The Role of the Coast Guard Auxiliary
in Homeland Security
A unique test of Leadership and Management
Of the five armed services2
that have served and protected this great country for the past
219 years, the oldest and most unique is the United States Coast
Guard. Founded by Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton
as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, the predecessor of the
Coast Guard began what was and is a long multi-mission tradition
of service to this nation.
From Law Enforcement to Military Service, Search and Rescue
to Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard serves the nation,
on our navigable waters and on the high seas. Standing for the
last 64 years, as a force multiplier, and the chief component
of the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Safety initiative,
the Coast Guard Auxiliary (originally the Coast Guard Reserve),
has performed side by side with the Active Duty and Reserve
Coasties on every mission permitted by law (Title 14, USC Chapter
23) and directed by the Commandant of the United States Coast
What is unique about this group of men and women is their diversity.
What is and has been their strength has also been their weakness.
They are not military. They are not paid. They are the civilian
volunteer uniformed members of the COAST GUARD.
Their uniforms have changed over the years, as well as their
numerical strength, but they have always provided a flexible
backbone that during the last 64 years has been called upon
many times to supplement a service that has today only 35,000
Active Duty and 8,000 Reserve members3.
In fact, in many parts of this country, the Auxiliary “is”
the Coast Guard, as there are no regular Coast Guard patrols.
Founded by an Act of Congress in 1939, the Auxiliary was formed
to supplement the Coast Guard and provide additional eyes and
ears. The Auxiliary or least the idea of an Auxiliary began
with a letter by Malcolm Stuart Boylan, Commodore of the Pacific
Writers' Yacht Club in Los Angeles, California. On August 23,
1934, to Lt. Francis C. Pollard of the Coast Guard:
This brings me to the suggestion
that a Coast Guard Reserve would be an excellent thing to perpetuate
these traditions, preserve its entity, and, more practically,
to place at the disposal of Coast Guard officers, auxiliary
flotillas of small craft for the frequent emergencies incident
to your twenty-two prescribed and countless unexpected duties..4
Several years later in January 1939, Rear Adm. Thomas Molloy,
USCG gave a speech in which he likened the climate of World
War I. RADM Molloy stated that "Should a similar crisis
arise in our national life again, your boats and your experience
will be needed.5"
The Coast Guard Reserve was later formed on 23 June 1939, and
with our entrance into the Second World War, the Coast Guard
needed two sets of skills from their pool of maritime friends,
which include yachtsman, Reservists, and boaters. In February
1941, Congress de-established the Reserve as a volunteer civilian
group, and re-established it as a military unit. They also,
re-formed the civilian volunteer group into what was to be called
the Auxiliary. The emphasis was on a civilian, non-military
During World War II, many Auxiliarists joined the Temporary
Reserve, a sub-set of the Reserve component, very similar to
a Sheriff’s Posse. Temporary Reservists were either paid
or unpaid. Regardless of their remuneration status, when called
upon and assigned, these Auxiliarists were then transformed
into Coast Guard Reservists. And as a Reservist, became a member
of the military for their tour of duty, which may have lasted
only a few short hours.
Throughout the War, the Reserve, and the Auxiliary were active
in all aspects of the national security. From Search and Rescue
of torpedoed vessels, to harbor patrols, from training to administrative
duties, and they also served as drivers, messengers, and auto
mechanics. Depending on where these men and women served, depended
on the types of training they received and the types of duties
During the last 64 years, Congress has modified the 1941 laws
that govern the Auxiliary, they were last changed in 1996 (Coast
Guard Authorization Act of 1996). Congress redefined the Auxiliary:
“The purpose of the Act is to allow
the Auxiliary to assist the Coast Guard, as authorized by
the Commandant, in performance of any Coast Guard function,
duty, role, mission or operation authorized by law.”6
Post War Auxiliary
In the years since the War, the Auxiliary returned back to
their original concept and design; that of four primary missions
or cornerstones: public education, operations, vessel safety
checks and fellowship .
Public education courses on boating topics, navigation, rules
of the road are the mainstay of the recreational boating safety
Operationally, the Coast Guard utilizes the Auxiliary in close
shore Search and Rescue (SAR).
“Studies by the Coast
Guard show that 86 percent of the cases to which the Coast Guard
responded occurred within 3 miles of shore and that 95 percent
of the cases occurred within 10 miles of shore.”8
The vessels that the Auxiliary volunteers own and offer for
use to the Coast Guard make them ideal platforms to assist the
Coast Guard in close shore SAR. It is same types of vessels,
that are, by in large, calling for help from the Coast Guard.
