Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Search and Rescue Engagement—a great return on investment

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine by Mr. David L. Edwards, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue.

The Personal Touch
Though quiet in nature, engagement is a vital part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue (SAR) program. Reaching out and planning ahead with our neighbors—including other countries, responders, commercial enterprises, national, and private and international organizations—ensures that the best use is made of all available resources to assist persons, vessels, or aircraft in distress.

What’s in it for Us?
Even so, there is periodic concern from those who ask, “What is the return on investment for SAR engagement in lands far away from our coasts?”

One answer: U.S. citizens by the millions travel around the globe. Our citizens have come to expect U.S. government support when they get into a crisis away from home.

Additionally, many U.S. agencies, other countries, and international organizations continue to seek out the U.S. Coast Guard to learn from our search and rescue competency.

Soft Power
The U.S. Coast Guard enjoys a reputation of being invited in by many countries that may not want to “talk” to other parts of the U.S. government.

As a unique instrument of U.S. foreign policy by virtue of our multi-mission character and broad statutory authorities, we can leverage this professional reputation to the benefit of the U.S. Coast Guard, the United States, and the international community. In this way, international SAR engagement can be thought of as a form of “soft power.”

Field Impact
Additionally, international engagement conducted by the SAR program office supports field-level search and rescue mission execution. Engagement helps transform our neighboring nations into force multipliers, rather than a possible drain on U.S. resources.

For example, U.S. Coast Guard joint rescue coordination centers and joint rescue sub-centers (JRSCs) are renowned for developing contacts and coordinating response to distress alerts at the extremes of their SAR regions.

Several Coast Guard districts have established a type of engagement program to work with neighboring countries. JRSC/Sector San Juan and JRSC/Sector Guam have particularly notable processes for face-to-face sessions on a recurring basis with the many nations (with many languages and cultures) within and surrounding their SAR regions.

A Parting Shot
For the U.S. Coast Guard, the return on investment includes reduced operational costs, lives saved in areas traveled by U.S. citizens and others around the globe, operational efficiency and interoperability due to international adoption of U.S. standards and practices, and respect for U.S. leadership and its position in the world.

For more information:
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/summer2009.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.