Exporting Coast Guard Expertise

By Vice Admiral James Loy and Captain Bruce Stubbs, U.S Coast Guard

Based on the Coast Guard's multimission character and successful involvement in the international community, CinCEur and U.S. Naval Forces, European Command (USNavEur), have developed requirements for Coast Guard forces. Both want the service to support the maritime component of their theater engagement strategy by participating in such activities as military-to-military contacts, professional exchanges, international organizations and agreements, technical and security assistance, operational deployments, combined operations and exercises, and port visits. In addition, the U.S. European Command (USEuCom) has a continuing requirement for Coast Guard support of contingency plans for coastal sea control, harbor defense, and port security.

CinCEur's overarching theater strategic goals are to promote stability and prevent aggression. One principal concept to promote stability is to "engage in peacetime," using military resources in nontraditional ways to mold the security environment toward peacekeeping objectives and enhance security cooperation and interaction. Three programs of significant application to the Coast Guard are the International Military and Education Training Program (IMET), Partnership for Peace, and the Joint Contact Team Program.

One part of the International Military and Education Training Program involves Coast Guard Mobile Training Teams (MTrs), which enable the Coast Guard to train other nations' maritime services in a variety of technical issues using the equipment and facilities of the host nation. The International Training Division at Yorktown, Virginia - the center of MTT efforts - can deploy teams around the world in all Coast Guard mission areas. During fiscal year 1996, MTTs conducted training in 45 countries at the request of the Departments of Defense and State.

The other half of IMET is the resident training program, which allows foreign students to study at Coast Guard specialty schools in the United States. Since 1942, international students from more than 110 countries have attended Coast Guard resident schools. There currently are 72 courses available that expose the students to many aspects of Coast Guard operations; more than one-third of the students take advantage of their time here to get on-the-job training with our operational units.

While enrolled in Coast Guard schools, international students have an opportunity to learn about American culture and institutions and our commitment to human rights. The International Maritime Officers Course was developed recently in response to congressional requests to expand military training opportunities under IMET, to include democracy, military justice, and human rights. In fiscal year 1996, the Coast Guard was able to train personnel from 79 countries through resident training courses.

Begun in 1992, Partnership for Peace primarily is a multilateral NATO exercise program directed at central European and former Soviet republics. Its primary objectives are to facilitate national defense planning and budgeting, develop democratic control of defense forces, maintain the ability and willingness to contribute to common security requirements, foster cooperative military relations with NATO, and develop forces that are better able to operate with NATO members in humanitarian missions, search and rescue, and peacekeeping operations. Partnership for Peace liaison teams use familiarization tours, ship visits, conferences, and personnel exchanges to accomplish their mission. As of October 1996, the Coast Guard had conducted 44 such events in its mission areas, each one fully funded by USEuCom.

Why Is the Coast Guard Engaged Outside Our Shores?

The Coast Guard's reputation as a multimission law enforcement, humanitarian, and regulatory agency-with an unthreatening military presence-makes it well suited for the maritime diplomacy role of engagement. Most of the world's navies conduct functions in the coastal or contiguous seas. They are not blue-water, power-projection, sea-control navies-but rather regional navies that also enforce laws, protect resources, conduct search and rescue, prevent environmental damage, and maintain aids to navigation. These navies resemble the Coast Guard in everything but name, and they readily relate to the Coast Guard because of similarities in force mix and missions.

In the March 1995 International Navies issue of Proceedings, 29 commanders of the world's navies commented on what makes their forces relevant today. Eighteen mentioned Coast Guard-equivalent missions such as search and rescue, environmental protection, fisheries protection, and law enforcement as part of their taskings.

The Coast Guard is the right instrument to supplement current U.S. efforts to engage maritime nations, especially those the United States would like to influence. During the November 1995 meeting of the Navy-Coast Guard Board, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations commented on the successful deployment of the Dallas to the Mediterranean and Black seas: "Cutter Dallas was a tremendous success. The Commission on Roles and Missions directed services to look at better options for engagement; this is right in line with that. Many navies want to look like the U.S. Navy . . . but showing them a cutter like Dallas might be just right for them."