In addition to SAR by boats, the Auxiliary has a very active
Aviation program (AUXAIR). Private aircraft (single engine)
cost a fraction of the cost to run in comparison to the Coast
Guard Aviation’s fleet, and with this in mind, the Coast
Guard uses the Aviation Wing extensively to do Safety Patrols.
The Vessel Safety Checks (VSC) program was designed to inform
the public (boater) of not only the federal, state and local
boating laws, as it relates to equipment, but to make sure boater’s
carried the correct, and working safety equipment. A VSC examiner
carries no legal or law enforcement authority and the results
are not given to any law enforcement authority. It is for this
reason that the VSC program is so effective.
The Auxiliarist checks the vessel with the owner/operator present
and shows them what they did right or wrong and strongly suggests
that they correct their errors, as well as take additional boating
education. If they possess all the required equipment, and comply
with all applicable laws, they are given a VSC sticker. While
the sticker won’t stop them from being boarded by law
enforcement, it does tell law enforcement that these people
do take their vessel safety seriously.
Auxiliarists are also involved in most of the other missions
that the Coast Guard is involved. From the Auxiliary Interpreter
Corps, to the National Press Corps, from Environmental Protection
to Recruitment of both enlisted and officers, as well as the
Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) program, which brings in
one-fourth of every entering Coast Guard Academy class, the
Auxiliary is there, side by side with the Active Duty, Reserve
and Civilian components, and volunteering for this duty at the
same time, all while being an un-paid – uniformed –
On September 11th, 2001, this country as well as the rest
of the world was shocked into a “New Normalcy” by
the attacks on New York City and Washington DC. The destruction
of the World Trade Centers and the attack on the Pentagon moved
this country to a defensive posture it had not had for more
than forty years (since the Cuban Missile Crisis).
One of the leading federal agencies to respond was the Coast
Guard. New York City is New York City because of its strategic
port, from the time of its founding by Henry Hudson. It is a
City that is surrounded by water. Washington DC is also a city
that has major waterways crosscutting major centers of governmental
It was the Coast Guard that was alerted and activated to provide
security for these maritime cities, as well as other equally
important maritime cities, such as Boston, Miami, San Diego,
and San Francisco, to name a few.
Not only did the Coast Guard step up to the plate, but as a
small service, it had to realign its workforce and assets in
order to meet this challenge. Stepping in, right behind the
moving Active Duty and Reserve units were Auxiliarists.
These men and women took time out from their business lives,
their educational studies, to maintain communications, handle
the mess duties, and become the small unit maintenance people.
At the same time, Auxiliarists ran most of the Search and Rescue
cases, and acted as the eyes and ears for the Coast Guard in
many parts of the country.
According to Richard Schaefer of the Office of Search &
Rescue (G-OPR) at Coast Guard Headquarters, the person in-charge
of statistical analysis of Search and Rescue; “The total
number of SAR cases between 2000 and 2002 were 116,541. Of this
number, more than 92% (107,720) were within 20 nautical miles
And according to the Boat Crew Seamanship Manual "About
90% of all cases do no require searching.10"
In other words, Rescue with No Search.
Unlike National Guardsman and Reservists, there are no laws
that protect the livelihood of an Auxiliarist, because an Auxiliary
is not a military unit. These men and women, not only risk their
lives, but their livelihoods, by providing the services enabling
them to be a force multiplier for the Coast Guard.
Today there are multiple missions that the Auxiliary is manning,
which relate to Homeland Security. Maritime Domain Awareness
(MDA) is the single largest nationwide program currently in
existence. There are other programs (Operation Noble Eagle)
as well as District-wide and Group-wide programs such as the
First CG District’s Coastal Beacon11
and Coast Watch12
Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)
is the critical, yet not fully developed component, of the homeland
security equation. The crux of MDA requires adequate information,
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of vessels, cargo
& people to be shared with law enforcement agencies and
the maritime community at large. Simply put, it is possessing
total awareness of vulnerabilities, threats & targets of
interest in, on, or near navigable waterways…
It is here, given our “New Normalcy”, our new Department
of Homeland Security, and the paradigm change in the way this
country now operates that the challenge of utilizing 40,00014
trained men and women becomes a “unique test of leadership
The astute reader may have picked up on the proportional relationships
between the different components of the Coast Guard. Currently,
the Active Duty has 35,000 members, the Reserve 8,000 and the
Auxiliary 40,000 members. The Auxiliary is, on paper, an equal
This being said, there is a world of difference between the
40,000 Auxiliarists and the 43,000 Active Duty/Reservists.
