10 percent this year, mainly because of a lack of money.
The Coast Guard has already proven its value to the nation by its operational excellence alone, but it has also been named by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School as one of the best-managed agencies in the entire federal government. Those accomplishments make the Coast Guard an exceptionally wise investment when the next Quadrennial Defense Review comes around.
Find Archived Articles: