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July 10, 2005

Homeland Defense, on the Front Burner. Well, kinda.

The bombings in London couldn't have been timed better to support the release late last month of the Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support. I found the document interesting - not least because my last job on active duty was as an Army planner for just this stuff.

You can get the pdf document here.

The plan considers some changes in organizational relationships that will impinge upon the restraints of the Posse Comitatus Act, though I expect the intent will be to use the National Guard (properly) as a way around that - with Regulars in a back-up role, unless directly impinged in an initial attack, where the right to self-defense trumps Posse Comitatus.

The changes are afoot already, with the Contintental United States Armies - CONUSA's in milspeak - gettting ready or going through a reorientation. 1st and Fifth US Armys used to split responsibility for the US along the Mississippi - 1st east, 5th West. Both had identical responsiblities of Reserve Component readiness and mobilization, and the MSCA, or Military Support to the Civil Authority, which includes WMD and disaster response. Now, as I understand it, that will be 1st Army's job, and 5th Army is slated to become the army component of Northern Command, a real war-fighting organization. Significant changes.

All well and good, better integration and a rationalization of effort (though I'm not convinced of that yet, but it's outside the scope of this post...) is generally a Good Thing. But what about the people who already have a *huge* chunk of responsibility, right now, 24/7, for Homeland Defense.

The Coast Guard? The *Forgotten Service*?

First off, this article suggests that the Coast Guard has been forgotten and neglected for so long, under first the Department of Transportation, and now under the Department of Homeland Defense, that they have forgotten how to play the budget game. Admiral Collins better learn quickly - but I also fault Homeland Defense for letting the Admiral go to Congress with such a feckless (however well intentioned) approach.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Fisheries and the Coast Guard, also lashed out at the Coast Guard's revised plan at a hearing last week, saying that everything seemed to have changed since Sept. 11 except the Coast Guard.

The new plan "shockingly, says it actually needs fewer ships, planes, and helicopters than before Sept. 11," Snowe said, noting that the Coast Guard's original proposal had sought to enlarge its fleet.

"That violation of common sense is at the crux of today's hearing."

Snowe said technological improvements to the fleet are important, but are no substitute for "actual, on-the-water presence."

She also criticized Collins for embracing the President's 2006 budget proposal.

However often Collins affirmed that "his men and women can get by" with what the Administration has requested, she said, "the cold hard truth remains that the Coast Guard is experiencing a record number of casualties and mishaps."

Here is an article from USA Today that provides further highlights on the Coast Guard's equipment problems. I know several Coasties - they are as professional and dedicated as you can ask for - but you now have to wonder if they shouldn't be sending some of their best and brightest to work on the Army, Navy, and Air Force Staffs in the Pentagon - especially in the budget world, to get a handle on how to do this better. As an Departmental entity, it's starting to look like the Keystone Kops are in charge - and while that is unfair, in truth, to dedicated public servants - they need to learn how to play in the big leagues. Because this - well, this is simply unacceptable. Read that, then read what the Coast Guard has to say about the DECISIVE.

Lest you think the problem is only at sea... I assure you that is not the case. Facilities ashore have their own problems.

The Coasties deserve better. The nation deserves better. And no, the Navy doesn't need to add this to their plate.

But the leadership of Homeland Defense and the Coast Guard need to stand up, and lead - or get the hell out of the way.

H/t to Larry K, who has a son in the Coast Guard - who loves his job and his service... and deserves the right tools for the job.

Mebbe the Puddle Pirate will have an opinion to toss in here.