As the Coast Guard continues its transformation to meet the challenges of a post-9/11 world, one of its traditional missions, aids to navigation (AtoN), is being overlooked. Unglamorous, the AtoN mission appears unable to find a niche in its new home, the Department of Homeland security (DHS). Struggling for alignment with DHS strategic goals, AtoN's relative importance within the organization has diminished. In the Coast Guard's new normalcy, the perception is that this mission is no longer important. That view is misguided; AtoN has been and always will be vital to our nation's prosperity and security. However, current signs indicate that the aids to navigation community is headed for troubled waters.
Some AtoN boats and cutters are well past their service lives and very difficult to operate and maintain. A lack of experienced and qualified personnel at some units is now common. Corrective action must be taken or the aids to navigation mission risks becoming a liability to mariners.
The Value of AtoN