HONOLULU, July 11, 2015 — In the late 1980s and early 90s, the end of the Cold War began a trend that blurred policy delineations between the traditional spheres of national security, law enforcement, and humanitarian operations. Combined with the impact of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Coast Guard has seen an evolution over the last three decades into a jack-of-all trades entity. It has grown in importance even as Congress has forced the “traditional” military services to take cuts in platforms and manpower capabilities.
Despite the temporary “recovery” seen by U.S. markets, the unspoken truth known by policymakers is that severe, long-term structural fiscal imbalances will plague America well into the future. By some estimates, in just five years the federal debt will be equal to 89 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and in fifteen years, 127 percent. By OECD and IMF estimates, it already exceeds 100 percent of GDP.
It is therefore no accident that today’s Pentagon has been seized by a mania of “jointness” and slogans like “One Team, One Fight” as civilian planners ultimately want to reduce redundancy of services and merge the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines into a single, hybridized force.
The creation of “joint bases” and the transition to “shared” joint platforms like the EA-6B Prowler (now being replaced with the EA-18G Growler) will ultimately end badly for the Pentagon; if history is any example, Congress will ultimately arrive at the flawed, corporate micromanagerial-inspired conclusion that if the military can be factored down to a single combined force, “why should homeland security and anti-drug operations be separate from the military?”
The end result? One day, the U.S. Coast Guard may become the country’s one-stop, all-encompassing law enforcement, homeland security, and defense service.
Don’t look so surprised
The precedent of the Coast Guard inheriting functions from the other services already exists. During the Vietnam War, Coast Guard vessels routinely provided littoral patrol as well as naval gunfire support against enemy staging areas and troops. In the 1980s, the USCG briefly equipped the Hamilton-class high endurance cutter with offensive systems including Mk. 46 anti-submarine torpedoes, bow-mounted sonar, and RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
By the 1990s, as Colin Powell led initiatives to downsize the Reagan buildup to the minimum level necessary to deter aggression, calls were already emerging to “put a Coast Guard stripe” on Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. While so far offensive force projection capabilities of the U.S. Coast Guard have been tightly limited, if not novel at this point, as Congress continues to look for ways to shrink and horizontally integrate military, homeland security, and law enforcement, it is not unreasonable to suggest that one day the USCG will inherit major combat platforms from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines.
Regional security, collective defense: The U.S. Coast Guard in American Kiss
The concept of a one-size-fits-all military encapsulated by the USCG is explored satirically in my new novel American Kiss, where the future world is policed by a single international collective security organization and the U.S. military has been reduced to a tiny regional security force.
In American Kiss, an emasculated and belittled United States of America answers to a one-world government that prohibits member states from owning strategic weapons. Because the U.S. is prohibited from acquiring offensive capabilities, Congress engages in a shell game where Navy ships are minted as Coast Guard vessels “under the guise of humanitarian relief, long range rescue, protection of shipping, counter-narcotics, anti-piracy ops and the like.”
The key flagship of this future military is a gigantic, super-sized Coast Guard aircraft carrier – complete with “joint” Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine units aboard. In the end, when Russia and China attack U.S. forces, the USCG saves the day. The story concept, though seemingly ridiculous, may prove to be prophetic if America continues on her present course.
This is Part One of a series exploring the long-term intellectual, cultural, political, and economic implications of U.S. decline as explored in Dr. Danny de Gracia’s new novel, “American Kiss.”
Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist, an ordained minister, a former elected official, and the author of the new political thriller “American Kiss,” available from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other major bookstores.