September 11, 2002 | Backgrounder on Department of Homeland Security
As Congress discovered this past year from watching the U.S. Coast Guard struggle to conduct the largest port security operation since World War II, quantity has a quality all its own. The expansion of the Coast Guard's homeland-security operations after September 11 caused a major reshuffling of its mission priorities and assets. Port security operations, which had accounted for less than 2 percent of all its activities prior to the terrorist attacks, expanded to 56 percent of operations by the first week of October.1 To accommodate that change, the Coast Guard reduced operations in other areas, particularly alien-migrant interception, recreational boating safety, fisheries law enforcement, drug interdiction, and managing aids to navigation. Pointedly, the service did not reduce its response posture for search and rescue.
As its operational record shows, the Coast Guard lacks sufficient ships, aircraft, and people to get all its missions accomplished safely, effectively, and efficiently. It plans to reduce port security operations to between 20 percent and 25 percent of all operations this year, which would permit it to return assets to other missions. Even so, performance of some of its missions may remain below pre-September 2001 levels, when it was hard-pressed to do all that was expected of it due to the steadily declining budgets of the 1990s.
The Coast Guard has a worsening missions-versus-resources situation. The Coast Guard leadership has pointed out that the service's overtaxed and aging cutters and aircraft were being asked to expand their responsibilities into such mission areas as counternarcotics, alien interception, pollution prevention, and fisheries law enforcement.2 Some, like Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), former chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for Coast Guard funding, believed that the Coast Guard "would be better off in the Department of Defense. [Its] problem is that [it has] been an orphan in the Department of Transportation."3
Insufficient funding to operate Coast Guard assets to their full potential is an important concern. The Coast Guard has received seven emergency supplemental appropriations during the past 10 years, as well as annual funding transfers of approximately $400 million from the Department of Defense to support its national defense and military responsibilities. Adjusted for inflation, its budget actually decreased by 30 percent between 1992 and 1998. The Clinton Administration even excluded the Coast Guard from the 1998 emergency supplemental budget request for improving military readiness, despite the Coast Guard's full participation in all planning meetings. In fiscal year (FY) 2001, the insufficient operating and maintenance funds forced the Coast Guard to cut operations by 10 percent, with another 15 percent reduction planned for FY 2002, along with the unprecedented elimination of five major ships, eight pursuit boats, 19 aircraft, more than 500 people, and hundreds of flying hours.
The effects of this debilitating policy of neglect, even when so-called traditional Coast Guard missions were threatened, became painfully clear on September 11, 2001, when the Coast Guard found itself with:
This increased emphasis on maritime security missions, coupled with pending legislation to shift the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has raised concerns in Congress. Some Members have expressed strong reservations about the proposed transfer and a shift of its mission priorities. They are concerned that moving the service could lead to a reduced focus on what they term the more "traditional" or "routine" missions not directly related to homeland security, such as search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, and marine environmental protection.
These concerns were reflected in a series of committee votes to block the transfer of the Coast Guard to the DHS. On July 11, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted against the move because the "overwhelming majority of [the Coast Guard's] maritime work has nothing to do with homeland security." These Members wished "to prevent the Coast Guard from cutting back on traditional missions, such as search-and-rescue operations and protecting fisheries, by shifting resources to homeland defense."4 Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) stated that "the Coast Guard provides a long list of services to average citizens and has had limited responsibility in the area of security."5
Regrettably, this view flies in the face of the evolution of the Coast Guard's missions over time and its long history of providing support for national security.6
The President, other Members of the House--especially members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security--and other government officials disagree. As Admiral Tom Collins, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, stated earlier this summer:
Clearly, the president--and Congress for that matter--are committed to winning the war on terrorism. He's looking at reorganization as one of the solution sets...to consider. His advisers...feel that the time is right for reorganization, to help focus our efforts, to insure unity of effort, to insure a coordinated approach to policy and resource investments. I think it's an idea whose time has come.7
[W]e belong in [the new department]. We have a lot of value to bring to the department, we are a military organization.... [W]e're widely dispersed around the country, we have a presence in virtually all major waterways and ports. We have an extensive command and control capability that can add to the richness of the new department.8
Indicating its support of the President's plan, the House passed the final version of its homeland security reorganization bill (H.R. 5005) on July 26, authorizing the transfer of the Coast Guard's functions, personnel, assets, and obligations to the DHS. The bill also stipulates that the Coast Guard be maintained as a distinct entity within the new department.9 The Senate version of the bill (S. 2452) also authorizes the transfer of Coast Guard functions, personnel, assets, and obligations to the DHS and stipulates that the service be maintained as a distinct entity within DHS.
