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DHS at 10: The U.S. Coast Guard

Secretary Napolitano, Admiral Papp and senior leaders of the Department participate in DHS' Sept. 11th Tenth Anniversary Commemoration event in 2011.

Posted by Adm. Bob Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard

Throughout 2013, we are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security. In recognition of this important milestone, leaders from across the Department and its component agencies will be discussing their beginnings, their present operations, and what’s to come.

In recognition of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s tenth anniversary, I took the opportunity to answer questions about the past, present and future of the Coast Guard. The exceptional dedication of the men and women of this Department has greatly improved our Nation’s safety, security and resiliency, and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is proud to be part of the DHS team.

What is the Coast Guard’s mission, and how did the Coast Guard function prior to the creation of DHS?

The Coast Guard is responsible for the safety, security and stewardship of our Nation’s waters.  We protect those on the sea, protect the nation from threats delivered by sea, and protect the sea itself.  Coast Guardsmen conduct these duties along 95,000 miles of coastline, 4.5 million square miles of maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (the ocean area where a country has rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, typically extending 200 nautical miles offshore) , and on the high seas where we identify threats and prevent them from reaching our shores. 

We have been conducting these missions since 1790, serving under the Department of Treasury for most of our history, the Department of the Navy during both World Wars, and the Department of Transportation prior to the formation of DHS.

How does the Coast Guard operate today? Since the creation of DHS, what has changed for the Coast Guard?

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 the Coast Guard received new authorities through the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code to carry out its missions and strengthen our Nation’s security.  As a component of DHS, we also increased the capabilities of our forces to counter threats unique to the maritime environment through expansion of our cutters, boats, aircraft and Deployable Specialized Forces. The Coast Guard also became a member of the national intelligence community, able to leverage capabilities across government to identify threats and monitor the maritime domain.

Improvements to our Service since our inclusion in DHS, coupled with our long-standing unique capabilities, authorities and partnerships positioned us well to lead the response to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Hurricane Sandy. 

What does the future look like for the Coast Guard?

As I look toward the horizon I remain optimistic, despite the challenges we face as a Nation.  The Coast Guard is focused on continuing our recapitalization efforts and sustaining our front line operations, while also addressing emerging and dynamic challenges such as the new maritime frontier in the Arctic. The Coast Guard’s missions are expansive—as are waters for which we are responsible—and we remain Semper Paratus, Always Ready as part of DHS to ensure the Nation’s homeland security.

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