The U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area (LantArea), commanded by Vice Adm. Robert Parker, oversees all the service’s operations in an incredibly vast operating area. LantArea includes more than 14 million square miles of land, encompassing 40 states, and more than 4 million square miles of navigable water – an area from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf, and from Canada to the Caribbean Sea. With the largest operational workforce in the Coast Guard, the approximately 21,000 active duty, 4,900 reservists, 23,000 auxiliarists, and more than 2,100 civilian employees working in LantArea are always ready to defend America with courage and professionalism. “The men and women of Atlantic Area performed remarkably during several extraordinary events, including the response to the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and unprecedented flooding in the Midwest,” said Parker.
“They are America’s maritime first responders, and their tremendous service is invaluable to the American people.”
While the Deepwater Horizon disaster is no longer in the news, the Coast Guard response continues as teams oversee the ongoing shoreline cleanup. This disaster highlights LantArea’s key unique role in the Coast Guard, surging response forces without overly depleting operational capability to meet critical mission demands across its area of responsibility (AOR). In 2011, LantArea was called upon again and again to perform this critical role as its districts responded to historical flooding along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the Lower Mississippi River.
In late August, Hurricane Irene raked the Eastern Seaboard causing significant wind and flood damage to all of the service’s, Districts 1 and 5 and portions of District 7, some of the most populated coastline in the United States. The Coast Guard, working with partners and the shipping industry, readied these ports for the threatening storm and thereby minimized economic disruption for everyone, regardless of whether the city was situated in the South, where tropical cyclones are generated, or as far north as Maine. A total of six Coast Guard Disaster Assistance Response Teams, equipped with three shallow-water boats per team plus flood response equipment, were deployed. With millions affected by flooding or still without power in the wake of Irene’s path, Coast Guard aircraft were tasked with initial overflight assessments to determine the storm’s impact along the coastline. In addition to overflight assessments, the service dispatched aids to navigation units to determine whether all aids were still on station.
As one of two three-star operational commands in the Coast Guard, LantArea provides all its subordinate districts with coordination, facilitation, and mission guidance, translating strategic national guidance into consistent operational execution. Simultaneously, LantArea translates tactical action into strategic context for national-level decision-makers. To ensure a consistent framework for action, Parker released a strategic plan with five goals, each to support tactical operations and interoperability:
- Prioritize Operational Needs: ensuring that the Atlantic Area staff quantifiably understands relative risk between missions from resource apportionment to new capability review;
- Mission Cognizance: ensuring that the Atlantic Area staff and their tactical commands understand the direct and indirect effects of service operations’ national and international interest that places tactical actions into strategic context;
- Effective Command Relationships: promoting clear lines of authority, roles, and responsibilities up and down the chain of command;
- Unity of Effort: reinforcing that the Coast Guard is a partner of choice and is operating in the fullest cooperation and coordination with all other maritime stakeholders, in and out of government, including the international community; and
- Knowledge Management: this final goal is designed to achieve operational decision superiority based on cyclic sharing, creation and validation of effective knowledge and information.
To highlight how these goals became a reality in the past 12 months, look to the exceptional performance of LantArea’s five districts: