Putting the Coast Guard under the Navy?

Now this does make some sense:

Senate Proposal Would Bring Coast Guard Under DoD’s Authority

With a new name-plate freshly nailed to his Senate office, so to speak, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.) is proposing  shifting authority over the United States Coast Guard from the Department of Homeland Security to the Defense Department, according to an overview of a proposed bill that aims to cut $500 billion from federal spending.

Cutting the defense budget was once an “eccentric” idea, but Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates efficiencies initiatives have put that notion to rest, the bill overview argues.

“National defense is the primary constitutional function of the federal government. However, that does not mean that the Department of Defense should receive a blank check without serious oversight,” the proposal reads.

Among the policy proposals, the proposed bill would shift the Coast Guard to from DHS to DoD, to “promote uniformity, administrative savings and reduce duplicative functions.”

Before DHS was created in 2003, the Coast Guard was under the authority of the Department of Transportation. However, even under the official auspices of DHS, the Coast Guard works under the Navy after a declaration of war or a presidential order, according to Defense News.

And, since the start of the Iraq War, the Coast Guard has done extensive work for DoD. Because of that, “common sense would suggest a move,” to the Pentagon, the proposal states.

Paul’s proposal also includes transferring the primary functions of the Department of Energy to DoD, including nuclear weapon procurement and the disposal of nuclear waste.

I’ve never been sold on the idea of a Department of Homeland Security in the first place.  Just seemed, at the time and now, like more an administrative reorganization.  In the “old days” the Department of Defense handled homeland security.  That’s why we have all those coastal fortifications, designated air defense zones, and well, frankly, a military force to begin with! And what DoD could not handle, the Department of Justice could.  Now days DHS is sort of straddling the two.  As the article states, “duplicative.”

The Coast Guard operates with similar, if not the same, equipment as the armed forces.  As the overview of the proposal points out, there is about 100 years of precedence here.  And the Coast Guard performs a vital wartime mission in conjunction with DoD agencies.  Um… and aren’t we sort of at war right now?  (Don’t answer that.)

The proposal also would shift some of Department of Energy’s functions to DoD, particularly functional areas involving nuclear weapons and waste.   You see, technically all nuclear weapons in the US inventory are on loan from DoE to DoD.  When you think about it, does that make much sense?  And from a security standpoint, with all the duplication of effort, is this smart?  (Need I mention Wen Ho Lee?)

Other parts of the proposed cuts include realignment of overseas bases and cuts in the civilian workforce.  Senator Paul also suggested reducing the military by attrition.

Now the DoD civilian workforce has grown by about 100,000 since 2000.  I would argue that much of the growth has been due to wartime needs.  Although there is always some trimming that might be done.  I’d like to see more details on the personnel reduction, and the base realignments, before throwing in my two cents.

26 thoughts on “Putting the Coast Guard under the Navy?”

  1. I don’t think I like the idea of moving the USCG over to the DOD. Seems like a potentially slippery slope … posse comitatus isuses …

    1. Not really sure I get the objections based on Posse Comitatus, since the act only applies to the Army and Air Force, not the Navy or Marine Corps. It’s only through DoD policy that the Navy doesn’t perform law enforcement functions.

  2. @LT Rusty, with all due respect, moving the USCG over to the Navy (DOD) on a permanent basis, is *not* a step on the “potentially slippery slope…Posse Comitatus Issues…” First, we may need to re-examine “Posse Comtatus”, anyway. Since the beginning, The USCG has been under the Department of the Treasury, Transportation and finally, Homeland Security during peacetime. Now during wartime, the USCG is always under the Department of the Navy.

    1. Grumpy, I respectfully disagree, completely.

      We currently have US Navy vessels doing counter drug operations in the Caribbean and EASTPAC … but they’re not actually doing the law enforcement side of it. To keep things legal, they are simply providing transportation and support to the USCG detachment onboard. The USCG ensign is hoisted prior to boarding, and the USCG LEDET is actually in command of the law enforcement side of things. It’s a technicality, to be sure, but it’s how we currently avoid Posse Comitatus issues: we have an actual seagoing law enforcement agency that is experienced in at-sea law enforcement issues. Sure, in a war zone they may chop to DON control, but that’s a little different from having the US military have OPCON of law enforcement operations on the coasts and navigable lakes and rivers of our nation.

