Impact on American Jobs

By Ed Gilbert, Rear Admiral USCG, Retired

In his article on the USCG and the Pacific, Dr. Laird has developed most effectively the vital role played by our Coast Guard in the Pacific and dozens of other places. He’s demonstrated the critical need to ensure they have the assets, trained people and other resources so vital for their success and the nation’s.

A topic that is seldom addressed in these types of articles is: jobs, jobs, jobs and the Coast Guard’s role in protecting the ones we have.

Our economy depends on trade, which is supported by what can be viewed as a giant set of conveyer belts of shipping and port facilities around the world with lots of on and off ramps. A disruption of the system anywhere such as on the high seas or the loss of a major port, would cause the system to collapse for an extended period with devastating effects on the world’s economy and the subsequent loss of millions of jobs.

Although there was little reporting about it, one of the major successes in the Katrina aftermath was how quickly the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers reopened the Mississippi and our other vital maritime highways.  There was a report recently that closing the Mississippi has a $400 million per day economic impact.

The areas the Coast Guard must cover are enormous. It must maintain an effective presence throughout our Nations’ Maritime Territories, which include about 3.4 million square miles of water; this is just slightly less than our total land mass. The Coast Guard seeks to have 17 cutters underway in these waters. This equates to one cutter for an area almost as large as Texas.

As Dr. Laird has developed so effectively, no other organization has the assets, skills and authorities to do this vital work. Ed Timperlake has argued in his piece the tyranny of distance in the Pacific.

Here are some examples:

  • From Alameda, CA to the Bering Sea Fisheries areas is about 2800 nautical miles; this equates to 7-8 days of steaming for a cutter operating at an economical speed.
  • The Northern Pacific Fisheries areas are 4200 nautical miles (almost two weeks of steaming) from San Diego. This is the area where high seas drift nets, “walls of death”, are a real threat absent effective on scene enforcement.

There are many vital jobs to be done in our Maritime Territories and international waters if we are to be safe and secure with a protected environment.

For example:

  • Early detections and response to threats far from our shores provides early warnings and much more time to assess and react.
  • Most drugs and other contraband crossing our border with Mexico come via the sea from South America. Two cutters patrol the Eastern Pacific to minimize the threat; this is an area larger than the continental U.S.

We must have an effective presence on the water to save lives, interdict illegal migrants, protect fisheries, secure our maritime borders, provide security for offshore energy resources and conduct and manage major incidents such as Haiti, Katrina and the Gulf Oil Spill. These are “come as you are” events with no time to build, mobilize and train responders.

We must have an effective Coast Guard fully funded and completely Semper Paratus (“Always Ready”); this requires a decent amount of funding that is insignificant in the total federal budget—let’s provide it now.



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