A principal reason for establishing the DHS is to assure unity of effort by placing under one roof all the agencies responsible for protecting the nation's maritime and land borders--and providing what some call a "common face" on the borders. A key aspect of the war against terrorism is to have complete control over the borders and to put in place an effective, integrated security system to defend them. This will be the primary responsibility of the DHS Border and Transportation Security directorate, which under the President's proposal would oversee the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Transportation Security Administration.10 Regrettably, however, the Senate bill now includes measures introduced by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) that would undermine the "unity of effort" homeland security requires.11
In response to congressional concerns about the effects of reorganization on the Coast Guard's so-called traditional missions, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on July 25 adopted two amendments to S. 2452 offered by Senator Stevens. Senator Stevens intends to prevent any future reshuffling of Coast Guard mission priorities in favor of homeland security, except in a national emergency.
The first Stevens amendment requires the Commandant of the Coast Guard to report directly to the DHS Secretary, not to the Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, who would have responsibility for all other agencies that protect border and transportation systems, and designates the Coast Guard's 11 major missions12 as either "non-homeland security" or "homeland security" related. (See Table 1.) It also directs the DHS Secretary not to make any "substantial or significant change...to the capabilities of the Coast Guard to carry out" those non-homeland security missions.
To further minimize the possibility that the Coast Guard's own assets would be diverted from non-homeland security missions to maritime security missions, Senator Stevens's second amendment to S. 2452 would:
In mandating that the Coast Guard become a "floating" entity reporting directly to the DHS Secretary, Senator Stevens's amendments would remove the Coast Guard from the purview of the proposed DHS Border and Transportation Security directorate. Such a move would significantly exacerbate overall coordination problems and seriously undermine the unity of effort that will be required to maintain border and transportation security.
By creating an artificial distinction between "homeland security" and "traditional" Coast Guard mission areas and attempting to fence off one from the other, the amendments would fundamentally diminish the service's hard-won operational flexibility and the benefits of its proven multi-mission concepts of operation.
Unity of Effort
Would Be More Difficult
To protect the homeland from all potential threats, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's proposed Department of Homeland Security would have five major directorates, each led by an under secretary reporting directly to the Secretary. These five directorates are Border and Transportation Security, Intelligence, Critical Infrastructure Protection, Immigration Affairs, and Emergency Preparedness and Response. A principal reason for establishing the DHS is to assure unity of effort by placing under one roof all federal agencies responsible for protecting maritime and land borders--in effect, providing what some call a "common face" at all the nation's entryways.
Gaining complete control over the borders and putting in place an effective, integrated system to secure them is an important aspect of the war against terrorism. As the key responsibility of the Border and Transportation Security directorate, this will include securing U.S. territorial waters, ports, terminals, and waterways, and air, land, and sea transportation systems.
Besides the Coast Guard, other agencies that the President wants to relocate to the Border and Transportation Security directorate are the Customs Service (from the Department of the Treasury); Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol (Department of Justice); Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Department of Agriculture); and Transportation Security Administration (Department of Transportation).
Placing the Coast Guard and these other agencies with associated responsibilities together in one directorate focused on safeguarding America's borders is a sensible, necessary, efficient, and prudent measure for ensuring national security. The unity required among the agencies with border responsibilities can be achieved only through close working arrangements within one division of government.
Measures such as the Stevens amendments that would remove the Coast Guard from this integrated infrastructure are counterproductive. Having the Coast Guard report directly to the DHS Secretary under special terms of reference, for example, would give the Coast Guard significantly more access, autonomy, and latitude for intradepartmental proceedings than its sister agencies in the Border and Transportation Security directorate. The Coast Guard's resulting status would allow it to "coordinate with" all four under secretaries, creating an awkward and difficult arrangement for the Under Secretary of the Border and Transportation Security directorate. Though the latter individual would have legal responsibility and accountability for securing borders and transportations systems, he or she would lack direct oversight authority over a key agency in that effort. Short of a presidentially declared and certifiable national emergency, the Stevens approach would prevent the responsible under secretary from reallocating Coast Guard resources as needed to address a total national threat.
It is unlikely that the DHS Secretary will have sufficient time to administer the Coast Guard directly and become immersed in its budgetary and fiscal issues to the degree required for proper oversight. Moreover, the Secretary will not want to administer Coast Guard programs in isolation from other agencies with border security responsibilities. The Secretary cannot effectively set the Coast Guard's resource, policy, and budget priorities for border security under this unique organizational relationship without close coordination with the Border and Transportation Security directorate, creating another management headache. And it is unlikely that the DHS congressional oversight committees would accept two different sets of strategies, resource plans, and budget submissions--one for the Border and Transportation Security directorate and another for the Coast Guard.
