Duckworks - Safety First!
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Safety First!
by Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

America’s Volunteer Military

The Coast Guard’s Volunteer Force:
Service to the nation at bargain basement prices

For the last sixty-six years, one of this nation’s best kept defense secret has been the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Auxiliary is the uniformed, non-military, volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard.

Authorized under Title 14 Chapter 23 of the United States Code, as amended; the Auxiliary is specifically a “nonmilitary organization”, under the command and control of the Commandant, for the Secretary (initially the Treasury Secretary, then the Transportation Secretary and now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security).

The Commandant has to date authorized the Auxiliary to perform any and all missions that the Coast Guard currently performs, save for those missions prohibited by law (military involvement) and currently direct law enforcement.

To this end, the Auxiliary has been performing the lion’s share of the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) mandate, through both the Coast Guard’s and the Auxiliary’s own programs. These programs, along with State, Local and private initiatives have helped to stem, then reverse and mostly1 maintain the tide of boating fatalities. In addition to these RBS programs, the Auxiliary has been actively involved in coastal and intra-coastal search and rescue, Marine Safety and Environmental Protection, as well as other support (administrative) functions.

The 2002 Auxiliary budget was approximately $12 million dollars. This budget is used to support the Auxiliary operation by utilizing Coast Guard Officers, Enlisted and Civilian employees to assist in running the Auxiliary program, as well as supplementing other operating costs, such as travel, training, and fuel. The Coast Guard estimates that for each dollar spent on the Auxiliary and Auxiliary programs, they save $13.2

But a thirteen-fold return on investment is not the only benefit that the Coast Guard or the country receives. It is the investment of countless, nameless hours by dedicated Americans that enable the Coast Guard to meet their ever increasing mission demands.

From the Auxiliarist who cooks at Coast Guard Station, Fire Island in New York, to the Auxiliarist who is awakened in the early morning hours in Venice, FL by a SAR Controller, because there are no other assets to respond to a vessel in distress.

It’s the countless men and women that don a uniform, and go each day to the local marina or boat ramp and perform Vessel Safety Checks, making sure that each boat and boater has and knows their vessel has all the required safety equipment on–board and that it’s in working order.

Or the Auxilliarists who take their time, each and every week to teach safe boating classes to the ever increasing number of boaters.

These events are not just past successes, they are today, and will be tomorrow. As the Coast Guard Auxiliary transforms along with the Coast Guard, both of these components will see and seek tighter integration, as missions and mission priorities change.

The Past

Since its inception, the Auxiliary has been used as a force-multiplier. During times of war or national crisis or natural disaster, the Coast Guard has called upon its Auxiliary to assist both the Coast Guard, as well as State and Local governments with relief efforts.

From manning sand bags, to pushing paper at CG units, these America’s Volunteer Lifesavers™ have permitted the understaffed Coast Guard to realign its manpower, and fulfill its multi-missions. Success of this force has its roots in its inception, during the early 1940’s.

Throughout World War II, Auxiliarists manned harbor patrols, both on foot and on the high seas. These volunteers saved lives, chased U-boats, and secured our ports.

William Mansfield and crew put to sea on the night of 14 May 1942 from Miami. They went to find the torpedoed Mexican tanker Porto de Llano. The found her in a sea of flames. The vessel and its cargo were on fire. The water surface was burning from the oil floating on it. The USCG Auxiliary vessel went to the very edge of the ring of fire and pulled the survivors aboard.3

During the “lean” times, volunteer members conducted hundred of thousands of public boating courses, teaching boating safety, navigation and other nautical skills. When not teaching in a classroom, these volunteer conducted countless Courtesy Marine Examinations, now called Vessel Safety Checks (VSC).

So important is this effort, that the program was expanded to other major boating organizations and to local law enforcement. For the Coast Guard considers both boating education and VSC’s part of the first line of offense.

It is believed that informed recreational boaters will carry proper safety equipment which has been checked for operational quality and the educated boater will venture out only in conditions that match their seamanship skill level. As such, VSC’s and boating education is considered preventive Search and Rescue (SAR).