The mean age of the Auxiliary is 59 (50%
of all Auxiliarists are between 50 and 69 years of age).
- The Auxiliarists are volunteers.
- 3. The Auxiliary and its members are not covered by the
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA),
Chapter 43 of Title 38, U, S. Code.
Prolonged continuous service of its members, as in the September
11th call-out is problematic. Even so, over 124,000 person-hours
were contributed by the Auxiliary to the Coast Guard from the
period 11 September 2001 to 7 December 2001.15
If one were to use the traditional 8-hour day, that’s
15,500 days, or a workforce of 3,100 full-time volunteers (using
a 40 hour work-week), which was fielded in response to the attack.
Leadership and Management of the Auxiliary is not a straightforward
matter. The Auxiliarist is not subject to the Uniform Code of
Military Justice (UCMJ), and there are two distinct “chains
of command”, one “Gold” or Coast Guard, the
other “Silver” or Auxiliary.
On the Gold side, there is the Coast Guard Chain of Command,
while on the Silver side there is the Auxiliary Chain of Leadership
and Management. In both cases, no military order can be given
to any Auxiliarist, and yet, the Auxiliary is based upon a military
model and doctrine.
Auxiliarists are proud
of their membership and training. When you wear the uniform
or fly the Auxiliary Ensign, you are a member of Team Coast
Guard. Your actions as a member of this organization will reflect
directly on the United States Coast Guard. In many areas, you
will be the Coast Guard’s only link with the public. This
recognition is a PRIVILEGE as well as a RESPONSIBILITY.16
In the Auxiliary we do not hold a
rank, but, our insignia does identify the office we hold.
Most members of the armed forces are unaware that we have
no rank and therefore, when on a military installation we
are seen as Coast Guard officers with rank.17
Management of the Auxiliary is also developed
around this duality. On the Coast Guard side, the management of
the Auxiliary resides with the Chief Director of the Auxiliary
(CHDIRAUX), through the individual Districts’ Director of
Auxiliary (DIRAUX). The Chief Director reports to the Commandant
through the Assistant Commandant of Operations. The local Director
of Auxiliary reports to both the District Commander, and to the
Chief Director of Auxiliary in Washington DC.
The Auxiliary, meanwhile has its own duality (does this make
it a quad-ality?). The National organization sets policy in
conjunction with the CHDIRAUX, and other CG offices. These policies
are then promulgated down the Auxiliary chain, as well as the
DIRAUX chain, where they can be modified by either the Auxiliary
District or Division. In addition, as it is in the Coast Guard,
the Coast Guard District or local DIRAUX can also modify these
This catch-22 breeds confusion between policies, as well as
consistency. However, this is not the major issue facing the
Coast Guard and the Auxiliary. It is the both lack of focus
and leadership at different points in the chain and the ability
to enforce a methodology that breeds accountability, which in
turn develops reliability. It is these two issues that has caused
the greatest harm to both organizations.
There seems to be a general lack of communication skills in
the Auxiliary. Harvard Business School Professor Nitin Nohria
believes "Communication is the real work of leadership".18
Leadership, accordingly is
the visionary-charismatic type of leader or the subtle mover
of men, without understanding the role of communication, you've
failed to understand the fundamental aspect of leadership.
Leadership is made possible by words
(either verbal or written) and deeds. Good communicators take
complex situations and simplify them for the user group that
is being addressed.19
The message from Flag Officers is TEAM COAST GUARD: “…we
can take lessons learned at this Summit to propel the Coast Guard
into becoming an Employer of Choice for all our
members, whether active, reserve, civilian or auxiliarist and
truly embody our concept of Team Coast Guard.”20
In many instances this message looses its punch at the local unit
On the Coast Guard side, while there is a very communicative
supportive Flag Officers, this message changes based on the experiences
of local units with their particular Auxiliary counterparts. In
an informal survey of units located in the Texas panhandle area,
it was reported that small boat stations and other similar units
did not want to associate with the Auxiliary.
Accountability and Reliability
The factors one would normally attribute for this schism; age,
agility, training level; did not play a role in this general attitude.
It was not directly even the lack of military bearing that has
created this divide. It was the lack of accountability and reliability
of the Auxiliarists that those who were polled encountered.
Good intentions are commendable, but in a service where even
mid-range Petty Officers are invested with tremendous amount of
responsibility, many times belying their age and maturity, not
being able to count on a force multiplier begins to tear at the
fabric of which is the Coast Guard – Honor, Respect &
Devotion to Duty.