Other formidable challenges will arise if the Coast Guard is not included in that directorate. Lacking oversight of the Coast Guard, the under secretary would find it very difficult to set integrated national goals and performance measures for the implementation of homeland security practices--and then to allocate resources correspondingly as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).
This emerging issue also underscores the need to bring together under one authority all agencies with border security responsibilities. Currently, a Coast Guard contractor is developing a set of performance goals and measures that would apply to securing ports and associated public and private facilities. These standards cover such requirements as preventing unauthorized persons from accessing sensitive areas, detecting and intercepting intrusions, and checking backgrounds of individuals who require access to port facilities. Logically, many of these standards should be the same nationally for all modes of transport, not just the maritime sector. If the Coast Guard is outside of the Border and Transportation Security directorate, however, implementing such a set of national standards will become unnecessarily complicated.13
Additionally, under the Stevens approach, there would be both organizational and psychological resistance within agencies in the Border and Transportation Security directorate to considering the Coast Guard part of the "team" and not a privileged player with its own special rules. Such an arrangement would not foster a genuine unified effort among the totality of border security agencies. Instead, it would promote competitiveness among them for resources and attention and the advocacy of individual goals rather than the department's.
Under the President's plan, many of the agencies that will form the Border and Transportation Security directorate--the Border Patrol, Customs Service, Transportation Security Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Coast Guard--already operate boats, aircraft, command nodes, intelligence centers, and communication networks. As the new department is brought on-line, each of these agencies would tend to specialize in selected mission, functional, and geographic areas. Additionally, they would be able to leverage capabilities available elsewhere in lieu of developing their own dedicated means--thereby helping to eliminate redundancy and duplication and generating economies of scale. There would also be greater sharing of information and intelligence among them.
It is especially significant that the programmatic savings and improved efficiencies gained by bringing together these federal law enforcement agencies under one new department would benefit all of the Coast Guard's maritime missions, including the "traditional" ones that are the focus of congressional interest. If the Coast Guard were located outside the directorate, however, it would be difficult to realize these advantages fully.
The Benefits of
the Coast Guard's Multi-Mission Focus Would Unravel
Any attempt to enforce an artificial distinction between homeland security and non-homeland security responsibilities ignores the Coast Guard's long-standing doctrine of operating as a multi-mission service. The Coast Guard has never categorized its responsibilities as either "homeland" or "non-homeland" security or required that its forces be assigned to one or the other.
The Stevens amendments grossly oversimplify the Coast Guard's missions. Essentially, if the amendments were enacted, they would establish two Coast Guards--one for "traditional" or "non-homeland security" missions and one for "homeland security" missions. One would be basically humanitarian, regulatory, and focused on service, and the other would perform primarily law enforcement and national defense functions. In effect, this would reinvent the modern Coast Guard along the older patterns that prevailed before its various constituent agencies were brought together to form today's service. The "non-homeland security" missions of the Coast Guard today reflect the old U.S. Lifesaving Service, U.S. Lighthouse Service, and Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. The "homeland security" missions recall the old U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.
In fact, the skills, authorities, and relationships associated with so-called non-homeland security missions provide real value-added to homeland security, and all of them have been core competencies of the service since its origins in the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. For example, daily Coast Guard patrols of U.S. waters to protect fisheries, advance safety among recreational boaters, and monitor the movement of hazardous materials on ships and within ports provide the Coast Guard with the physical presence and opportunities to detect a broad range of potentially dangerous activities--much as community policing does.
Consider a terrorist attempting to use a fishing vessel to smuggle other terrorists and their equipment into the United States. A Coast Guard officer performing a routine fishery boarding and visual inspection of that vessel might become suspicious and decide to verify the fishermen's personal identification documents with a shore-based intelligence fusion center that has access to multiple databases. If the fusion center reports that some of the information on the documents is false, the boarding officer could make an arrest.
Virtually all non-administrative Coast Guard missions follow a common sequence: Observe, detect, and identify unusual maritime incidents; investigate those of special interest; and then provide appropriate responses. This sequence is basically the same for law enforcement (counterdrug, alien interdiction, smuggling, and fisheries law enforcement); national security (counterterrorism, homeland security, and military operations); environmental protection; and life-saving missions (search and rescue).
