Magazine article National Defense

Coast Guard Boosting Cooperation with Military

Magazine article National Defense

Coast Guard Boosting Cooperation with Military

Article excerpt

* VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Last summer, as Russian forces lay siege to the nation of Georgia, the Coast Guard cutter Dallas, along with two Navy ships, sailed to the Black Sea to provide relief.

The Coat Guard crew, under Operation Assured Delivery, docked at the port of Bat'umi, and delivered 80 pallets of humanitarian assistance supplies.

There are likely to be more joint missions such as these for the Coast Guard, officials said. The Dallas, prior to the Georgia mission, participated in Africa Partnership Station, an initiative to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.

The Coast Guard's traditional role has been to undertake missions off U.S. shores--"the home game"--while the Navy has usually worked overseas--"the away game." But the Coast Guard has officially incorporated into its doctrine the idea of further integration with other military branches. And it is increasingly putting this idea into practice.

In October 2007, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard released a joint document, entitled "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower," which outlines this new doctrine of cooperation.

"Coast Guard forces must be able to operate as part of a joint task force thousands of miles from our shores," a pamphlet describing the document said. "And naval forces must be able to respond to operational tasking close to home when necessary to secure our nation and support civil authorities."

"It's the first time in history, at least that we found documented, that the commandant of the Marine Corps, the commandant of the Coast Guard and the chief of naval operations signed a joint document that began to define how [they] ... will work with each other," said Rear Adm. Jody Breckenridge, director of the Coast Guard's strategic transformation team. She spoke at the annual National Defense Industrial Association's Coast Guard conference and exhibition.

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The challenge for the Coast Guard will be to implement those ideas, she said.

"I think the biggest [challenge] is operationalizing the joint maritime strategy that the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Navy have signed. That is going to be the way forward," she said.

In line with the new doctrine, the service will increasingly act in places where the Navy might not. This could include places where sending a Navy ship overseas, even to deliver aid, could give the wrong political message, said Dana Goward, director of Coast Guard assessment, integration and risk management.

Anchoring a naval vessel off another country's shores could be perceived as threatening, he said. The cutter Dallas that helped to deliver relief supplies to Georgia is one example.

"In many instances a Coast Guard boat is much more acceptable to a foreign nation because it is not from the [Defense Department]," Goward said. These types of missions will increase, he added.

"When natural or manmade disasters strike, our maritime forces can provide humanitarian assistance and relief, joining with interagency and nongovernmental partners," the joint document said.

The vast majority of the world's population lives within a few hundred miles of the ocean, the document noted.

"Social instability in increasingly crowded cities, many of which exist in already unstable parts of the world, has the potential to create significant disruptions. …

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