On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

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Our history as a maritime nation is intertwined with the missions of America’s sea services—the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. From engaging and defeating adversaries to assisting other nations through humanitarian and disaster relief, our maritime forces have a proud tradition of cooperative partnership.

First released in 2007, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower reflected the global reach of our maritime services and the need to integrate, synchronize and act with partners to not only win wars, but also prevent wars. Eight years later, dynamic shifts across the geostrategic landscape, revisions to strategic guidance and changes in our fiscal environment made it our responsibility to revisit our joint maritime strategy.

In March, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and I released a 2015 revision to that document. This revised cooperative strategy provides the needed flexibility to address our nation’s current maritime challenges and the ability to react to future complexities.

Crew members take down Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s full-dress flags, on July 4, 2014, while moored in Pearl Harbor during the Rim of The Pacific 2014 exercise. Coast Guard photosCrew members take down Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s full-dress flags, on July 4, 2014, while moored in Pearl Harbor during the Rim of The Pacific 2014 exercise. Coast Guard photos

A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower addresses a rebalancing of forces and priorities across a myriad of geostrategic challenges, reaffirming the foundational nature of forward presence unique to naval forces. We are stronger and better able to face emerging challenges when operating jointly and with our partner nations.

In this manner, the sea services will continue advancing the Global Network of Navies concept, which promotes building international maritime cooperation, to address mutual maritime security challenges. In building the future force, we will make institutional changes and take prudent risks as we balance investments in readiness, capability and capacity. We will maintain our commitment to our service members, employ new operational concepts and develop innovative capabilities.

As the Navy and Marine Corps position to be forward, engaged and ready for threats around the world, the Coast Guard will operate forward and provide persistent presence throughout the Western Hemisphere. We will primarily focus on strategic trends directly impacting our nation’s interests, security and prosperity.

Today, we face a world more complex and uncertain than at any time in recent history. There is a new ocean opening in the Arctic with increased human activity at an unforeseen pace. We are seeing a significant increase in drug-fueled violence that is destabilizing governments of Central America and directly contributing to events like the surge in illegal immigration across our borders last summer.

An energy renaissance is significantly impacting the use and regulation of our maritime transportation system. New threats are emerging in the cyber domain that could have enormous implications on our nation’s economic prosperity. To address these challenges, the Coast Guard has developed service-specific strategies to drive our budget decisions and best manage risks.

An essential element of A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower—and our overall contribution to our national security and prosperity—is our broad authorities. Our law enforcement and regulatory authorities provide us with the ability to take action against those who would attempt to smuggle people, weapons, drugs and illicit goods and to safeguard maritime commerce.

These authorities also allow us to work with other nations through more than 60 international agreements, facilitating trade and securing our nation’s borders far from our ports and coastal regions. Coast Guard authorities serve as the foundation for strong partnerships within the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the broader interagency community. They are also vital to important relationships with industry spanning all of our safety, security and stewardship roles.

There is no shortage of challenges ahead, and I am committed to ensuring the Coast Guard’s budget is driven by strategies aligned with national priorities, like A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. Together, the sea services remain an essential element of our national security and prosperity, protecting U.S. interests as they have done for more than two centuries. 

Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crew member Petty Officer 2nd Class Julio Leos, right, conducts aircraft flight operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean on February 12. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell crew member Petty Officer 2nd Class Julio Leos, right, conducts aircraft flight operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean on February 12.

Admiral Paul Zukunft is the 25th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.