As the Navy continues reallocating resources to the Asia-Pacific region, the Coast Guard plans to have a more noticeable presence in
the Western Hemisphere.
Since the 1980s, the Navy and Coast Guard have
been working hand in hand in a region known for drug
and migrant smuggling. The Navy plays a major role in
the detection and monitoring of illicit trafficking while
the Coast Guard’s main role is law enforcement.
But budget cuts and the so-called Asia-Pacific pivot
will reduce the Navy’s presence in the Western Hemisphere, placing a heavier burden on the Coast Guard to
cover the vast area of operation.
Leaders from both services were adamant, though,
that the Navy will remain committed to the region.
“There is still a role to play for the Navy,” said Coast
Guard RADM Peter J. Brown, assistant commandant
for response policy.
“We are not pulling out of the Western Hemisphere,”
said Navy CAPT Juan Hogan, deputy Maritime Operations Center director for U.S. Fourth Fleet.
The Coast Guard, which is overseen by the
Department of Homeland Security, released a Western
Hemisphere Strategy in September where it outlined
how it would operate in the area in
the years ahead.
The Coast Guard said a number
of factors went into the release of
the new strategy, including contin-
ued instability in Central America
and a record number of minors
who illegally attempted to enter
the United States last summer.
Brown said that, over the last
several months, the Coast Guard
has begun implementing certain aspects of the plan, such as in counterdrug operations.
“They are focused on supply
reduction,” he said.
The results have been noticeable. Through the first
five months of fiscal 2015, the service has seized 53
vessels, most in the Western Hemisphere. For all of fiscal 2014, it seized 93. Overall, the number of detainees
and amount of cocaine and marijuana confiscated are
trending up from a year ago.
Brown said that, despite the Coast Guard having to
bear a bigger burden in the Western Hemisphere in the
years ahead, the Navy continues to look at ways to stay
involved in the region.
Evidence that the Coast Guard and Navy partnership
there remains vital was highlighted in February, when the
Navy frigate USS Gary and a Coast Guard law enforcement
detachment team seized more than 315 pounds of cocaine
after intercepting a suspected narcotics-trafficking vessel
off the coast of Central America.
The Coast Guard has beefed up its personnel and
assets in the Western Hemisphere to presequestration
levels. On any given day last year, the Coast Guard
had four cutters in the region, but that increased to six
“We need to do better with what we’ve got in terms
of Coast Guard assets and authorities within our own
backyard in the Western Hemisphere, and doing that
Taking the Lead
Coast Guard will beef up Western Hemisphere presence
with more flight decks, small boat capabilities
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Special Correspondent
A New Approach’
After sharing responsibilities in the Western Hemisphere for nearly three decades, the Coast Guard will be taking a greater role in
the years ahead as Navy assets are reallocated.
■ The Navy plans to have two ships in the operation area for the
remainder of the year.
■ A new Western Hemisphere strategy will guide future Coast
■ Aspects of the plan, such as counterdrug operations, already
are being implemented.