September 26, 2014, on behalf of Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft – This morning I signed the Coast Guard Western Hemisphere Strategy. It addresses transnational threats and maritime challenges that threaten the security of our Nation, markets and oceans over the next 10 years. The Coast Guard is globally deployed, but our primary operating area remains in the Western Hemisphere. As we engage future challenges we must think strategically to best position our resources to leverage our unique authorities, capabilities and partnerships to achieve national objectives across the range of Coast Guard missions.
Today our nation faces significant emerging threats on our southern borders and transit zones. We are seeing the rapid growth of transnational criminal organizations that fuel violence and instability throughout the region. Eight out of the 10 most violent nations, by murder rate, are now in our own hemisphere. These criminal networks are vying for illicit markets including human and drug smuggling. The recent spate of unaccompanied minors on our southwest border is a symptom of this larger problem. It will take unity of effort across government to overcome these challenges. Ultimately, it will take a network to defeat a network.
As an integral part of the DHS team, the Coast Guard is at the forefront of combating networks, securing our borders and safeguarding commerce. We will meet our obligations through sustained mission excellence. We will promote DHS unity of effort. We will strengthen our at-sea interdiction capabilities. We will strengthen partnerships and build capacity. We will improve awareness of and prioritize threats based on risk and consequences. We will develop innovative strategies and capabilities to interdict or deter these threats as far from our shores as possible. We will safeguard commercial interests of the United States and help ensure secure global commerce by protecting lives at sea, ensuring a safe, secure and resilient maritime transportation system, building and sharing incident management expertise and protecting our natural resources.
These challenges must be confronted during a period when all Coast Guard mission areas are strained by an austere fiscal environment. Vital to these efforts, our intelligence community must be leveraged to cue operations to ensure we put our maritime patrol forces, shore-based forces, deployable specialized forces and those who support them, where they can be most effective.
The Coast Guard has never been more relevant or more important to domestic security and regional stability. Our exceptional international reputation is a direct result of the work our Coast Guard men and women do every day.