      There are certain legal pathways through which active duty troops can be – and have been – used to maintain order and law in CONUS. Those were all exceptional circumstances. I do not want to find myself living in a country where it is anything but an exceptional circumstance. The difference in uniform between USCG and USN is only a few Pantone shades color-wise … but it’s a whole galaxy of difference, law-wise. And once you’ve made the leap there … it’s not legally any different to have PC’s and FFG’s doing Coast Guard work on the Mississippi and the Great Lakes than having Abrams and Bradley units doing traffic stops on the freeway, or having SEAL teams and Rangers kick doors in searching for drugs.

      Not. In. My. Fucking. Country.

  3. Posse Comitatus is going to be the big problem. I’m not sure that tinkering with Posse Omitatus is advisable. Seriously, it always seemed that USCG should be under DOJ, but that lads to other problems. DHS tho is an abomination that needs to die a legislative death.

    1. “Seriously, it always seemed that USCG should be under DOJ, but that lads to other problems.”

      Actually the CG traditionally operated under the Dept of Treasury or the Dept of Transportation, and a portion came under USN control during time of war. To some degree that gave the CG a mission of simply maintaining good order on the waterways, with a secondary “go to war” mission.

  4. I agree with disagreeing. I think it is a bad idea to roll up USCG under USN, particularly in a proposal that calls for “reducing the military by attrition.”
    -Military doctrine clearly differentiates the missions of homeland defense (DOD lead, a military mission) and homeland security (non-DOD lead, but DOD supported). Less resources plus increased mission equals doing all missions poorly.
    -“Hey, lets get rid of that aging coast guard cutter fleet and use these fancy new Littoral Combat Ships with the ‘law enforcement’ package on it. We just have to vary the cruise routes and keep inshore to the CONUS!”
    -Posse Commitatus is a huge slippery slope. We expect USN to have law enforcement responsibilities? That is one step from “Hey Power 6, your reconnaissance battalion is going to man checkpoints on the east side of I5 and south of the Oregon border.” To which he replies, “that area is huge, I’ll need Predator support to help me cover it.” ad infinitum… If you think that in this age, people won’t care about that, google “CCRMF and posse commitatus” and see the anxiety that the CCMRF mission my brigade had caused.
    -18-19 year old sailors straight out of school doing law enforcement when they trained for operations in the middle east. When did they get trained? (extend this to 19 year old scouts, infantryment, tankers, etc.)
    -USN diversion of resources to provide for the traditional life-saving mission? “Just throw army or air force helicopters at it to support the navy.”
    -The key words are “duplicative”, “reduced forces”, “attrition” and “cost savings.” All of that means sailors or coasties go away, as do their ships and aircraft. That means, increased missions for navy in an era of declining resouces, increased complexity of mission in an era of persistent conflict, and the slippery slope of law-enforcement missions to DOD because it wouldn’t stay isolated to the area of beach to 12 miles offshore for very long.

  5. “Posse Comitatus”
    How so? That act, from the reconstruction era, was very specific in what the president could NOT do with the military. And the intent was to prevent the use of occupational forces over US civilians. What it didn’t say is that US military forces were prevented from defending the US on missions within the US territories. There’s a huge difference here. And one not fully appreciated by the majority of folks who cite the law. The key phrase in the law is “may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.” There’s a lot within the CG mission that falls beyond Posse Comitatus.

    Yes, the Coast Guard mission straddles the line between uniformed military and law enforcement. I would submit there is a lesser of two evils here. The Coast Guard has, in the past, operated under the military without a problem. Why not again, since we are in a state of war?

    The bigger issue I see is how DHS is used within the current framework. With uniformed services, like the CG, under their control, and having a law enforcement mission, DHS comes closer to the Posse Comitatus violation than DoD ever will. The only way it could get worse is if the IRS, EPA and OSHA were allowed to operated under DHS!

