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Role of the Coast Guard in Homeland Security

NCJ Number
James M. Loy
Date Published
December 2001
7 pages
This paper examines the role of the Coast Guard in Homeland Security.
The paper claims that the Coast Guard--with its multiple missions, maritime expertise, military discipline, and civil law enforcement authority--is a unique instrument of a broad strategy to ensure America's security. The Commission on National Security Strategy/21st Century (the Hart-Rudman Commission) reported that "the United States will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attacks on the American homeland and US military superiority will not entirely protect [the country]..." The paper cautions that, although America can and should use the military to meet threats at the country's borders, it must always be used only as necessary to support and aid those who are responsible for enforcing the civil authority. The Coast Guard's special qualifications include: (1) their unique position among Federal agencies to fight an enemy that crosses boundaries with seeming impunity; (2) their ability to separate guilty vessels from the large volume of commercial vessels, to put a boarding team aboard the guilty vessel even if it resists or won't stop; (3) their capability to evaluate each case and dispose of it based on the complex humanitarian, diplomatic, military, geopolitical, environmental, and legal issues at stake; and (4) their capacity to coordinate proposed enforcement actions among all parties with a legitimate voice in the matter.