The Coast Guard entered the 21st century with a multi-mission role but with aging ships and aircraft. It was clear that capital resources had to be updated.
Coast Guard response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 were widely praised. Coast Guard boats were deeply involved in the evacuation of lower Manhattan and a Coast Guard officer was on scene commander for the evacuation working from a New York City pilot boat.
11 September 2001 brought a new mission and a move from the dreaded Department of Transportation. The Coast Guard became one of the premier agencies in the new Department of Homeland Security. This move, for a change, brought new money with it. The Coast Guard was about to get a facelift.
Coast Guard missions were still pretty much the same as they had always been. Coast Guard Headquarters had two main operational directorates. The Marine Safety and Environmental Protection Directorate was responsible for Maritime Security, which included merchant mariner licensing, vessel inspection, vessel traffic control, hazardous cargo regulation, port security, and environmental protection. The Operations Directorate handled recreational boating safety, bridge administration, enforcement of laws and treaties (mostly drug and alien interdiction and living marine resources protection), aids to navigation, International Ice Patrol, ice breaking, and search and rescue. All missions now had a Homeland Security tint.
The Coast Guard’s homeland security mission is not new to us. It is more visible today than it was prior to the tragic events of 11 September 2001, but it is just as important as it was when we first began protecting our national sovereignty 211 years ago. The Coast Guard maintains a clear vision and a keen sense of vigilance while keeping watch for threats to our security and those who would do us harm.
As part of Operation Noble Eagle, the Coast Guard is at a heightened state of alert protecting more than 361 ports and 95,000 miles of coastline, America’s longest border. The Coast Guard continues to play an integral role in maintaining the operations of our ports and waterways by providing a secure environment in which mariners and the American people can safely go about the business of living and working freely.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard immediately mobilized more than 2,000 Reservists in the largest homeland defense and port security operation since World War II. The Coast Guard has increased its vigilance, readiness, and patrols to protect the country’s 95,000 miles of coastline, including the Great Lakes and inland waterways.
The Coast Guard’s homeland security role includes:
*Protect ports, the flow of commerce, and the marine transportation system from terrorism.
*Maintain maritime border security against illegal drugs, illegal aliens, firearms, and weapons of mass destruction.
*Ensure that we can rapidly deploy and resupply our military assets, both by keeping Coast Guard units at a high state of readiness, and by keeping marine transportation open for the transit assets and personnel from other branches of the armed forces.
*Protect against illegal fishing and indiscriminate destruction of living marine resources, prevention and response to oil and hazardous material spills–both accidental and intentional.
*Coordinate efforts and intelligence with federal, state, and local agencies.
Operation Noble Eagle refers to US military operations associated with homeland defense and civil support to federal, state and local agencies in the United States, and includes the increased security measures taken after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The operation involves joint agency coordination and cooperation to ensure our nation and borders are protected from future attacks. An increased presence will prevent and deter those who would cause harm to innocent Americans.
Operation Enduring Freedom refers generally to US military operations associated with the war on terrorism outside the United States. Coast Guard port security units have deployed in support of this operation.
Through the turn of the centuries, cutters and aircraft were replaced by newer, more modern types. Missions came and went. And through it all, the Coast Guard has remained Semper Parartus – Always Ready.
For a complete list of the cutters currently in the Fleet go to this Link.
For a complete list of aircraft currently in the Fleet go to this Link.