The Auxiliary works at and with the local Coast Guard unit (be
it a small boat station, a group, a marine safety office or integrated
services unit). Orders are cut at the local unit level, operational
assignments are made by the local unit level, and certain programs
are administrated through the local unit; so if the message of
unity, co-operation and usage is lost, so to is the local Auxiliary
In the days, weeks and months since September 11th, the Auxiliary
has for the most part, done nothing to prepare for an event which
is sure to come, another major terrorist attack on American soil.
Preparation, at least in Coast Guard terms follows the precepts
of Emergency Planning, which include hazard analysis, emergency
operation plans, testing of plans and maintenance and revision.21
In the next emergency, where will the Auxiliary fit in? Can the
diversity inherent in the broad reaching membership be a positive
factor in helping to bridge what will become a logistical nightmare?
Only planning, training, and a sense of reliability, based on
some type of accountability principle, will enable the “New
Normalcy” in the Coast Guard to succeed.
With the Iraq War looming, the Auxiliary in many parts of the
Country were not included in war plans. Most areas of the country,
even where the Auxiliary is the only Coast Guard presence, were
not included in Emergency Operations Centers, as liaison officers.
Throughout the last year, communiqués from Auxiliary Flag
Officers, concerning such issues as emergency operations planning,
the move to the Department of Homeland Security as well as the
“new” role, if any of the Auxiliary in Homeland Security
have been met with almost a complete silence.
Our mission as stated in Title 14, in 1939: “…allow
the Auxiliary to assist the Coast Guard…”22
Failure to communicate what our mission might be, has led to no
clear cut organizational goals.
The Test becomes a Solution
As with every organization which relies on inter-personal communication,
and the human factor, there is never a wholly simple answer or
solution. The test of resolve of both the Auxiliary and the Coast
Guard to more fully implement the Auxiliary into the daily lives
of the Coast Guard is at hand.
Leadership must be shown from both the Flag, as well as the individual
member, whether they where a gold uniform or silver. Leadership
is about communication. Communication comes in many forms, both
overt and subvert.
Accountability needs to be mandated. There is nothing explicitly
stated in the Code of Federal Regulations, and nothing in Auxiliary
Manual23 which stipulates
accountability. On the contrary, there is a long history and legacy
of anti-accountability. This is evidenced by the dogmatic word
“Volunteer” used in our newest slogan “Americas
Volunteer Lifesavers." Thus the Auxiliary, which is a voluntary
force, has built an excuse to reliability and accountability by
using the phrase “We are Volunteers.”
Accountability and reliability while intertwined need not be.
However, the dogma of “We Are Volunteers” has corrupted
the separation of these two distinct philosophical concepts. It
is the ethos of Volunteerism that should embrace reliability.
While no one will ever misconstrue your volunteerism status versus
an employee/employer status, to be taken in full light of abilities,
and be considered fully as equal professionals, we can not utilized
this volunteer status as a reason for non-performance.
How can the Coast Guard be assured that Homeland Security programs
can be effectively prosecuted, if the very people they are relying
on to man the program are un-reliable?
Accountability is an easier answer, those who don’t show
up when scheduled to do so, are chastised by promulgation. But,
is that the correct choice?
In the past, it was common place for Auxiliarists to accept new
assignments and positions, if only for the ability to have “status”.
These individuals would then use their new “status”,
be it a title or the ability to wear the bars and/or stars of
office, to impress and/or collect knowledge and accordingly power.
The Coast Guard can not afford to rely in the Auxiliary to accomplish
its goals, and be given a false sense of security. Paper battalions
can’t fight a war. Paper Auxiliarists can’t make programs
Can reliability be inculcated by example? Can our leaders, be
they gold or silver, show us a vision that will encourage Auxiliarists
to modify their behavior so that reliability becomes the watchword?
These are the tests, that face the leadership, and successful
completion of these tasks will develop a new Auxiliary, that will
be faceted as an all-professional force. Training, skills, experience,
leadership, accountability and reliability will be more than just
words on white paper’s, but watchwords that a CG Coxswain
or Officer-in-Charge of a small boat station can take to the bank.
Make no mistake about this, the Coast Guard considers Auxiliarists
both professionals and professional partners, and the Coast Guard
needs to believe in the validity of the Auxiliary missions and
As the Coast Guard moves deeper into the Maritime Domain Awareness
program and the Auxiliary are brought to a higher level of participation,
accountability will become paramount. MDA is arguably a law enforcement
assignment. While currently one could say the Auxiliary is only
acting as the eyes and ears of the Coast Guard, this level of
participation is exactly what every police force has done with
the “Neighborhood Watch Program”.
