Sunday, April 12, 2020
Coast Guard: The Awkward Middle Child
When people think about the branches of the US military, they usually only think of four in their heads: Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Add to that list the US Space Force, and that's five. The sixth one is usually just added as an addendum "Oh, and the Coast Guard." According to one count, there are 186 movies about the US Marines, 87 about the US Army, 74 about the US Navy, and 52 about the Air Force. The US Coast Guard only has 7. That is only five more than the US Space Force, and the Coast Guard has been around since before the creation of the Air Force...and Planes.
While a tally of movies about US Service groups does not reflect the duties and standings of the respective forces, it does represent how little space the Coast Guard takes up in the collective American consciousness. This lack of consciousness definitely reflects when it is time for budget appropriations. In FY 2019, the Department of the Army had a budget of $182 billion, the Department of the Navy (including the Marine Corps) had a budget of $194.1 billion, and the Department of the Air Force had a budget of $194.2 billion dollars. The Coast Guard had a 2019 Budget of $10.3 billion dollars.
The Coast Guard is tasked with an enormous mission: providing maritime security, law enforcement, and rescue responses for over 4.5 million square miles of ocean, 95,000 miles of coastline (6,640 of that coastline in Alaska), 26,000 miles of commercial waterways, 361 ports, 3,700 marine terminals, and 25,000 miles of inland and coastal waterways – the largest system of ports, waterways, and coastal seas in the world. Apart from that they are also tasked with eleven other missions: Search and Rescue; MarineEnvironmental Protection; Defense Readiness; Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security; Drug Interdiction;Migrant Interdiction; Living Marine Resources; Marine Safety; Aids to Navigation; and Other LawEnforcement, and the final mission, Polar Operations. The USCG is the only US military branch with the capability to respond in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, the only branch with Polar Class icebreakers. These icebreakers have been in service since the 1970s and are way past their service date. Without increases in funding, the Coast Guard cannot perform that essential mission.