Our conclusion is that there has been a significant change in the Coast Guard role but that this is a necessary response to the changing face of crime and terrorism on the oceans. United States Coast Guard Their Role in Border Security What is the role of the U. S. Coast Guard in terms of border security and how does it carry out that role? This is the question that we shall be studying within this report. Having studied and researched we the changes to the Coast Guards mission and, in particular the reasons and causes that have led to their current role in and duties with regard to border security.
Amongst the oldest government organization, the U. S. Coast Guard was formed originally under the name of “Revenue Marine”. Its history dates back to 1740. Initially its main task was collecting revenue for the government and to stop smuggling. Over the years its duties and responsibilities have expanded to include assisting in distress and rescue, dealing with incidence of slavery and charting the coastline. Before the U. S. Navy was formed in 1798, it also was the only seabourne-armed force.
Over recent years it has become part of the Department of Homeland, were it is responsible for enforcing the nations laws of the sea and ensuring safety of both vessels and persons. However in wartime its line of command transfers responsibility to the Navy Department. (United States Coast Guard, website 2006). The growing globalization in terms of politics and commercialization has brought with it an international expansion of crime and terrorist groups.
In recent times the Coast Guard’s role has changed to meet this, with an increased focus on a number of key security areas including smuggling, illegal immigration and, more importantly, the perceived and actual threat from terrorism. As Admiral Allen (2006) points out in his statement on the Coast Guard website, this change is an ongoing situation and they have to remain flexible in their approach to maintain a positive and effective proactive and reactionary response to the constantly changing demands of the issues within their remit.
Within this document we are concentrating upon four key issues, theft and smuggling, illegal immigration, terrorism and a brief look at the services they have provided overseas. Theft and Smuggling Since the first moment human beings invented a form of sea transport, there have been those who have seen and seized the opportunity for ill-gotten gains. Indeed, as previous stated, smuggling was one of the original reasons for the formation of the Coast Guard.
Due to the vast coastline enjoyed by the United States, theft, smuggling and the task of its prevention, has always played an important part of the Coast Guard duty. With the increase in globalization smuggling of commercial goods has become a more significant problem. It has been reported that the theft of merchandise cargo in the United States is a staggering $25 billion a year, fifty percent of the world’s total thefts. The lost revenue from smuggled cigarettes alone is estimated to cost the U. S. approaching $2 billion.
The problem is exacerbated by the diverse nature of the groups and syndicate behind the thefts. These not only include local geographical groups such as the Los Angeles street gangs, but those from South America, the Orient and, with the democratization of much of the Eastern Bloc countries, Russian Crime gangs as well. (Mario Possamai 2001) In addition to the theft, the Coast Guards also have to deal with the growing problem of counterfeit branded merchandise, among the most popular of which are computer software, fashion goods and cosmetics.
With the increase in skills and technology in Asia, the Far East and other nations, there has been a proliferation of the importation of counterfeit products and the modern quality of reproduction is so high that detection is becoming more and more difficult. It is estimated that the cost to United States industry from this source was in the region of $200 million per annum in 2001 and the figure has grown steadily from then. The following (figure 1) shows the total number of intellectual property right seizures for the five years to 2000. Table 1 Mario Possamai (2001)
By far the worse incidence of smuggling is that involving drugs, across the whole spectrum of the industry. Globally this is adding to the pressures of addiction and other, including drug related problem, and in the United States, due to the sheer size of population it is an extremely large and difficult problem to deal with. This is one particular area where the Coast Guard can be particularly pleased with their efforts as there seizures during 2002 accounted for 52% of all government seizures in that year, and took off the streets drugs estimated to have a retail value of nearly $4 billion.
Another area of responsibility, which because of their more high profile activities, tends to be somewhat overlooked, is the Coast Guards responsibility for protecting their nations fishery industry. With falling stocks world-wide, illegal fishing and theft of catches is on the increase, and the U. S. has not been immune from this problem. Illegal Immigration Although an integral part of the fight against smuggling, because of it’s human connotations, the part of the trade involving illegal immigrants has taken on a unique significance of it’s own.
As a result of its “super-power” status and the world-wide held perception that the United States is the wealthiest country, it acts as a magnet for people from poorer nations wishing to improve their fortunes and, as a result of this there has followed a growth of crime syndicates who operate in this area, seizing the opportunity for substantial financial rewards. Such gangs have used the income generated to form themselves into extremely well organized, sophisticated and effective organizations.
Although the influx of illegal immigrants is a national problem, with the longest border between the world’s richest nation and one of the poorer being the U. S. Mexico divide, by far the largest concentration of activity takes place in this area. The efficiency of the operating gangs and syndicates operating in this business serves to tax the Coast Guards capability to the limit. Many believe that, partially as a result of the demands placed upon it in terms of other security duties, the Coast Guard is failing to win this particular struggle.