The Coast Guard hopes that over time these programs will change the life cycle of Search and Rescue. More informed recreational boaters will result in fewer SAR emergencies.

The Present

In response to the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, Auxiliarists nationwide voluntarily flocked to their responsible Coast Guard units. In areas like New York City, and its surrounding counties, it was the Auxiliarists who manned the SAR vessels, while the regular and reserve components provided Homeland and Maritime Security missions.

It must be understood, for this is a key issue, that the Auxiliary is not covered under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), where jobs of those who are called up in an emergency are protected by law. Auxiliarists in the true spirit of volunteerism stepped up to the plate (and continue to do so) to provide service their country and their communities.

There has been a slow and gradual shift in paradigm since September 11th. With the transfer of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard itself has had a renewed existence, as well as a modified change in focus.

While all the missions of the Coast Guard remained, a new emphasis has been placed on homeland security, Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and Maritime Security (MARSEC). As the Coast Guard has realigned its assets to meet these new missions, it has come to rely more on its Auxiliary to provide its force-multiplier complements.

As recently stated by VADM Thomas Barrett, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard

With the new paradigm and with a global war on terrorism, all missions of the Coast Guard still exist. Boating safety is still an extremely important mission.4

An Inch of Gold for an Inch of Time5

In 2002, 3.8 million hours of service were logged by Auxiliary members. In 2003, preliminary numbers show over 4 million hours, approximately a 5.8% increase. [See Table 1] These hours are categorized in 23 major categories, and about 3 times as many sub-categories. It is felt that these numbers are low, since many Auxiliarists fail to document the time they invest in their roles, or improperly calculate the hours actually spent on Auxiliary/Coast Guard missions.

In a speech at the National Conference (NACON) of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 20036 , VADM Thomas Barrett said

[my] thanks to those giving up their weekend to make our waters safer for all. Time is non-renewable, and that time is the most that you can give to any organization.”

The Chinese proverb is “An Inch of Gold for an Inch of Time” gives a clear perspective of both how the new Coast Guard is viewing the Auxiliary, and how many Auxiliarists now feel about the Coast Guard, and more importantly the Auxiliary.7

While you were reading this article

While reading, here is what Auxiliarists did, for the nation, for the Coast Guard and for each and every community that has an Auxiliary Flotilla:

Completes 62.5 safety patrols
Completes 6.2 regatta patrols
Performs 10.2 vessel assists
Assists 28 people
Saves 1 life
Saves $341,290 in property
Participates in 100 operational support missions
Participates in 48.7 administrative support missions
Completes 13.4 recruiting support missions
Educates 369 people on boating safety
Performs 299 vessel safety checks
Attends 70 public affairs functions8

[See Table 3. for further information].

Congressional Leader’s See Need for More Auxiliaries

The concept of an Auxiliary is beginning to take hold in Washington. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the oldest such auxiliary, with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) being only slightly younger. CAP has only been in existence as long as the Coast Guard Reserve (1941) .

The idea of using volunteers to support the military mission, cut overhead, and involve the community with the military establishment has found support in the Senate. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) proposed new legislation10 in April 2003 to support such a concept.

Interestingly enough, the section of the bill relating to creation of military auxiliaries is completely fashioned from the US Code (Title 14, USC Chapt. 23) used to form, and maintain the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Both co-sponsors, Senators Warner & Levin (D-MI) obviously feel that both the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s actions and model are sufficiently tested as to deserve not only praise, but duplication. It is said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery11, ” and it would seem that Mr. Warner and Mr. Levin want their colleagues to agree.

Notwithstanding the current Senate Bill, which arguably in its present form will bear no resemblance to the Bill that will reach the Senate floor, or the Conference Committee, should it ever make it that far, it is clear that the intent and support for the concept is, as it has in the past, supportive.

Support, from Congress or Congressional leaders, as well as budgetary support will further enable the Auxiliary to meet its role, in both the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Future

In years past, the Auxiliary and the Coast Guard paths, while intertwined, were for the most part segregated. Auxiliarists were sometimes considered (by both themselves, as well as the Active Duty Coast Guard) members of a yacht club, who occasionally were called upon to assist the Coast Guard in times of needed manpower. The Auxiliary’s performance was welcome and fully appreciated, to assist their older wiser cousin, for those ‘surge’ operations12.

