As the United States looked to a new millennium, the time was ripe to look at the Coast Guard's future. But before we could chart a new course for the service, we had to answer some difficult questions. What are the nature and scope of the threats and challenges facing the nation on its maritime borders and inland waterways? What is the best course of action to deal with them? If the U.S. Coast Guard did not exist, would we have to invent it? If we determined that the nation needed a first-rate coast guard, what roles and missions should it perform, and what would it need to carry them out safely and affordably?
Such questions and uncertainties convinced President Bill Clinton in March 1999 to establish the Interagency Task Force on U.S. Coast Guard Roles and Missions, with a mandate to "provide advice and recommendations regarding the appropriate roles and missions for the United States Coast Guard through the year 2020." After nearly a year of intensive study, interviews, meetings, and briefings, the task force was unanimous in its key findings: