objectives in support of operational commanders.
DSF can rapidly mobilize, deploy
and conduct maritime safety and
security operations as a force multiplier or apply advanced maritime
law enforcement skill sets. When
warranted, DSF units support the
Department of Homeland Security,
the agency that oversees it, by enforcing temporary or fixed security
zones and other force protection
needs that may be required.
DSF units are located regionally
across the country, providing forces
whenever and wherever there is a
request for them. While elements of
the DSF existed as early as 1982,
with the inception of the Tactical
Law Enforcement Teams designed
to aid the war on drugs, it was not
until the Sept. 11 terror attacks that
the DSF took the form it has now
with the additional emphasis on
protecting the homeland.
The exact number of personnel
in the DSF is sensitive security information, according to the service, but its members
do receive training at the Special Missions Training
Center (SMTC) aboard the Marine Corps Base Camp
“SMTC is the DSF’s high-risk training center of
excellence developing and delivering training and
training material to improve performance, ensure safety, promote proficiency and enforce standardization for
the Coast Guard tactical community,” the the Office of
Specialized Capabilities, DSF, statement said.
In April, DSF personnel worked alongside their DoD
counterparts at the Advanced Tactical Operations Course
at Camp Lejeune. Some of the exercises included firing
.40-caliber personal defense weapons at targets. Standard
Coast Guard personnel do not carry weapons on them.
DSF members receive advanced training in specialized capabilities and specialized tactics, techniques
and procedures above what a normal Coast Guard
boarding officer receives. Capabilities may include
advanced marksmanship, close quarters combat, hook-and-climb and fast-rope operations.
As Coast Guard missions evolve, the Office of
Specialized Capabilities, DSF, said the DSF is assessing
and adapting to changing requirements and the number of personnel that are part of the force.
VADM Charles D. Michel, then-deputy commandant
for operations, told the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Coast Guard and maritime transportation
subcommittee in June that the DSF’s role in the Western
Hemisphere helps, “the Coast Guard interdict or prevent
threats early, before they reach our shores, and improves
our ability to respond to contingency or surge operations.”
Michel took over as vice commandant of the Coast
Guard on Aug. 6.
As part of the Western Hemisphere Strategy, Zukunft
ordered the DSF to deploy aboard the National Security
Cutters and future Offshore Patrol Cutters to “interdict
targets of interest and conduct boardings far from the
densely populated and vulnerable U.S. coastline.”
Brian Slattery, a homeland security expert with the
Heritage Foundation in Washington, said fielding the
DSF is necessary and recommendable.
“Since the Coast Guard is already the foremost government body suited to deal with interdictions at sea, it seems
reasonable that they should take the lead if suspected illicit
activities involve dangerous terrorist threats,” he said.
And given that the Coast Guard takes the lead on
command and control during incident response at sea
for the government, has particular skills in various
interdictions and seizure operations, and maintains a
more persistent eye on maritime traffic in or near U.S.
waters, its ability to support potentially dangerous or
unpredictable scenarios involving terrorist activities is
warranted, Slattery added. ■
A member of Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST)
Honolulu radios the crew of a 25-foot Response Boat while aboard the Coast
Guard Cutter Mustang in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 1. MSST Honolulu and the
Mustang crew provided security for President Barack Obama’s visit to
Seward. MSSTs are among the Coast Guard’s Deployable Specialized Forces
that conduct a range of operations in support of operational commanders.