In his book, Peter Andreas (2001) observes that, despite setting up a military type operation in order to concentrate the efforts of border enforcement this 1990’s initiative is not achieving its target, which is to reaffirm control over the area. Terrorism Since the dramatic and catastrophic results of the September “9/11” attacks, the Coast Guard has been charged with the additional responsibilities of focusing a reasonable amount of resources to the fight against terrorism. Their duties and responsibilities here are to defend the United States against any repetition of the September 11th tragedies.
(Carolyn and Kit Bonner 2004) Despite the fact that that particular attack was airborne in nature, a seabourne attack is all too possible. For example it is estimated, although as a result of the problems involved with ascertaining positive evidence, that Al Qaeda has an operating fleet of between 15 and 300 vessels. It is already suspected that this terrorist group have been responsible for at least two major seabourne attacks on other vessels, Dr John Daly (2003), each capable of inflicting massive damage on United States seaways or delivery of weapons of mass destruction through its ports.
Following on from the successes of Al Qaeda, the fear is that other international terrorist groups will consider this method as an extension to their armory of effective attacks against the U. S. In John Leaning’s report (2001), the Coast Guard stated that the service was operating on a much higher state of security alert, even to the extent of preventing public access to facilities that, pre 9/11 would have welcomed them. The terrorist threat is not only restricted to groups like Al Qaeda, but can be extended to include those countries with which the United States have serious disputes such as Iran and the insurgents in Iraq.
Services overseas Despite being primarily a service dedicated to the protection of it’s nations own shores and waters, the United States Coast Guard, have ventured further a field when there is a need to and duty calls. In addition it has also worked in collaboration with other nations in the pursuance of its security obligations. With regard to the latter, the recent joint operation with Canada is a case in point. Here the two Coast Guard service worked in unison on a regular basis. This cooperation has extended along both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and other mutually important stretches of seaway and lakes.
Both of the participating services have said that this operation has been of great value to them and that they have learnt a lot from working together, all of which they hope to put towards their joint and individual security role programs. As a trial operation it was a success in terms of showing how such cooperation could be an effective weapon in the fight against any security incident that arises on the high seas. (Phil Jenkins 2005) Service in Iraq. In addition to working with neighboring countries the U. S. Coast Guard has also been called into action with security conflicts in other parts of the world.
The most important of these, and certainly the one with the highest profile, occurred during the recent Middle East conflicts with the Gulf Wars. Working under the jurisdiction of the Navy department, it was part of the Coast Guards responsibilities to guard and protect the oil terminals from attack, a duty that has also become part of their responsibilities in their homeland. With the United States Navy occupied in more direct action in the Middle East operations of war, it was a huge responsibility for the service. Conclusion
As our research has shown, the United States Coast Guard has an extremely important role to play in the area of security. This responsibility stretches across the whole spectrum of the American way of life. In protecting the countries commercial organizations from the effects of mechanized theft and incidences of counterfeiting it is contributing to the safeguard of the economic position. With its actions against smuggling, and in particular the human kind, its job it to protect the social conditions and human rights, not only of its own citizens, but also of many of those who are being smuggled into the country.
However, by far the most important role that the service plays at this moment in time relates to its activities in the field of terrorism. The attacks of “9/11” graphically showed the scale of human lives that can be lost and the significant damage to the nations info structure and the affect on a nations moral that such an incidence can have. This task is taking on every increasing importance as both the growth of terrorist groups, and of unstable nations access to nuclear facilities, grows. The difficulties that face both the Coast Guard service and the U.
S. government that operates it, is one of funding, facilities and deployment. With terrorists seeming to possess almost unlimited funds just who much of the nations taxes should be committed to this area of operations. Whilst the nation is very conscious of the need for it, there is a limit to the amount that a citizen either can or is willing to invest. Even with the funds available, there comes next the problem of exactly what facilities should those funds be utilized for. Seabourne terrorism is not the only concern.
There are other forms of terrorism that need protection and need funds as has been clearly demonstrated. Added to this is the almost impossible task of deployment. The United States has such a large expanse of coastline that it would be impossible to cover that area effectively. With the fiscal restraints, together with the limitations in terms of manpower, equipment and other resources, the United States Coast Guard services perform their remit with a great deal of efficiency and, despite isolated incidences of failure, not inconsiderable success. References
Allen, Admiral Thad. (May 2006). Commandants intent. Retrieved from http://www. uscg. mil/USCG. shtm. Andreas Peter. (2001). Border Games: Policing the U. S. Mexico Divide. Cornell University Press. Collins, T (Forward). Bonner, Carolyn & Kit. (2004) Always Ready: Today’s US Coast Guard. Motorbooks International, Powerpro series. Daly, Dr John, C, Kay. (2003) Al Qaeda and Maritime Terrorism [Part 1], The Jameson Institute, Terrorism Monitor Jenkins, Phil. (2005). U. S. and Canadian Coast Guards working together to strengthen partnerships. CNN News release.