The U.S. Coast Guard: Moving Into A Changing Era
It would be extremely myopic on my part to speak of the Coast Guard in the past year and its directions in the near future without mention of the world events t h a t have, and will continue to, affect it. If 1992 could be reduced to a single word, it would be "change." From the emerging nations of the crumbled Soviet Union, to the rumblings for democracy from the Caribbean, to the advent of a new administration here in the U.S., people and policies are changing.
The multi-missioned flexibility of the Coast Guard has served us well in absorbing the impact of this rapid change, while retaining our trademark poise and professionalism.
Let me give you an example. On an average Coast Guard day in the past year, 12 lives and $2 million in property were saved. Another 315 people were assisted, 144 search and rescue cases were conducted and more than 90 large vessels were boarded for port safety checks. And just to keep everyone on track, 150 aids to navigation were serviced. Yet, within a few days after receiving orders for their new mission, these same people, planes and cutters that provided these services were in place off the coast of Haiti. They effectively prevented another wave of economic migrants from taking to the high seas and risking their lives this past January. This brings me to our most important and impressive resource - our people. In keeping with the Coast Guard's historic humanitarian role of helping the maritime public, a new set of customers has been added - Coast Guard members and their families. As I have stated, our people are the very core of the Coast Guard. In response to our service-wide Work Life Study, programs are being initiated to bring the needs of our people to the forefront. Our aim is to help them deal with or solve life problems that impact their performance and their quality of life. As a possible upshot of this emphasis, I am happy to report we have an all time high re-enlistment rate and the most highly-trained force of multi-skilled professionals that I have had the opportunity to serve with during my 36 year career.
General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented recently that "the Coast Guard's national security functions will evolve with the emerging requirements of the post cold war era." Both the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard are realizing that national security is now a broadened term that not only encompasses national defense, but also the economic, social and environmental well-being of the nation. In coming to realize this expanded definition of national security, the Coast Guard is uniquely qualified to take on the task.
Although we are one of the nation's five armed forces, our missions extend beyond the traditional role of national defense. We also emphasize our roles in providing Maritime Safety, Maritime Law Enforcement and Marine Environmental Protection. These distinct roles provide our nation with expertise not duplicated by the other armed forces. I will elaborate on them since it is these areas that distinguish the Coast Guard as a unique service with incomparable capabilities, rather than as a small, second best Navy.
The safe movement of marine cargoes and people, the protection of marine resources and the marine environment, and the enforcement of U.S. laws and treaties are becoming increasingly important. Our interdependent global economy makes it critical that the U.S. have an effective maritime transportation system.
Toward that goal, we have several acquisition projects that are underway. In February of this year, we contracted for the first of the new JUNIPER class of seagoing buoy tenders and we anticipate awarding a contract for smaller coastal tenders later this year. These will replace our aging fleet of tenders that are in some cases over 50 years old. Likewise, they will provide additional help in the marine environmental role as they will have the capability for spilled oil recovery. The ongoing acquisition and testing of five 47-foot motor lifeboats to replace our aging 44-footers is going well. I have seen the first of the new boats and their performance has been truly impressive.
Safe and efficient use of the nation's ports is as vital to a strong and healthy economy as it is to the resupply of a deployed military force. Improvements we are making this year in our vessel traffic services and the differential global positioning system (GPS) will make these services increasingly important while greatly adding to the safety of these vital supply lines. A new system of differential GPS navigation for harbor approach and coastal piloting is planned for installation by 1996 and envisions an all-weather navigational accuracy of better than 33 feet.
The federal government's planning for and response to natural disasters is certainly an important and topical issue. After Hurricane Andrew struck the Florida and Louisiana coasts and Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii, the Coast Guard was a key participant in relief operations. We assessed damage to our ports and waterways, rescued many people whose lives were threatened, provided logistics support for other federal agencies, and assisted with the restoration of maritime commerce after the storms. I was especially proud of the dedication displayed by our people in the area who experienced first hand the devastation andlossthathurricanescause. Yet, they unselfishly put aside their own concerns and came to the aid of others. Because of this type of spirit, we were able to perform these missions successfully. We quickly dispatched people and equipment from around the nation to augment Coast Guard and federal forces within the affected areas. The Coast Guard is recognized as the nation's premier and oldest at-sea enforcement agency. Its vital role in this capacity supports the stated National Security Strategy objective of:"... a free and independent nation, with its fundamental values intact and its institutions and people secure." Operating in U.S. waters, in the Exclusive Economic Zone, on the high seas, and by invitation in the territorial seas of other nations, the Coast Guard enforces all U.S. laws and treaties. We support national security objectives by reducing the flow of illicit drugs and other contraband, interdicting illegal migrants, protecting fisheries and marine resources. We combat maritime terrorism and provide naval commanders the capability for maritime interception operations.
There is certainly no more relevant example of this t h an the Coast Guard's ongoing effort as the primary maritime participant in the humanitarian interception at sea and eventual repatriation of Haitians fleeing the economic conditions of their country. Between November of 1991 and this last January, the Coast Guard rescued more than 40,000 Haitians, most of them at sea in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats. These operations required a massive, coordinated effort involving numerous ships and aircraft. This prompted me to initiate operation Able Manner which created a large safety net of cutters and naval vessels off Haiti and has also acted as a very effective deterrent to the threat of mass exodus near Inauguration Day this last January. In addition, we are also rescuing and interdicting increasing numbers of Cuban refugees and Chinese migrants.