But change is on the horizon. With the changes in our landscape, and the transference of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, and it chief primary focus has changed.

This is not to say that all the other missions that the Coast Guard is responsible for, are not as important, but Homeland Security and Maritime Domain Awareness has changed the landscape. In a small service, which was stretched for manpower and money, these changes are further stretching both manpower and the budget.

As for the future, VADM Barrett painted a picture of the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, “with new paradigm and with a global war on terrorism, all missions of the Coast Guard still exist. Boating safety is still an extremely important mission.”

“The Coast Guard can’t do it alone,.” said Admiral Barrett. “Without the Auxiliary there the Coast Guard would find it difficult to meet the short and long term challenges.”

To this end, VADM Barrett remarked, “professionalism is increasing, more personnel will be needed, more qualified to work in multi-missions, which require a more diverse organization.13

Today is the Future

However, the future is here today. To meet the increased demands of the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security has recently mandated that all members of the Coast Guard: Active Duty, Reserve, Civilian and Auxiliary be qualified in terms of security.

Security is one of those terms that have a certain vagueness associated with it. Today, at least in terms of the Coast Guard and its Auxiliary14, security has been divided into two aspects, Operational Support and Direct Operational Support.

Approximately one third of the Auxiliary will fall into the Direct Operational category. These members hold qualifications involving surface operations, air operations, operations planning, interpreting, CMD/OPCEN/COMMS watchstanding, marine safety and security operations, and other positions as determined by Coast Guard operational commanders….

The remainder of the Auxiliary will fall into the Operational Support category.15

Accordingly, a new level of trust, built on need, has been established. While the current program to fingerprint and perform background checks16 on those categorized as Direct Operational will take approximately three years, those who are cleared will be part of the “new” Auxiliary.

“New” Auxiliary

As ADM Loy, former Commandant of the Coast Guard stated, “Our challenge for the future is to determine what the new normalcy represents in terms of mission requirements and the associated operational activity, while also ensuring that the Coast Guard is able to provide forces to meet its military service responsibilities for supporting the war against terrorism both at home and abroad.”17

To this end, at least in terms of the transformation of the Coast Guard and its Auxiliary, it is a stepped-up role in areas that require the Coast Guard to know who is actually “in” their Auxiliary.

Aside from the actual results of the security process, and the anticipated loss of Auxiliarists, either to “retirement status” or resignation18, the transformation has begun.

Examples of increased integration can be found at multiple levels, from educational to operational.

In the Auxiliary First Southern District (part of the First Coast Guard District) which covers the Metropolitan New York Area, as well as parts of Connecticut and Vermont, as well as New Jersey, several programs have been implemented that were not part of the Auxiliary landscape.

Specifically, winter operations by Auxiliarists had long been banned, due to increase risk of hypothermia, and lack of equipment and specialized training. These risks have been mitigated by the acquisition of Dry Suits, and other foul weather gear, specialized training and qualification programs.

Multiple daily air patrols by the aviation wing of the First Southern District which includes sensitive areas of the New York Metropolitan Area are conducted. These patrols, both in intensity, and breadth, too were not part of the Auxiliary landscape.

Currently, the Auxiliary National Training Center is in discussions with the Coast Guard’s Office of Workforce Performance, Training & Development (G-WTT) to assist, create and/or manage certain training and testing programs, for the Coast Guard, which includes both Active Duty, Reserve, Civilian and Auxiliary members.

Recently the Coast Guard Office for Marine Safety and Environmental Protection (G-M) published multiple Personal Qualification Standards (PQS) for Auxiliarists to help meet the demands of field Marine Safety Offices (MSO). This broad based support for, and inclusion in, MSO operations brings the Auxiliarist closer and closer to“parity” with their Active Duty brethren.

Other activities that have Auxiliary participation, such as trial programs such as Marksmanship Instruction and Intelligence Gathering have sprung up. These areas have always been off-limits to Auxiliarists, regardless of prior experience and background.