Since all these operations follow the same pattern, the Coast Guard conducts them with the same assets; it does not need dedicated and separate forces for each operation. To require otherwise would be to introduce significant duplication, overlap, and inefficiencies into an organization that routinely has been judged to be one of the most effective and efficient government agencies anywhere in the world.
The increased emphasis on ocean surveillance and maritime intelligence needed to protect the homeland will greatly benefit these "traditional" Coast Guard missions. For example, the additional information gathered as a matter of course for homeland security and the enhanced situational awareness that results will help to take the "search" out of search and rescue and ensure more frequent and effective monitoring of fishing grounds and faster identification of possible violators.
Furthermore, the Coast Guard's performance standard for responding to search-and-rescue incidents has significant implications for its homeland security mission. This standard requires the Coast Guard to have an aircraft or boat at the scene of a distress within two hours after receiving a distress call.14 Using these same search-and-rescue boats, cutters, and aircraft, the Coast Guard can have the appropriate response capabilities at the scene of a terrorist or criminal incident on almost the same time scale. This is the essence of a multi-mission approach: The same people, platforms, and systems conduct many different and challenging tasks, delivering to the American taxpayers extraordinary value for their money.
The issue that Congress should be addressing is not the potential neglect of so-called traditional Coast Guard missions due to the new necessity to improve homeland security, but rather the simple fact that the Coast Guard needs additional resources to do both jobs well. Rather than effectively creating two separate Coast Guards, Congress should concentrate on providing the totality of resources that a single, multi-mission, integrated Coast Guard will need to conduct all the missions, whether "traditional" or emerging.
At the dawn of the 21st century, America's national security interests and the means required to safeguard them have changed. As the definition of national security has broadened, terrorism has become just one of the threats to homeland security.
No longer focused solely on military threats, America faces security challenges that respect no boundaries. Many of these challenges are characterized predominantly as law enforcement. America's population and critical infrastructure are increasingly at risk from a variety of transnational non-military threats that could well emanate from the sea. In addition to global terrorism, these include pollution, over-fishing, illegal migration, drug smuggling, pandemics, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and mass effects--threats that can exploit safe passage in the U.S. maritime domain. As a sovereign nation, the United States must exercise control over this domain, or aggressors will operate with impunity and sovereignty will become meaningless.
Congress, by understanding these fundamental changes and the demands they are placing on the Coast Guard's capabilities and readiness, should not try to create two Coast Guards: one for "traditional" missions and another for homeland security. The Coast Guard's missions have evolved over two centuries not by choice, but because the nation has asked more of the service as the threats changed and expanded.
Numbers really do count in ensuring that the Coast Guard can carry out its "traditional" missions while stepping up to its new role in homeland security. Insufficient ships, aircraft, and personnel invite greater risks. Regardless of a platform's capabilities, it can be in only one place at a time. A smaller Coast Guard means just that--smaller, not more capable. Effectiveness comes from strength, and the Coast Guard's strength is founded primarily on quality ships, airplanes, and people.
Rather than isolate the Coast Guard from other agencies responsible for border and transportation security, Congress should focus on the means to reduce fragmentation, improve coordination, and clarify roles and responsibilities among the agencies forming the Border and Transportation Security directorate. Congress should also provide specific guidance by assigning functional security responsibilities to create an interconnected, complementary border and transportation security system with a self-reinforcing and non-duplicative architecture.
In much the same way, each participating organization can serve as "an anchor of the new agency" in its own area of expertise. The U.S. Customs Service has great skill and experience in conducting investigations and should take the lead in providing that functional capability for the directorate. This approach offers significant promise for reducing waste and fragmentation, improving coordination, and clarifying roles and responsibilities, such as that of the Coast Guard in cargo or container security.
Assigning functional responsibilities within an interconnected, complementary border and transportation security system would create an architecture that is self-reinforcing and non-duplicative. If Congress does not provide this guidance, it runs the risk of building in failure within an important new department. As Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has stated, "If you're not really going to change the status quo, then why create a department that you can't effect the change within? If all we do is simply bolt or staple together a bunch of disparate agencies, you won't be able to get the job done."16
Although well-meant, Senator Ted Stevens's amendments to the Senate's version of the homeland security bill18 take a piecemeal approach to improving homeland security. Protecting the people and territory of the United States requires a comprehensive, integrated, and well-coordinated border and transportation security system. Only the complete consolidation of all the stakeholders can ensure that the Department of Homeland Security has adequate capabilities for planning, preparing, and executing the required responses to security contingencies. Separating the U.S. Coast Guard from the Border and Transportation Security directorate of the new department undermines the unity of approach that is needed and virtually assures that the fragmentation and coordination problems evident after September 11, 2001, will continue.
