A Project of the Coast Guard Aviation Association

1999 – The Interagency Task Force on Coast Guard Roles and Missions

In Executive Order 13115, the President established the Interagency Task Force on the Roles and Missions of the United States Coast Guard. The President directed the Task Force to “provide advice and recommendations regarding the appropriate roles and missions for the United States Coast Guard through the year 2020.” While the Executive Order sought a review of all Coast Guard roles and missions, it directed the Task Force to give special attention to the deepwater missions of the Coast Guard. The Executive Order defined Deepwater missions as those occurring beyond fifty (50) nautical miles from U.S. shores. The President emphasized deepwater missions because the Coast Guard was currently pursuing its Deepwater Capabilities Replacement Project which involves the replacement or modernization of many of the ships and aircraft used in search and rescue, drug interdiction, the interception of illegal immigrants, fisheries regulation, defense operations and other at-sea operations.

The Task Force, which reported to the President through the Secretary of Transportation, was chaired by U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary Mortimer L. Downey. The other members of the task force included deputy secretaries of cabinet-level departments, members of President Clinton’s staff, and members of staff advisory councils. Admiral James M. Loy, Commandant of the Coast Guard, was also a member.

“The critical importance of the Coast Guard to maritime safety, security and environmental protection demands that we take a focused look at how it can carry out its mission most effectively,” Deputy Secretary Downey said.

The task force identified and distinguished which Coast Guard roles, missions, and functions might be added or enhanced, maintained at current levels of performance, reduced, or eliminated. It also considered whether these roles, missions and functions might be better performed by private organizations, public authorities, local or state governments, or other federal agencies. In addition to these requirements, the task force also advised as to how these roles, missions and functions might be performed more effectively and efficiently. The last roles and missions study for the Coast Guard had been conducted in 1982.

Since the 1982 Roles and Missions Study, a new National Drug Control Strategy emerged. In 1988, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act established the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to set priorities, implement a national strategy, and certify federal drug-control budgets. Executive Orders 12880 (1993) and 12992 and 13023 (1996) assigned ONDCP responsibility within the executive branch for leading drug-control policy and developing an outcome-measurement system. Since 1994 the Commandant of the Coast Guard has been appointed as the U.S. Interdiction Coordinator for counter drug operations in the western hemisphere.

It was further determined that vessels and aircraft fighting to stem the flow of illicit narcotics would also continue their duties interdicting illegal migrants. The Federal Government implemented policies to streamline the interdiction of illegal migrants at sea. In 1992, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12807, which eliminated the requirement that migrants be screened at sea for refugee status. Presidential Directive 9, signed in 1993, provides policy guidance to federal agencies stating that the U.S. government “will take the necessary measures to preempt, interdict and deter alien smuggling into the U.S.” It now specifically tasks the Coast Guard with interdicting illegal migrants as far as possible from U.S. shores.

In combating the twin threats of illegal maritime immigration and drug trafficking, Coast Guard engagement activities, including training and exercises with foreign maritime forces, have fostered closer ties and improved cooperation with foreign nations. These engagement activities have reduced demand on Coast Guard resources as foreign maritime law enforcement operations disrupt drug trafficking and illegal immigration closer to its point of origination.

Coast Guard aviation forces were to be upgraded and transitioned in accordance with Deepwater requirements.

The committee stated that in a world where the U.S. exists as the only true superpower and has accepted the challenge and responsibilities of global leadership, the probable threats to U.S. security have changed. The single, dominant threat posed by the Soviet Union has been replaced by smaller, yet significant regional challenges to our national interests and that the existing environment would create new demands for operations other than war, peacekeeping, crisis response, and counter-terrorism.

The terrorist attack of September 2001 on the World Trade Towers dramatically changed the course and emphasis of the Committee’s conclusions. While much remained germane the recognition of the severe danger imposed by organized international terrorism had not yet taken place. Security would become primary. A Department of Homeland Security was established to address this danger to the United States. The Coast Guard became an integral part of the newly created Department transferring from the Department of Transportation on 1 March 2003.

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