In the wake of 9/11, Congress mandated that the Coast Guard set up elite rapid response teams that can board and search rapidly moving vessels out at sea, among other duties.
There are now 12 maritime safety and security teams spread along U.S. coasts with 958 personnel assigned to the units.
The Obama administration's 2011 budget proposal, however, calls for five of these units to be closed down and their duties consolidated into the seven remaining teams.
The Coast Guard could better defend these teams in the budget battles if it knew more about them, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General Richard Skinner said in a report. The service doesn't know what their optimal staffing levels are, where the teams could best be stationed, the return on investment the nation is receiving, and exactly what skills and competency levels are needed for the units to carry out their jobs. There has never been a comprehensive analysis that would answer any of these questions, he said.
"The Coast Guard does not know whether the maritime safety and security team program is the optimal vehicle to conduct its maritime law enforcement and homeland...