  6. Craig,
    Though the line between homeland security and homeland defense may seem blurry and the roles and missions might overlap, they are not. The bottom line is that Title 10 forces (active duty military) cannot perform law enforcement duties within the US, except on military installations. For a year, I served on the army’s first CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force (briefly as the S3 for TF OPS), and our training in this area was very clear. Title 10 forces cannot so much as direct traffic, let alone recover bodies or conduct law enforcement actions such as detaining people. Our provost marshal was the lead on intelligence because we can’t “collect” on US citizens; nor can we use our systems to gather information regardless of who analyzes it. The PC act of 1878 allows for Title 32 (US Army National Guard) forces to conduct law enforcement in the US. This is why they respond to LA riots, or are the only ones that can carry weapons by law during reponses such as Katrina. (If you saw others with weapons, they were in violation of US code.) The only way that this can be changed is by presidential directive in response to specific short term events, in which case he can suspend PC.
    The proper and legal role for Title 10 forces is homeland defense, not homeland security. If you want the USCG placed in the USN, then the law will have to be changed to allow DOD to conduct law enforcement. If DOD can do law enforcement, then I foresee a huge temptation to use Title 10 forces to do it on a wider scale.

    1. “Title 10 forces (active duty military) cannot perform law enforcement duties within the US, except on military installations.”

      I think, if you review the statue in the proper context, you will see what I am talking about. There are situations where the military is allowed to conduct law enforcement. The Posse Comitatus Law does not so much restrict the military as it does restrict the President. The proper context is to understand Reconstruction and the reaction to that time in our history. Further we have to understand the law on which Posse Comitatus is based – the Insurrection Act of 1807, which is still on the books and still applies.

      I would also reference the use of the military (and the federalization of the National Guard) at Little Rock in 1957. Again, there are very specific instances when the president can use the military in a law enforcement role. The military also has some obligations under those guidelines. (http://1957timecapsule.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/september-25-1957-the-first-day-a-new-day-at-little-rock-central-high/ ) See them guns?

      I’ve worked the issue from both sides of the line, and would point out more than one inaccuracy in the comment you’ve made. But I don’t want to turn this into some debate about higher politics. The point I’m making here is that in a war, it makes more sense to put the CG under the military, and not create some quasi-law enforcement, quasi-military cabinet position.

  7. I don’t debate that, when the president chooses, he can suspend PC via the Insurrection Act. What I contend is that for daily operations, the military does not do law enforcement in the United States, and is forbidden this under US laws. If you have examples of that, I would like to see them. I freely admit that there are circumstances when they have, and your 1957 example is correct. But in all cases, where the military has been used for law enforcement, there has been a legal dispensation made to allow it. (Thanks for pointing out the Insurrection Act, I couldn’t remember the title earlier.)
    The military cannot operate as a lead federal agent in the United States in any capacity except for Homeland Defense. In all others it is subordinate to another federal agency in our role providing Defense Support to Civil Authority.
    I make no claims about the appropriateness of it, but just the legality.

    1. “What I contend is that for daily operations, the military does not do law enforcement in the United States, and is forbidden this under US laws. ”

      As I pointed out above, that is a gross inaccuracy to say the military is forbidden to enforce laws. It is a myth sprang from a misunderstanding of the law. Direct to our point here, the law states:
      “The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.”

      If you boil this down in practical terms, it says that the US Military is a law enforcement agency within the US territories. However, the law states the President is restricted from using the military unless the states are “unable, fail, or refuse” enforce the laws at their level. Under this, President Eisenhower was able to send the 101st to Little Rock, and George Bush (41) sent troops to LA, and George Bush (43) sent troops to New Orleans. In each case the military was authorized to use military equipment. In the later case, no weapons were needed (but if they had been, such would have been authorized under the law).

      Now what Posse Comitatus added to was to make violation of the law (i.e. a President exercising the military where the state was willing, able, and acting to enforce the laws) a criminal activity. It did not restrain the use of the military beyond the Insurrection Act as many interpret.

      Historical context, the Posse Comitatus came about as a way to appease certain southern states who feared the use of military forces to enforce certain laws (particularly with regard to voting regulations). With this law in place, any president who acted as Grant did in 1868-73 could be impeached. At that time, Federal troops directly confronted militia troops in some instances. And in many cases Federal troops were the force propping up Republican governors in the states!