However, the next level in the progression from eyes to ears
requires more direct law enforcement involvement. Higher levels
of law enforcement involvement require some type of law enforcement
powers. When asked how that could be achieved without accountability,
the Coast Guard’s MDA Program Manager replied “good
Will a “new accountable/reliable Auxiliary” succeed?
The answer is like the old joke about psychologists. When asked
how many psychologists it took to screw in the light bulb, the
psychologist paused and contemplated. A short time later, the
psychologist gave is considered, professional opinion: “One”,
he said, “but only if the light bulb is willing.”
“First and most appropriately, let’s talk about people,
our men and women … and their critical importance…
You have heard so many times that ‘our people are our most
important asset.’ But let’s put that in further perspective:
…[they] are our only asset…” Susan Morriesey
Livingstone25 , the Former Under
Secretary of the Navy wrote this about transformational change
in the Navy. It holds true in the Coast Guard, and in the Coast
Can the Auxiliary be molded into a force that is reliable, accountable,
as well as professional? The answer is Yes, “but only if
the Auxiliary is willing.”
- In a recent Washington Post Article, [Coast Guard Fights to
Retain War Role by John Mintz and Vernon Loeb 2003-08-31] “Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has all but decided to remove the
U.S. Coast Guard from participation in future wars…”
3 - Per the G-IPA
Fact File (9 August 2003) http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/factfile/index.htm
4 - From The Coast
Guard Auxiliary in World War II by C. Kay Larson, Auxiliary National
5 - From The Coast
Guard Auxiliary in World War II by C. Kay Larson, Auxiliary National
6 - Per the G-IPA
Fact File (9 August 2003) http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/factfile/index.htm
7 - USCG Auxiliary
New Member Reference Guide 2001/2, Page 3.
8 - Per Coast Guard
Auxiliary Air Operations Training Text COMDINST M16798.5B page
9 - Private e-mail
10 - Boat Crew Seamanship
Manual COMDTINT M16114.5B, page 15-2
11 - Press
Release No. 081-02:
12 - USCG ACTNY pamphlet
- http://www.uscg.mil/d8/mso/stlouis/portsafety.html 9 August
14 - Per AuxData
(USCG Auxiliary Member Database) 9 August 2003
15 - Director Gram
022/2001, 22 December 2001 http://www.cgaux.org/cgauxweb/hq/dg01-022.htm
16 - Auxiliary New
Member Course – Student Study Guide: COMDTPUB P16794.40A
17 - Customs &
Courtesy page on the Chief Director of Auxiliary website http://www.cgaux.info/g_ocx/cginfo/uniforms/custom.html
18 - What Makes a
Good Leader? by Deborah Blagg and Susan Young (Harvard Business
School Bulletin, February 2001)
19 - Leaders and
Leadership - Being the former, doesn't necessarily mean you exhibit
the latter By Wayne Spivak, 2002 http://www.freeportflotilla1306.org/members/leadership/leadership.pdf
20 - CG HR Flag Voice
178 - Diversity Summit II: Out of Many, One - Leveraging America’s
21 - FEMA Independent
Study Course “Emergency Planning” page 2.1-2.2
22 - Per the G-IPA
Fact File (9 August 2003) http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/factfile/index.htm
23 - The Auxiliary
Manual, COMDINST 16790.1E - The Auxiliary Manual promulgates guidance
for Auxiliary use by the Coast Guard (CG) and serves as the primary
policy guide for every Auxiliarist. As the primary policy reference,
the Manual outlines the authority and responsibility for Auxiliary
administration and governs the conduct, duties, and responsibilities
of all Auxiliarists. [Chap 1.A.]
24 - A private,
un-official discussion with the Program Manager while walking
to a meeting. The MDA Program Manager has recently been hired,
and has yet to fully research all the aspects of using the Auxiliary,
in addition to the who, what, where, etc of the Auxiliary.
25 - Ms. Livingsone
stepped down as Under Secretary Feb 27, 2003. The Pointy End of
the Spear Chips Magazine (Space & Naval Warfare Systems -
US Navy) Spring 2003 Page 6
The Author is a member of Flotilla 13-11
of the First Southern District. Assistance with this article was
provided by the following USCG Auxiliarists: Hal Leahy, D7; Ken
Sommers, D1SR; Doug Simpson, D7
Note: This article was written (for a
military academic-type journal) in August 2003, before the IRAQ
war. It is being released as written. Per
the G-IPA Fact File (9 August 2003)