Isolating the Coast Guard as the Stevens amendments would do also flies in the face of the Defense Department's expertise in ending inter-service rivalry and achieving unity of effort--or "jointness"--within the armed forces. After years of poor coordination and infighting, Congress passed the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which strengthened the authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and created a mechanism for making the four services work together. But some in Congress would ignore this seminal experience and give the Coast Guard a unique status within the border security infrastructure to assure its focus on "traditional" missions. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), for example, has remarked that "traditional missions haven't disappeared. We still need the Coast Guard to keep drugs and illegal migrants off our shores, to protect our environment...and to protect the lives of our fishermen."19
While no one would disagree with that assessment, it is incomplete. As Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) has pointed out, "The Coast Guard has a lot to do, and now we've added different responsibilities because of September 11th. The bottom line is that the Coast Guard doesn't have the resources to do the job."20 Senator Lieberman agreed: "the critical question is capacity--in other words, will America support the Coast Guard adequately to continue performing its non-homeland security functions and to pick up the additional homeland security duties?"21
The nation would answer "yes." The U.S. Coast Guard should be a part of the DHS Border and Transportation Security directorate, and its activities should be tightly integrated with all the other border security agencies, so that synergy will arise from close collaboration among all. The best way to maintain today's "traditional" services is to give the Coast Guard sufficient resources to cover all of its vital missions and core responsibilities, especially homeland security.
--Bruce Stubbs, a retired Coast Guard officer has commanded a major cutter, served in Vietnam, and worked on the National Security Council staff during the Reagan Administration. He is now a technical director, Center for Security Strategies and Operations, Anteon Corporation, Arlington, Virginia.
1. Ronald O'Rourke,
"Homeland Security: Coast Guard Operations--Background and Issues
Congress," Congressional Research Service, Report for Congress RS21125, July 29, 2002, pp.
1-2. "In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft were
diverted from [other missions] to patrol U.S. ports and coastal waters. Coast Guard personnel began boarding and inspecting inbound vessels, escorting cruise ships into and out of port, and escorting oil tankers into and out of Valdez, Alaska. The Coast Guard instituted new regulations requiring inbound ships to provide 96-hour (as opposed to the previous 24-hour) advance notice of arrival, to provide more time to board and inspect vessels. Four of the Coast Guard's six Port Security Units were activated and assigned to help protect ports. The Coast Guard established and enforced security zones to protect Navy ships and bases. To help implement these actions, the Coast Guard initially activated 2,600 of its 8,000 reservists."
6. By statute, the Coast Guard is "a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times" (14 U.S.C. 1) and must "maintain a state of readiness to function as a specialized service in the Navy" (14 U.S.C. 2). Arguably the world's 10th largest naval force, the Coast Guard has significant capability, experience, and expertise to apply to homeland security and littoral combat operations, particularly maritime intercept operations in support of the war on terrorism. Interestingly, the Coast Guard did not appear before the Defense-related congressional committees to testify about the national defense implications of a $17 billion contract it was awarded in inJune 2002 to build and operate hundreds of new ships and aircraft for the next 20 years. The award occurred without any oversight from the House or Senate Armed Services Committees.
10. Under the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee proposal, the United States Border Patrol and other enforcement functions of the Immigration and Naturalization service would also be left out of the Border and Transportation Security directorate.
11. See Daniel B. Wood, "Coast Guard Cuts New Path in Terror War," The Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 2002. The Senate bill also fails to transfer the United States Border Patrol and other enforcement functions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Border and Transportation Security directorate. Instead, under the Government Affairs Committee draft, these functions are included in a separate Directorate for Immigration Affairs.
12. According to the Coast Guard Budget Execution Office in Coast Guard Headquarters (G-CBU), the Administration has mandated, and Congress has agreed to, 11 major Coast Guard mission categories for presentation purposes. However, Congress appropriates funds to only seven major mission categories, while the Coast Guard, on its official Web site and in publications for internal and external information purposes, lists 22 missions under five roles.
13. See Paul L. Posner, Managing Director, Federal Budget Issues, Strategic Issues, U.S. General Accounting Office, "Homeland Security--Effective Intergovernmental Coordination Is Key to Success," testimony before the Subcommittees on Government Efficiency, Financial Management, and Intergovernmental Relations, Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, GAO-02-1012T, August 22, 2002, p. 14.
17. General Barry McCaffrey, U.S. Army Retired, "Challenges to US National Security, The War on Terrorism: Protecting America's Land and Maritime Frontiers," Armed Forces Journal International, July 2002.