Center for American Progress

Allow the Coast Guard Commandant to Become a Voting Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
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Allow the Coast Guard Commandant to Become a Voting Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Coast Guard commandant should be integrated into the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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All of the nation’s armed services housed in the Department of Defense—the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps—are voting members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This council of military advisors has traditionally not included the Coast Guard commandant, even though the USCG is a military service and can be tasked to support the Navy when it is conducting combat operations as it has done in Korea, Vietnam, and the two Persian Gulf wars.

Given the key role of the Coast Guard in homeland security, an area which is an increasingly important component of U.S. national security, as well as its support of U.S. interests and operations overseas, this arrangement does not give full respect to the Coast Guard’s ability to contribute to our national defense.

Instead, it limits the perspectives of the policymakers who rely on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as their primary source of military advice and undermines the ability of the commander in chief to hear directly from a military officer with key national security responsibilities.

Just as the Obama administration has integrated the Homeland Security Council into the National Security Council, so too should the Coast Guard commandant be integrated into the JCS system. At a time when we are engaged in a war with groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban, this step would give policymakers more information about the capabilities of all of our armed services. It would also raise the profile of the USCG’s defense readiness mission, putting pressure on the Coast Guard and policymakers to work together to improve the readiness of the service’s strategic assets, and ensure that the Coast Guard receives its fair share of the national security budget.

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