Biden: Coast Guard Has Growing Role in Nation's Security
Vice President Joe Biden told the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s graduating class that they are entering a world of new threats, some that didn’t even exist when they were born, and that the service’s changing mission means they are not joining “your father’s Coast Guard.”
“No graduating class gets to choose the time into which they graduate, and you’re graduating into a world that is rapidly changing,” Biden told the nearly 300 men and women about to be commissioned in New London, Conn., “from challenges and missions to changing climates.”
Biden noted the Coast Guard has become fully integrated into the U.S. military, playing an increasingly complex role in national security, given the types of post-Cold War threats America now faces.
“New stateless actors have stepped into the breach with the desire to smuggle weapons of terror into American ports in the belly of cargo containers to do our people great harm,” he said.
Human trafficking and piracy on the high seas are occurring at rates no one would have imagined 50 years ago, the vice president said, posing growing challenges to free trade and commerce.
“More than at any time in history, every nation’s economic power and viability [are] tied to the global economy and dependent on the safe passage of goods on the seas,” he added.
Another responsibility for the 2013 graduating class will be increasing operations in the Arctic. Biden said the melting of the polar ice caps triggered by global warming will likely open up new international shipping routes.
“You’ll operate icebreakers that allow ships to navigate waters that would otherwise be impassable from the Great Lakes in the Northeast to new passages in the Arctic,” he said.
Biden also highlighted Coast Guard achievements, especially the dangerous missions the service is routinely called on to carry out, from helping victims of Hurricane Sandy last year to humanitarian missions further from home.
“Your shipmates have saved 3,650 lives last year alone, risking their lives,” he noted.
From natural disasters to rescues at sea, Biden said, “there are tens of thousands of grateful men and women and children from all parts of the world who will tell anyone who will listen that the most welcome sight they’ve ever seen are those racing stripes coming toward them or the sound of that orange Coast Guard helicopter above them, lowering a bucket with a man or woman inside to save their lives.
“In this changing world, we are going to be increasingly dependent on you,” he said.