      One other component added via Posse Comitatus was to deny use of any equipment purchased through defense appropriations (at the time through the war department). In the 1870s, this allowed a state to use weapons purchased for a state militia by the state government if need be for law enforcement. However, consider how that works today within our current system. When the National Guard carries an M16 into a civil disturbance, where did funding for that weapon come from?

      Again, this is one of the fine points of law. Yes, the military does not do formal law enforcement on a daily basis. But I go back to my original premise, where to assign the CG in time of war? The logical answer is DoD.

  8. Craig is correct. Also PC does not cover the Navy as I recall. When PC was enacted, the Navy and Marines were a very small establishment utterly dwarfed by the Army. Naval forces are still not suitable for employment in such roles.

    I doubt CG detachments are aboard because of PC. They are there because they are specifically empowered and trained to do what they do on those ships. They don’t have to hoist the CG ensign, they just do it because someone orders them to do so, just as with so many things.

    1. I should look it up, but I seem to recall that Posse Comitatus was extended to the Navy/Marines and Air Force after the formation of DoD.

      Again, going back to the 1800s for precedence, the Navy was originally left out of Posse Comitatus, not because it was small but because it HAD a law enforcement function at that time. The Navy conducted contraband interdiction during peacetime.

      The most well know of these operations was the anti-slave patrols off Africa and the high seas, though occasionally extended to the coastal waterways of the US. Oddly, the Navy was also required to assist in the return of escaped slaves under the Fugitive Slave Laws (pre-Civil War). Sort of sets up an interesting conundrum, don’t you think?

      Perhaps this is worth a full post unto itself. After exploring the Posse Comitatus in graduate courses, I’m more and more convinced it is the last vestige of the compromise of 1876 and in sore need of an update. Its aim was to ensure no President used the Army – not the Navy or other parts of the armed forces mind you – but the Army’s bayonets from influencing elections. Yet, in our modern examination it is cited in the manner like the “separation of church and state” that does not appear in the underlying text.

  9. When it comes to the Coast Guard, my *preference* would be that it would be a completely separate branch of the military. I agree that we all have the right to our opinions, but we do not have the right to our own history. The Coast Guard is already the smallest branch, my only point of reference was history. I spoke of that history.

    When it comes to “Posse Comitatus”, this is a States’ Rights issue and should be dealt with on the States’s level. These issues should be dealt with the resources under the Command of the Governor. There are extraordinary times when the Governor refuses to apply the law. These Governors have sworn an oath to both, the States’ and the US Constitution. The President may step in and activate the State’s own troops under “his” command for the application of Federal Law. He had better follow all of the Rules of Procedure on a Federal Level, there is no “Statute of Limitations” on some of this.

    1. “When it comes to “Posse Comitatus”, this is a States’ Rights issue and should be dealt with on the States’s level. These issues should be dealt with the resources under the Command of the Governor. ”

      Correct, and this is the part that gets difficult to understand – how the law was written in 1806: The States and local government are responsible for law and order. Further the States are responsible for guaranteeing the freedoms and rights of the citizens within their borders. BUT, if the president determines the states are lacking in that regard (“unable, fail, or refuse”) then he (oh… or she) can deploy the military to work that function.

      When the Insurrection Act was passed, the Constitution was just over fifteen years old. And the Whiskey Rebellion was fresh in law makers’ minds. The president at the time was Jefferson. The principle author of the Constitution, James Madison, was SecState and would be the next President (and SecState back then played a larger role in domestic policy than today). These guys certainly were not approaching the subject lightly.