Both USEuCom and USNavEur believe in the complementary value and relevancy of the Coast Guard in supporting their objective of promoting regional stability. Collectively, these two commands affirmed that the Coast Guard can:

  • Act as a role model for emerging democratic nations in providing maritime services-most do not want high-end, high-tech warfighting navies
  • Build stable and useful maritime services for these nations, showing them how to develop multimission maritime agencies rather than potentially destabilizing warfighting navies
  • Engage host nations' existing navies or maritime services without overwhelming them
  • Access multiple ministries of a host nation beyond the defense ministry, opening up many more doors to enduring relationships

A senior USEuCom staff officer summed it up this way: "You're the right force to reach the majority of the navies, especially the [Partnership for Peace] navies; what these countries need and can afford is a Coast Guard-like array of missions and associated force structure. The Coast Guard is an excellent example of civilian control of the military and how to merge together an agency with military and civilian duties."

There are, however, some impediments to using the Coast Guard. There are more demands for its services than can be met. Not everyone in the administration or Congress understands why the Coast Guard should operate overseas at all. Given the CinCs’ requirements for Coast Guard services, there must be wider congressional and administration support of the Coast Guard's engagement role. Decision makers outside the service are not sure if or to what extent the Coast Guard should play. They see engagement as competing against what they consider to be the Coast Guard's true or traditional missions, and they don't recognize the Coast Guard's value as an instrument of national security, both at home and abroad.

The Coast Guard must lead the way in articulating the value of its role in and contribution to the national security goal of engagement. It must include such topics as scope, level of effort, and the relationship of the Coast Guard's own International Activities Program to the engagement strategies of the unified commanders, and it must consider what level of effort will be acceptable to the service's political and congressional leadership. This articulation must be communicated both internally and externally, to provide terms of reference for these efforts and to drive the development of a long-term Coast Guard International Strategic Plan. Such efforts currently are under way under the direction of the international affairs staff, with the participation of the area commanders.

The Coast Guard's contributions need to be mentioned and discussed in key national security documents. They need to be endorsed in unified commanders' congressional testimony. Coast Guard Headquarters staff and appropriate area staffs should be on formal distribution lists for the CinCs' regional campaign plans and individual country plans, for review and input of Coast Guard capabilities where applicable. An annual report of Coast Guard support activities by each unified commander would help to document Coast Guard contributions. Such initiatives are under way.

The Coast Guard Atlantic and Pacific Areas have a major responsibility to conduct international activities and to provide support to the unified commanders. Coast Guard Atlantic Area uses a theater engagement campaign based on the policy direction contained in the Commandant's Strategic International Plan and guidance from the Commandant's International Advisory Group-to execute its strategy. The resulting plan for action calls for the employment of Atlantic Area forces to:

  • Expand U.S. interaction with littoral nations beyond traditional DoD contact
  • Expand U.S. presence and contact with those nations for which U.S. Navy presence is not yet appropriate

Using port visits, professional exchanges, operational deployments, combined operations, and military-to-military events, this campaign plan leverages unique Coast Guard capabilities to complement and expand U.S. maritime peacetime engagement efforts. It also stresses the Coast Guard as a role model for developing nations.

With the end of the Cold War, the Coast Guard's national defense mission has taken on a new slant. No longer a naval reserve augmentation force for convoy protection and coastal U.S. security, the Coast Guard now is contributing to national defense with relevant, complementary, and unique capabilities. The heart of this contribution is the expeditionary force designed for port security and harbor defense under the U.S. maritime defense zones. Peacetime engagement is a valuable addition to this role.

The 1995 and 1996 deployments of the Dallas and Gallatin have generated many new ideas and new ways to incorporate Coast Guard capabilities to help the unified commanders accomplish their strategic goals. The Coast Guard has the opportunity - perhaps the responsibility - to export its expertise abroad; the challenge now will be one of prioritization and continued legitimacy. Senior DoD commanders and their staffs are becoming more knowledgeable about the Coast Guard and strongly support its role as an instrument of national security. We have much to offer. It is up to us to communicate that wisely.


James Loy Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.) completed a 45-year career in public service, retiring in 2005 as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. In this capacity, he was involved in all aspects of consolidating 22 separate agencies into one unified Cabinet department as well as managing the agency's day-to-day activities. Prior to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, Admiral Loy served in the Department of Transportation as Deputy Undersecretary for Security and Chief Operating Officer of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and later as Under Secretary for Security. In these roles, he served as the first administrator of the newly created TSA, which is responsible for protecting the Nation's transportation systems. Admiral Loy retired from the Coast Guard in 2002, having served as its Commandant since May 1998. As head of the 90,000 person service, he restored readiness through workforce development and modernized the Coast Guard's fleet of ships and aircraft. Admiral Loy co-authored the Naval Institute Press book The Architecture of Leadership.

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