Road bumps

There are still many road bumps to overcome. Problems exist from both within the Auxiliary and the Coast Guard. Issues, from years gone by, such as accountability and reliability still shadow many Auxiliarists in the eyes of the Enlisted.

Professionalism, in terms of actual behavior and perceived behavior needs to be addressed from within. Small, inane facts of life, such as titles can negatively impact both performance and perception.

In a recent article in Newsday19, about the Civil Air Patrol20, Newsday, by properly utilizing CAP titles, lent an impression of professionalism that the Auxiliary lacks. It is the lack of [quasi-] military titles that hamper public understanding of the Auxiliary and hence the Auxiliarists view of their professional status.

While a title is only a placebo, since there is no military authority behind them, the Coast Guard and the public need and demand all members of the Coast Guard, which in every definition includes the Auxiliary to be a professional service, beyond reproach.

These bumps will be addressed over time, solved, and new bumps, like in every organization will appear. Organizations are like adolescents, the acne never really goes away…until its too late, and they are the elderly.


In the next few years, as the Coast Guard grows, in both manpower and assets (due to several large scale projects to replace its existing Deepwater fleet, as well as Communications net21), the need for the Auxiliary will grow as well.

A force of 40,000 volunteers, trained, qualified, security cleared that can assist not only in surge operations, but in normal day to day operations will increase the effectiveness of this military and law enforcement service.

Every day, dedicated Active Duty, Reserve, Civilians, and Auxiliarists work hard at both achieving the goals of the Coast Guard, the Auxiliary, the Department of Homeland Security and the public, but at making the Auxiliary and the Coast Guard the most professional organization in the world.

Both the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary have been, are and will always be the premier Stewards of both the Oceans and Maritime Safety and Security.

The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus – Always Ready. This means that not only will it be always ready for transformation and change, but so will the Auxiliary, a service to the nation at a bargain rate..

1) According to the last report issued by the USCG Office for Boating Safety, “The 2002 accident statistics also reveal that overall fatalities were up from 681 in 2001 to 750 in 2002, reversing a downward trend. Boating fatalities involving alcohol use also rose to 39 percent in 2002 from 34 percent the year before. The number of registered recreational boats continued to rise, breaking the 13 million mark.” U.S. Coast Guard Statistics Reveal Highest Fatality Risk In Colder Months released 5 January 2004

2) Assessment of Operation BoatSmart Implementation Phase I May 2001-September 2003: Draft Report dated 12/24/03

3) The Volunteers: The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Weinberg, Ellsworth PNACO/DC-L U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary National Board, Inc.; 1986, page 32

4) At the 2003 National Conference of the USCG Auxiliary, Nashville, TN – August 30, 2003

5) Disregard the different use of unit words describing nouns in different cultures. This proverb tells the truth that time is more valuable than money. Money spent or lost can be earned; time lost is lost for good. No money can buy it back. The motto is that we got to make good use of our time - Haiwang Yuan

6) At the 2003 National Conference of the USCG Auxiliary, Nashville, TN – August 30, 2003

7) 4 million hours, if put into person days, is approximately 100,000 weeks of employment. Since the military gets four weeks of paid leave, we have provided approximately 2,083 full time employees. Since the Auxiliary budget already includes 80 Coast Guard employees (military and civilian), if we roll them into our budget, this means the average cost of an Auxiliary on a per person basis is $5,550. It’s easy to see why the Coast Guard feels it receives a thirteen-fold return for each dollar spent! The average employee in a mid-level pay-grade fully costed (salary, health benefits, pension, etc) would exceed $72,000 per year.

8) From the USCG Fact File - - See Table 3.

9) “Civil Air Patrol was conceived in the late 1930s by legendary New Jersey aviation advocate Gill Robb Wilson, who foresaw aviation's role in war and general aviation's potential to supplement America's military operations. With the help of New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the new Civil Air Patrol was established on December 1, 1941, just days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.”

10) Defense Transformation for the 21st Century Act of 2003 – “A bill to promote the national security by providing a National Security Personnel System for the Department of Defense; a streamlined acquisition system both efficient and effective in order to provide servicemembers on the battlefield with the most modern and lethal equipment; realistic appropriations and authorization laws responsive to an ever-changing national security environment; and the coordination of the activities of the Department of Defense with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with national security.”