  10. We’ll have to agree to disagree. Every block of training I got from NORTHCOM and USARNORTH has reinforced the point that, unless PC is suspended via the IA, DOD does not conduct law enforcement with Title 10 forces. In Katrina, according to the USARNG BG who commanded the forces there, Title 32 guys were the only ones authorized to carry weapons. I believe some guys from Bragg carried them, but should not have been. Active component soldiers were there to provide humanitarian relief, not law enforcement. As such they are employed under auspices of Defense Support to Cival Autority, not in law enforcement duties. As a matter of fact, the military can not do anything in support of anyone off post, unless requested by civil authority or in conditions of extremis. There was a CG of 25th ID who left Schofield a few years back to help after a typhoon and was basically told by the governor to get back on base. When requested, they will provide assistance. They will not provide law enforcement capabilities. Whether this is by a misinterpretation of PC, I don’t know. As I have said a couple of times, yes there are times when they have, at presidential directive. As a matter of course, they do not, and should not, as there are plenty of federal , state and local capabilities. A governor can use his Title 32 forces however he pleases, regardless of who bought the equipment.
    In my opinion, it is folly to change this customary understanding. I don’t fear the military will be turned loose on the masses or whatever, but I don’t want the added mission set.

    1. “Every block of training I got from NORTHCOM and USARNORTH has reinforced the point that, unless PC is suspended via the IA, DOD does not conduct law enforcement with Title 10 forces. ”

      Fine, we can agree to disagree. I would close by asking everyone to read the laws as they are written. I received much of the same blocks of training you did. Never did I get the interpretation of Title 10 that you voice here. In fact, on a number of occasions instructors took the time to “school” those of us who made the comment “we can’t be law enforcement.”

  11. GREAT, now we’ve got an adult in the room. The problem is this, he’s right! The scariest part is this, he makes sense. ; – )

    This is only a virtual discussion, the greatest thing is this week are all trying to serve this GREAT NATION.

    Thank you, Esli

  12. Craig, I was going to stay away, but I went and re-read some doctrine today. Here is a relevant cut from CH 5 (Law Enforcement) FM 3-28 JUN 2010 (DRAFT) Civil Support Opertions. I think we are about 80% in agreement, but current army doctrine says that we don’t do law enforcement activities without special dispensation.

    5-5. The Posse Comitatus Act (sometimes known as the PCA) restricts the use of the federal military forces for direct support to civilian law enforcement. Except as expressly authorized by the Constitution or by another Act of Congress, the Posse Comitatus Act and DOD directives prohibit the use of the Army, Air Force, and—through DOD policy—the Navy and Marine Corps as enforcement officials to execute state or federal law and perform direct law enforcement functions. The Navy and Marine Corps are included in this prohibition as a result of DOD policy articulated in DODD 5525.5. However, the Posse Comitatus Act does not apply to state National Guard forces operating in State Active Duty status or in Title 32 status. Due to the state National Guard’s statutory law enforcement functions, the Posse Comitatus Act does not apply. Nor does the Posse Comitatus Act restrict the United States Coast Guard, even when it falls under the operational control of the Navy due to the fact that the Coast Guard has inherent law enforcement powers under Title 14 of the U.S. Code. Commanders should understand that the Posse Comitatus Act specifies severe criminal penalties if violated. Chapter 7 provides additional detail on the Posse Comitatus Act.
    5-6. A catastrophic disaster may overwhelm local law enforcement, particularly when they are responding with a disrupted command and control system. National Guard forces support law enforcement when the governor authorizes that state’s military command to assume designated law enforcement duties. The specific legal authority for National Guard members to conduct law enforcement functions are derived from state law and vary from state to state. Federal military forces require special authorization, from the Secretary of Defense, to support civilian law enforcement officials outside of federal military installations. In extreme cases, the state attorney general, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, may recommend that the President invoke the Insurrection Act (see chapter 7). The restrictions on federalized military forces are derived from PCA case law and are summarized in the DSCA EXORD.
    Unless specifically authorized by law, no military personnel in a Title 10, United States Code (USC), status (Federal military forces) will become involved in direct civilian law enforcement activities, including, but not limited to, search, seizure, arrest, apprehension, stop and frisk, surveillance, pursuit, interrogation, investigation, evidence collection, security functions, traffic or crowd control, or similar activities, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the President, Constitution, or Act of Congress.

    1. “I think we are about 80% in agreement, but current army doctrine says that we don’t do law enforcement activities without special dispensation.”

      Yes, I agree. There is no reason for doctrine to conform to 100% of what is allowed under the law. Doctrine must be legal, but does not have to encompass all that is legal.

