Gaps in Coast Guard History

The US Naval Institute’s News Service has provided access to a Coast Guard report to Congress mandated in the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (Pub. L. No. 113-281).

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commandant of the Coast Guard shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report on any gaps that exist in writings on the history of the Coast Guard. The report shall address, at a minimum, operations , broad topics, and biographies with respect to the Coast Guard.”

The document is relatively short. There is a fairly long list of topics, but I’m not sure how useful it is. I am sure Bill Wells will have something to say about this.

It seems lately we have seen more from the Atlantic Area Historian than from the Coast Guard Historian.

It also seems the Coast Guard has not “weaponized” its history. The Coast Guard is not using it to enhance the image of the service.

One thought on “Gaps in Coast Guard History

  1. I will say that the list of items are not gaps. They have been ignored. The real gaps are not in historical topics but are in the three more important factors of official financial support, the will of the leadership to accept the accountability that a comprehensive history program will ascribe, and promotion of academic historical work on the Coast Guard and the so-called “legacy” services.

    There are also administrative gaps. The Coast Guard has tens of thousands of documents that it holds onto instead of releasing (and declassifying) them for public use. It could also open its narrow view of FOIA requests.

    A larger gap exists in the organizational placement of history. It does not belong under public affairs. To have it in that department only trivializes history and leaves it without a champion in Coast Guard Headquarters. The Historian’s Office should report directly to the Vice Commandant.

    One note about the official historians.Their job is not to write history. They are in place to field questions from the public. They have also become speech writers for various commandants. The historical works seen today are the low hanging fruit. Most are blog posts that are part of the public affairs mission. They are popular history and as such are not included in the line of historical works. The Historian’s staff is also vastly undermanned. I can remember when there was one historian and one museum curator (who did not think he worked for CGHQ). the last time I heard their budget (not withstanding employee salaries) was only $29,000 a year. This is less than spent on one new NSC commissioning.

    The “gap” report had one end, to placate a congressional directive. It has nothing to do with establishing a comprehensive history program that will attract professionally trained historians.

    BTW, the Coast Guard is made of four not five legacy services. The Coast Guard does not appear to understand this.

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