CHANGE AND CONTINUITY: The U.S. Coast Guard Today

By Collins, Thomas H. | Naval War College Review, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

CHANGE AND CONTINUITY: The U.S. Coast Guard Today


Collins, Thomas H., Naval War College Review


Admiral Collins assumed the duties of Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on 30 May 2002. Prior to becoming Commandant, he served as the Coast Guard's Vice Commandant, spearheading servicewide initiatives as the Coast Guard Acquisition Executive. From 1998 to 2000 he served as Commander, Pacific Area and Eleventh Coast Guard District. His other flag assignments include service as Commander, Fourteenth Coast Guard District in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Chief, Office of Acquisition at Coast Guard Headquarters.

Admiral Collins began his Coast Guard career as a deck watch officer and first lieutenant aboard the cutter Vigilant (WMEC 617). Following that assignment, he commanded the cutter Cape Morgan (WPB 95313). His shore operational assignments include Deputy Commander, Group St. Petersburg, Florida, and Commander of Coast Guard Group and Captain of the Port, Long Island Sound, in New Haven, Connecticut. Prior to his promotion to flag rank in 1994 he served as the Chief, Programs Division at Coast Guard Headquarters, and then the Coast Guard's Deputy Chief of Staff.

Admiral Collins graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1968 and later served as a faculty member within the Humanities Department. He earned a master of arts degree in liberal studies from Wesleyan University and a master of business administration from the University of New Haven.

The men and women of our Coast Guard are showing once again that you are "always ready!' You're always ready to serve with courage and excellence. You are always ready to place your country's safety above your own. You shield your fellow Americans from the danger of this world, and America is grateful.

PRESIDENT GEORGEW. BUSH, 31 MARCH 2003

The first anniversary of the U.S. Coast Guard's realignment under the Department of Homeland security in March 2003 provides an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary events that have transpired since that transition and to consider their implications for tomorrow's Coast Guard.

We are all well aware that the terrorist events of the last two years have substantially changed the national security environment in which our armed forces serve our nation. In fact, these factors of change are elements of a new range of transitional and nonstate cultural threats (drugs, illegal migrants, piracy, illegal fishing, and organized crime, along with terrorism) that have been gathering momentum over the last decade or so. The breadth of security threats directed at our nation has grown not only more expansive but more complex-driving the need for the armed services to make a "transformational" examination of the capabilities and capacity (force structure) needed to address them. We in the U.S. Coast Guard, although aligned organizationally outside the Department of Defense, are no less impacted by these winds of change, especially in terms of mission relevance and our emphasis on the need for a transformational approach to our capabilities and capacity so that we may deal effectively with evolving national security requirements.

The Coast Guard's roles as a military service, as a federal law-enforcement agency, as a regulatory authority of maritime transportation systems, and as a member of the new Department of Homeland security place it squarely at the center of national initiatives to reduce security risks to our nation. Coast Guard operations over the past year reflect these dynamics and were as challenging as any in its 213-year history. These realities suggest that 2003 was a watershed for today's Coast Guard. I use the term advisedly, because the past year represents a true dividing line between our past and our future with respect to our continued role as a maritime, military, and multimission service.

Confronting new demands of homeland security and the global war on terrorism, the Coast Guard supported Operation LIBERTY SHIELD to defend the nation's ports, waterways, coastlines, and critical infrastructure.

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