Defense Media Network

Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. David Pekoske Interview

What changes – in terms of priority, resource allocation, etc. – do you foresee in the Coast Guard’s 11 primary missions?

Performance in one of our 11 missions reinforces our performance in another mission and they are all inter-related with our core roles of safety, security and stewardship. Through marine inspection, we develop expertise on vessel construction, operation and crew expertise. This helps us better perform search and rescue and security missions. Security is an all-hands operation for the government, industry and every citizen. Working alongside industry on inspections establishes relationships that allow us to leverage capabilities in other missions.

But we are more than just multi-mission, we are an integrated-mission Coast Guard. We represent a huge value proposition to the American taxpayer. Mission priorities have changed over time and will continue to change as national priorities evolve, operational environments change, and as the tactics of others change. When smuggling organizations change tactics, our counter-drug mission tactics respond as quickly, if not quicker.

Security has clearly become an enhanced priority since 9/11. We will look at what the administration and Congress establish as national priorities and operate accordingly. Mission focus is not static and we will always be looking to adjust both the priority of missions and the resourcing they receive.

We acted on the industry demand for additional focus on marine safety, capacity and skills of our workforce to inspect commercial vessels. It has become a higher priority. As we investigate marine accidents, we self-evaluate to determine how we might prevent such accidents in the future.

How did the Coast Guard evolve into all of these multiple missions and where do you see it going in the future?

We’ve been evolving since our founding over 219 years ago. There is a national need for an organization that is agile, nimble, and can provide a wide a range of maritime services for our citizens.

It is our broad mission set that makes us so effective. For a ship approaching a U.S. port, one service ensures compliance with global safety requirements, evaluates security, provides safe navigation aids and knows that ship’s capabilities if a search, rescue or environmental response is required. One service does it all and coordinates the efforts of any others that become involved.

How do you see the Coast Guard’s role in working with the navies and Coast Guard equivalents of other nations?

The Coast Guard is a unique model of safety, security and protection of resources that is replicated around the world. We share model procedures and laws with interested countries to help them balance the demands of military service with law enforcement, maritime safety, fishery protection, maritime border security and pollution response and how to build relationships with other military services, state and local governments, industry and the rest of the world.

With increased demands for homeland security, maritime law enforcement, being the primary interface for Foreign Military Sales and training for most of the world’s navies, support to Department of Defense in Southwest Asia, etc., the Coast Guard has been thinly stretched for several years – with no end in sight. Is the government demanding and expecting too much of this one, relatively small, organization?

We’re small, but we deliver a pretty powerful return. Every one of those operations reinforces the conduct of our missions around the globe. Operations in SW Asia have a direct benefit to our security missions in the U.S. While stretched, the real challenge is completing tasks with an outdated infrastructure. Think about where we are today and what we do around the world; then think what we could do if we had the ships, the C2, the aircraft and shore facilities we need combined with a modernized Coast Guard business process. That’s a very powerful combination. We are stretched because people find value in what we do – and if people like what they see, they need to invest in it. There is a huge return on that investment.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...

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    Lisa C. Jackson

    I am also looking forward to working with The United States Coast Guard.

    I hold incredible admiration towards the U.S. Coast Guard. To honor is to show respect and appreciation.