The motor vessel EAST WOOD was recently intercepted by the Coast Guard about 1,500 miles west of Hawaii with 527 illegal, malnourished, sick, economic migrants coming from the People's Republic of China.
Due to some tremendous coordination by the Coast Guard Pacific Area Command, the 14th District and those working here in Washington, and working with governments in the Marshall Islands, Panama, Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China, these people have now been safely repatriated. Overall, our mission of intercepting illegal migrants appears to be a growing one.
Maritime drug interdiction remains an important mission. Last fiscal year Coast Guard cutters and law enforcement detachments conducted over 26,000 vessel boardings.
During that time the Coast Guard seized or assisted with the seizure of more t h a n 48,000 pounds of cocaine and 116,000 pounds of marijuana for an estimated street value in contraband narcotics totaling over $2.8 billion.
Besides search and rescue and marine environmental concerns, we are working with many countries throughout the world to help those governments in the source and transit countries to suppress drug production and trafficking. Our international training teams provided law enforcement training to 637 students in 31 countries last year. Since 1987, we have provided 20 ex-USCG patrol craft to nine countries. By providing equipment, personnel and training in this endeavor we gain additional valuable resources because of the force multiplier effect.
Perhaps just as importantly, the U.S. and the Coast Guard often gain trusted friends and allies. The Marine Environmental Protection role certainly contributes to the national objective of a healthy environment through an aggressive prevention, enforcement and response program.
Our involvement in protecting living marine resources is intensifying as the need to manage U.S. fisheries resources becomes more critical. You may have heard this referred to in the past as simply "fisheries." But, it has now taken the broadened term of "Living Marine Resources Enforcement." This includes marine mammals, endangered marine species and habitat protection. The enforcement of increasingly complex regulations has required the shifting of our limited resources. We increased our capability in the Pacific by moving two high-endurance cutters to that area and supplemented the aircraft available for surveillance duty. Our long range C-130 patrol aircraft have had high-tech, DOD generated, surveillance radars added to further are expanding our liaison with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of State to ensure coordinated efforts. In 1992, more than 20 percent of our ship resource hours were committed to this vital program.
Because of the growing national and international concern for the environment, we recently published a Coast Guard Environmental Policy Statement, "A Commitment to Environmental Excellence." The Coast Guard's leadership in environmental protection is key to supporting the U.S. economic interest in a safe, global marine transportation system. In a typical day over the last year, our people responded to 23 oil or hazardous chemical spills and investigated 17 marine accidents. Through our ongoing involvement in the International Maritime Organization, we were instrumental in getting the maritime nations of the world to adopt new standards for passenger ship safety and oil tanker construction and operations. Domestically, we have begun issuing and enforcing over 30 new regulations mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) to prevent spills, mitigate environmental damage and ensure appropriate cleanup response to oil spills in U.S. waters. In response to provisions of OPA 90, the National Strike Force Coordination Center (NSFCC) has been created. They coordinate the activities of three separate Strike Team commands while supplementing those staffs with a dedicated pollution response exercise staff. NSFCC also maintains what will eventually become an international database of spill response resources known as the Spill Response Resource Inventory. In addition, the first two of an eventual 19 sites have received prepositioned oil spill response equipment as also required under OPA 90.
The addition of these resources will allow us to more rapidly respond to oil and hazardous material spills. I see environmentally sensitive activities such as ocean dumping, hazardous waste disposal, and transportation of chemicals and fossil fuels generating increased requirements for international oversight and U.S. leadership in the further development of the Convention at the International Maritime Organization.
Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to enjoy a unique relationship with the U.S. Navy. Although there are many similarities between us in terms of equipment, training and doctrine, the differences emerge when taking into account the ability of the Coast Guard's three maritime roles as discussed earlier to support national defense. We have the ability as shown during Desert Shield/ Storm, and in other ongoing operations, to provide singular, non-redundant and yet complementary naval resources. As an update on some of that equipment, the Fleet Renovation and Modernization (FRAM) program for our 378-foot high endurance cutters has been completed. In addition, the overhauls being done on our 210-foot medium endurance cutters is ongoing and on-track. Progress continues in the effort to build a third polar icebreaker. We expect to be able to let the contract for the Cutter HEALY in the fourth quarter of FY 93. We continue our acquisition of a fleet of 47 HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters as replacements for our venerable HH-3 Pelicans. These types of assets, alongwith a superbly trained corps of people, will continue to provide expertise in warfare support operations such as port security, port safety, harbor defense and coastal sea control. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments continue to provide assistance to naval commanders in both operational and training roles for ongoing UNbacked international efforts off the coast of Iraq and Yugoslavia. Off Iraq, for example, law enforcement detachments deploy aboard Navy frigates and inspect cargo vessels in the Red Sea bound for the port of Aqaba, Jordan. Last year Coast Guard law enforcement detachments and multinational force teams boarded and verified the cargo of more than 1,600 merchant ships; these operations are likely to continue as the UN imposes sanctions against Iraq.
In 1993, I am certain that the Coast Guard's focus will change in response to new crises and disasters as well as to shifting public priorities and interests. It is just this type of free form response capability coupled with the versatility and diversity of our multi-mission character - as truly reflected in both our people and equipment - that allow the Coast Guard to serve the nation so well. In this era of profound change, both nationally and globally, the Coast Guard is well poised to respond to all of America's future maritime interests. Our ability to provide both unique and distinct services will allow us to meet the nation's future broad termed security challenges, while maintaining our status as America's primary ocean-policy and maritime agency.