It’s time to designate Coast Guard Special Ops Forces

My USCG Academy classmate LCDR Russ Bowen has just published a very well-reasoned thesis on the need to create Coast Guard Special Operations Forces. Here’s the foreword written by Air Force Lt Col Michael McMahon (click the graphic to download the thesis):

Russ Bowen's thesisThis paper examines the Coast Guard’s historic participation in special operations and posits a requirement for the Coast Guard to designate a special operations force today–Coast Guard SOF. Lieutenant Commander Bowen advances a timely argument for the formation of additional SOF units, Coast Guard (CG) SOF units, at a time when USSOCOM is under pressure to expand SOF capabilities. Bowen argues that the Coast Guard has considerable experience fighting terrorists, insurgents, and criminal networks, all of which have the cellular, compartmented structures that describe the current threats in the global war on terrorism. These are the same threats that US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) seeks to thwart by means of its global campaign plan to synchronize the counterterrorism efforts of the Department of Defense.
He points out that Title 46 of the US Code established the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams to respond to terrorist activity. These teams are a rapid response force capable of deployment in response to various threats against seaports and waterways, and they provide protection for strategic shipping, high interest vessels and critical infrastructure. Plus, Coast Guard teams are active on the high seas as well. With its maritime assets fully committed, augmentation by properly trained and assimilated CG SOF could advance USSOCOM capabilities in difficult mission areas.
Bowen suggests that forces of a CG SOF component could fill the gap he finds in maritime control and interdiction. While we have a few highly qualified teams that can do this type of work, many more are needed, and they can be made available from the Coast Guard. In this paper he writes that maritime security response requires prolific, robust, all-weather, day-night, opposed boarding capabilities with highly discriminate use of force to respond immediately to real-time, all-source intelligence.
Especially useful could be the Coast Guard experience and involvement in Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and the potential that CG SOF hold for augmenting USSOCOM’s mission requirement in maritime environments around the globe. Indeed, Lieutenant Commander Bowen relates current Coast Guard special purpose force capabilities to six of the nine SOF Core Tasks–including FID and Civil Affairs Operations.
A Coast Guard SOF component in USSOCOM could potentially enhance SOF operations with both tactical maritime and law enforcement capabilities, particularly in the demanding environment of homeland defense. One of the conundrums of military support to homeland defense operations is the Posse Comitatus stricture that, by law and augmenting DoD policy, circumscribes the use of Federal armed forces for domestic police work–search, seizure, arrest and the like. But countering radical extremist groups that are intent upon killing Americans at home is both a military and a law enforcement concern. Lieutenant Commander Bowen’s paper suggests that CG SOF can address both requirements since CG SOF can be at once badge-carrying law enforcers and counterterrorist fighters.
Lieutenant Commander Bowen steps to the front rank of military thinkers who approach our most difficult military challenges with new ideas and fresh concepts for future operations. The reader will agree that his vision for a CG SOF is worth consideration.

Lt Col Michael C. McMahon, USAF
Director, Strategic Studies Department
Joint Special Operations University

Now I have zero SOF experience, but it sounds to me like LCDR Bowen is suggesting that a USCG Special Operations Force would span the gap between the Navy SEALs’ counterterrorism mission and the Green Berets’ mission to train, advise, and assist foreign military or paramilitary forces:

The research suggests two critical ways in which the Coast Guard can contribute to the global counterinsurgency:

  • with a credible, kinetic counterterrorism (CT) capability at knife-fighting distances in the nation’s Tier One ports
  • by using its influence and access abroad, integrated with theater special operations command campaigns, to build the capacity of foreign forces, deny sanctuary to terrorists, and provide early warning on the strength or collapse of maritime security forces around the world

Some may counter that the Coast Guard is not the place for special operations, but in point of fact, the Coast Guard has been a place for special operations and must be a place for special operations if it is to contribute the full weight of its authority, expertise, and capability to help the nation defeat the radical-Islamist insurgency.

This makes sense to me, but I’ll be publicizing this thesis with milbloggers who know more about this subject than I do. I can’t wait to hear what they think.

Ohio eminent domain task force misses the point

5th Amendment textThe Ohio task force on eminent domain has released its preliminary report, and it’s missed the most important point of the exercise. I’m not interested in a fairer procedure for the government to use as it takes my home. I’m not interested in a clearer definition of “blight” that spells out exactly when the government can take my home. You see, I don’t want the government to take my home at all. Why is that so hard to understand?
A local or state government can exercise its eminent domain powers to take private property from its owner, if the government does so for a “public use” and pays “just compensation” (see the Fifth Amendment, at right). Until very recently, the term “public use” meant what you’d expect: building a school, putting in a highway, laying railroad tracks, and other projects that the public has access to.
We used to think of private building projects as a “private use” of property, since the public doesn’t have guaranteed access. But no more. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo v. New London last summer, the definition of “public use” has expanded to include the government seizing your land and giving it to another private owner for “economic development” (which means the new owner’s project yields higher property taxes than you do, or creates jobs, or some similar rationalization).
Liberals and conservatives alike blew a collective gasket over the ruling, and angry voters have already pressured several state legislatures into passing laws prohibiting these takings through eminent domain.