      Here’s the part that I’d highlight:
      “Unless specifically authorized by law,….”
      And there is a law on the books (since 1807) that authorizes the use of the military under very specific situations.

      In my years working with civilian and military authorities since I got out of the Army, I’ve run across several episodes which highlight the rather cumbersome (but necessary) nature of the law. And a lot of misconceptions. The oddest part of Posse Comitatus is who it applies to – not the military but rather the president. And again that is due to the historical context behind it.

  13. Putting USCG under DoD would just be dumb. Sen. Paul’s heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t realize the great difference between the missions of the Navy and the CG. And frankly, given the state of Navy shipbuilding, why saddle the CG with even more problems.

    Shifting the nuclear weapons programs from DoE to DoD makes a little more sense. I’d like to see more specifics on that proposal. And I’ve long though the DoE was a department without a purpose. It doesn’t produce any energy, that’s for sure.

  14. As a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard specifically trained in high seas AND “on shore” federal drug interdiction I would much prefer the U.S. Coast Guard become a civil service than ever becoming part of DOD.

    We have a very fine tradition with very fine men and women who were all given the choice between DOD service and The U.S. Coast Guard.

    Leave Our U.S. Coast Guard out of the hands of the navy and the rest of DOD. TYVM.

  15. There are members of the U.S. Coast Guard performing the duty of “sky marshals” and there are members of the U.S. Coast Guard performing many other different roles in federal law enforcement. Most of the work of the U.S. Coast Guard has nothing to do with the work of DOD.

    What a great disservice to USCG if we were ever dumped into DOD.
    Horrible suggestion.

    1. I think it is important to look at the context of the situation. As a Navy sailor, I would say that we are faced by law enforcement type problems everyday on the maritime domain. Whether it ranges from piracy to illicit-trafficking and even to terrorism. Political, legal, and social sensitivities no longer let us deal with the problem by “blowing people out of the water,” so a more minimal force is required.

      This is the spectrum that the Coast Guard fills so well that the Navy isn’t mentally prepared to do, hence why the Navy likes to rely on the USCG to help cover those gaps. LEDETs provide that expertise, competency, an authorities needed in the maritime domain to deal with transnational threats. The Navy is doing the mission (grant focused overseas) and the Coast Guard does it everywhere (mostly focused on the homeland). There is a need for greater cooperation between the services. If the USCG is to provide their core LE focus there is a capacity gap.

      This is where a DON/USCG merger can come into play. If anything the USCG would benefit from the larger resources DOD has to offer. $43 billion compared to $9 billion is huge. Congress would never let the USCG core missions die and the USCG would probably grow in size (capacity) and budget (resources) and the Navy, if anything, may benefit from greater exposure to the USCG in the need for greater LE efforts/focus in maritime domain. If the USCG can operate under the DON in wartime, then why not in peacetime?

      If people are unwilling to expand the capacity of the USCG, then what is wrong with with giving the Navy LE authorities? Do they really pose the same threats to occupation of U.S. civilians? How many U.S. civilians live on the water (not by it)? Are 285 vessels enough to place America under the tyranny of the Navy? What about the landlocked areas? The Navy has extremely few assets that can operate in those environments. If you properly trained the Navy in LE and If you crafted the laws to expressly limit the enforcement authorities only on the seas, as well as hold the Navy personnel accountable under 4th Amendment rights and civil courts, is that too much different than the USCG LE role?

      The point is the maritime domain is unique and that is why Coast Guard is both a military and a law enforcement agency, plus nearly everything else under the sun. The oceans do not have the luxury of local, state, and numerous federal LE agencies to enforce governance and laws on the seas as on land. The Navy benefited from the USCG because they were able to focus on aircraft carriers and battleships, and USCG was able to focus more on the civil aspects of maritime governance. But the security has changed after the Cold War and now there is too little naval capacity world wide to deal with both transnational threats and near-peer competitors. There is a need too better integrate LE and military activities. One of the best ways to do that for the maritime domain is combine the services under an overarching naval department. Both would benefit. The U.S. and the world could benefit from increased authorities, where presence is everything to ensure security, safety, and freedom on the seas.

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