The bill, S.927, co-sponsored by Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) is currently (as of 23 February 2004 in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Title I - TITLE I--PERSONNEL TRANSFORMATION, Subtitle A - Transformation of Civilian Personnel, CHAPTER 87A: DEFENSE ACQUISITION WORKFORCE STREAMLINING, SEC. 104. ESTABLISHMENT OF AUXILIARIES WITHIN THE MILITARY DEPARTMENTS TO COORDINATE VOLUNTEERS, `CHAPTER 1015—AUXILIARIES specifically speaks of creating auxiliaries.

Sec. 10701. Administration of auxiliaries

“(a) An auxiliary of a military department is a nonmilitary organization administered by the Secretary of the military department concerned under the direction of the Secretary of Defense. For command, control, and administrative purposes, the auxiliary shall include such organizational elements and units as are approved by the Secretary of the military department concerned, including, but not limited to, a national board and staff (to be known as the `auxiliary headquarters unit'), districts, regions, divisions, and other organizational elements and units. The auxiliary organization and its officers shall have such rights, privileges, powers, and duties as may be granted to them by the Secretary of the military department concerned, consistent with this title and other applicable provisions of law. The Secretary of the military department concerned may designate the authority and responsibilities of the officers of the auxiliary that the Secretary considers necessary or appropriate for the functioning, organization, and internal administration of the auxiliary.”

11) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - "Usually said ironically when someone tries to gain attention by copying someone else's original ideas. Coined by Charles Caleb Colton in 1820 in his 'Lacon.' First attested in the United States in 'Malice' (1940) by E. Cameron. The adage is found in varying forms." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

12) One of the primary reasons the Auxiliary was formed was the need for additional trained manpower during times of crisis. Force multiplying is a major attribute of the Auxiliary for the Coast Guard.

13) At the 2003 National Conference of the USCG Auxiliary, Nashville, TN – August 30, 2003

14) While the Coast Guard Auxiliary by law is mandated under Federal Law, much of its operation is self-run, with negotiation used between the Coast Guard, its program manager (The Office of the Chief Director of the Auxiliary; G-OCX) and the National Executive Committee (NEXCOM) of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Associations, Inc. (CGAuxA, Inc.)

15) Chief Director's/National Commodore's Announcement Letter dated 3 December 2003.

16) “DIRECT OPERATIONAL Auxiliarists as identified by the Coast Guard are required to have a National Agency Check with Law and Credit (NACLC) personnel security investigation (PSI) conducted as part of their qualifications. You are required to fill out an SF-86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions), 1 original and 1 copy, both with original signatures on pages 9, 10 and Medical Release page if necessary, 3 original Finger Print Cards, FD-258’s and 1 DOT Form 1631 "Disclosure and Authorization Pertaining to Consumer Reports Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act." The PSI package and directions on how to and when to return these forms will be directed by separate memorandum.

OPERATIONAL SUPPORT Auxiliarists not identified as Direct Operational are required to have a Special Agreement Check completed. This consists of 2 original Fingerprint (FP) Cards, FD-258’s. This check is to verify the information you originally submitted upon your entry into the Coast Guard Auxiliary. (i.e. U.S. Citizen, No Felony convictions.) The FP cards and directions on how to and when to return these forms will be directed by separate memorandum.
SECCEN Form: USCG Auxiliary Personnel Security Questionnaire revised 11/03.

17) Department Of Transportation, United States Coast Guard Statement Of Admiral James M. Loy On Port And Maritime Security Strategy Before The Subcommittee On The Coast Guard And Maritime Transportation, United States House Of Representatives. December 6, 2001

18) Termed dis-enrollment by the Auxiliary Manual – COMD INST M16790.1 dated Nov 30, 1999 as amended

19) Newsday – February 21, 2004 – ACT II – “Wings For Life”

20) Many Auxiliarists compare themselves, their roles and responsibilities to the only other “auxiliary”, the Civil Air Patrol.

21) Integrated Deepwater Project - and Rescue 21 -