Members of Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston secure Rowes Wharf on April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings. MSST members and other specialized Coast Guard forces are no longer under the centralized control of the Deployable Operations Group. (PA3 MyeongHi Clegg / Coast Guard)
The Coast Guard is dismantling its 6-year-old command charged with overseeing deployable specialized forces — everything from counterterrorism units to tactical law enforcement and maritime security teams — returning those forces to regional commands.
The Deployable Operations Group, created in 2007 to consolidate the service’s elite tactical units, returned control of those units to area commanders April 22, confirmed Carlos Diaz, a Coast Guard spokesman. The move affects about 3,000 Coast Guardsmen, according to a 2010 estimate of DSF personnel by the Government Accountability Office.
Affected units include the Maritime Security Response Team, a counterterrorism unit; maritime safety and security teams, members of which patrolled Boston Harbor after the April 15 marathon bombings; and tactical law enforcement teams.
With some exceptions, these units will return to the geographic command structure they were under before DOG. DSF units on the East and Gulf coasts now belong to Atlantic Area command, as do the MSRT, TACLETs and National Strike Force; most of the West Coast units, as well as all eight reserve port security units and the dive lockers, belong to Pacific Area command, according to information provided by the Coast Guard.
Staff at DOG headquarters in Arlington, Va., are awaiting new assignments, Diaz said; some will be assigned to the area commands to help manage the DSF units.
The service declined further comment on the disbanding; in a statement, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Paul Rhynard said “it is the practice of the U.S. Coast Guard to not discuss publicly the details or impacts of organizational restructuring of any program until the details are finalized.”
In previous statements and messages, the Coast Guard’s top officer gave several reasons for a possible reorganization, alluding to a perceived “split” brought on by the creation of a separate DSF group.
In a 2011 fleetwide message, Commandant Adm. Bob Papp expressed concern that the “separate organizational structure that … separates DSF from other Coast Guard Forces has challenged cohesion and effectiveness of operating forces.” In his 2013 State of the Coast Guard address on Feb. 27, Papp outlined a plan to “shift command and control of all deployable specialized forces to the senior operational commanders at the area level.”
While Papp didn’t directly discuss disbanding DOG in the address, he thanked DOG commanders for creating an “incredibly capable force” and said the service was “ready to evolve the way we organize, train and operate DSF — within our new budget realities.”
Papp ordered a “Stem-to-Stern Review” of DSF in 2011 and said as early as in his 2012 State of the Coast Guard address that he had decided to “place the DSF under the Pacific Area and Atlantic Area commanders.”
Coast Guard officials could not provide a copy of the 2011 review as of press time.