Improving the Effectiveness of U.S. Coast Guard International-Affairs Efforts

Research Questions

  1. What are the goals of the Coast Guard’s international efforts, and how do Coast Guard activities contribute to those goals?
  2. How does the Coast Guard currently conduct international efforts? Which major stakeholders are involved?
  3. How does the Coast Guard coordinate and integrate international efforts among these stakeholders?
  4. What are the Coast Guard’s current strengths and weaknesses in prioritizing and coordinating international efforts?
  5. To amplify the impact of its international efforts, what courses of action should the Coast Guard pursue to improve its prioritization, coordination, and integration of those efforts?

The U.S. Coast Guard is in high demand globally, given its unique capabilities, but its ability to operate internationally is constrained by the scarcity of resources. Improving the Coast Guard’s governance of international affairs can enable the service to amplify its impact. This report serves three purposes: First, it identifies ways to enhance alignment and coordination of international affairs within the Coast Guard. Second, it provides ways in which to evaluate and communicate the impact of Coast Guard international affairs. Third, it identifies ways to prioritize international-affairs efforts in an ever-evolving geopolitical environment.

The findings are designed to aid Coast Guard leadership in making key decisions about how best to manage Coast Guard international affairs. The characterizations of Coast Guard international-affairs efforts are likely to be of interest throughout the service. They are also likely to be of interest to others in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, and other interagency partners. External stakeholders, such as Congress, the White House, and the public, can also benefit from better understanding the scope and impact of Coast Guard international-affairs efforts.

Key Findings

  • U.S. Coast Guard international efforts are not clearly defined, well-coordinated, or collectively prioritized.
  • Documentation and data related to international efforts are not widely accessible.


  • Explicitly define U.S. Coast Guard international affairs.
  • Use the logic model in the report to capture the process and impact of Coast Guard international affairs.
  • Link metrics to international efforts using the logic model to inform both narratives and decisionmaking.
  • Adopt a prioritization framework to inform critical choices about where to engage and what resources to allocate.
  • Institute international-affairs forums to coordinate, share information, create mutual awareness, and build relationships.
  • Define and strengthen the roles of the U.S. Coast Guard Office of International Affairs and Foreign Policy.
  • Increase international-affairs capacity.
  • Improve international-affairs capabilities through training, billet term length, and minimize the number of gapped billets.
  • Explicitly value international experience in U.S. Coast Guard promotion board precepts.
  • Institute a commitment to data and document management for Coast Guard international affairs.

Related Products

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    U.S. Coast Guard International Affairs

  • Chapter Three

    Current Processes, Strengths, and Challenges

  • Chapter Four

    Characterizing and Assessing International-Affairs Efforts

  • Chapter Five

    Prioritizing U.S. Coast Guard International-Affairs Efforts

  • Chapter Six

    Organization of U.S. Coast Guard International Affairs

  • Chapter Seven


This research was sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard and conducted in the Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.


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