Coast Guard Looks To Become More Vital Part Of Military




 
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Coast Guard Looks To Become More Vital Part Of Military
 
June 24th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Coast Guard Looks To Become More Vital Part Of Military


Coast Guard Looks To Become More Vital Part Of Military
San Diego Union-Tribune
June 24, 2008 Leader working for end to budget woes
By Rick Rogers, Staff Writer
RANCHO BERNARDO--The Coast Guard intercepts drugs, keeps waterways open, cleans up oil spills, rescues boaters and protects ports, yet somehow it is still the Rodney Dangerfield of the armed forces.
K.C. ALFRED / Union-Tribune
Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, was in Rancho Bernardo yesterday for the American Petroleum Institute Tanker Conference.
Maybe not for much longer.
Dangerfield, whose catchphrase was “I don't get no respect,” eventually landed starring roles on TV and the big screen. Like him, the Coast Guard is edging toward the spotlight as an increasingly vital part of the military.
Leading the campaign toward prominence is Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, who visited Rancho Bernardo yesterday for a conference.
Allen, who has held his current position since mid-2006, is working to make decades of congressional apathy for the Coast Guard's budget a permanent thing of the past. He also is trying to replace the stereotype of Coast Guauard crews checking recreational boats for life vests with the image of his forces being vital to anti-terrorism operations.
“We are really trying to reposition the Coast Guard ... to do the missions in the 21st century,” Allen said during an interview while attending the American Petroleum Institute Tanker Conference.
His agency reached a milestone accomplishment last week when it launched the Bertholf, the first of eight planned national security cutters. At 418 feet long, the ship is the Coast Guard's largest vessel ever.
The Bertholf gives Allen's men and women an unprecedented show of might and capability in the open ocean. It also provides a much-needed boost for the Coast Guard's program to develop longer-range ships.
That project, a joint effort with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, has been besieged by cost overruns and manufacturing defects. The problems are so severe that Coast Guard officials have taken back leadership of the program from the two defense contractors and asked them for a $96.1 million refund.
Allen is experienced in dealing with adversity, having served for nearly four decades with the Coast Guard.
He was widely praised for helping lead the agency's emergency response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast region between September 2005 and January 2006, when he worked as chief of staff.
Allen now oversees a service consisting of 252 cutters, 194 aircraft and 42,703 personnel at 945 commands across the country. More than 960 of the staff members are based in San Diego.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Coast Guard's budget has grown from $4.6 billion in 2001 to $8.9 billion this year. The agency's visibility has risen as well.
“This is the first time since World War II that the Coast Guard has had so prominent a voice in the national security debate,” said Michael O'Hanlon, who specializes in national security issues for the Brookings Institution in Washinon, D.C. “It went through 40 years of decline that verged on neglect.”
James Carafano, a defense expert for the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., said: “The phrase that's being used a lot is the multi-mission Coast Guard. If there is a fire, the firetruck shows up. If terrorists strike, the firetruck shows. The demand on the Coast Guard has gone up because it is the right force to handle a multitude of missions.”
Allen said a challenge that his service faces daily is finding balance between all the operations it is asked to do.
“In San Diego ... the question is how do we allocate resources” for anti-terrorism activities while still doing traditional safety missions, he said.
Some legislators and shipping companies are complaining that perhaps not enough is being done on the inspection and regulation fronts, he added.
Allen acknowledges their concerns, noting the rise in liquefied natural gas facilities and the larger number of cruise ships entering U.S. waters, especially around San Diego.
“We have not decreased our maritime staffing, but that's not always enough. If you don't keep up with the expanding activity, you start losing ground,” Allen said.
He predicted that it will take a “a good number of years” before the Coast Guard hires the thousands of additional service members needed to fulfill its staffing target.
“The good news is that the Coast Guard has never been more relevant and visible,” Allen said. “The bad news is that the Coast Guard has never been more relevant and visible.”
That epiphany came in October, when Allen, Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, and Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, briefed the House Armed Services Committee on their unified maritime strategy. It was the first time the Coast Guard had ever participated in such a briefing.
“Things are definitely starting to change,” Carafano said. “A few years ago, the Coast Guard had a movie done about it starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. “The Guardian” wasn't “Top Gun,” but it was a start.”
 


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