APL Colloquium

March 15, 2019

Colloquium Topic: Securing the Border: Lessons Learned from the Maritime War on Drugs

Securing America's borders is a burning public issue, but not a new one: it has been part of the national dialogue since our founding.  The predecessor of the modern Coast Guard, for example, was established in 1790 to suppress the endemic maritime smuggling that was robbing the new nation of much needed tariff revenue.  More recently, Coast Guard, Customs, and other naval forces have partnered in a massive effort to interdict the steady flow of drug smuggling vessels headed toward U.S. shores, all while at-sea migrant rescues have waxed and waned -- sometimes at a measured pace but occasionally as part of a full-blown crisis, such as the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, when 125,000 Cubans took to sea en route South Florida.

Are there lessons learned from these maritime operations that are applicable to today's struggle to secure the nation's borders?  Jim Howe, a retired Coast Guard captain who specialized in drug and migrant interdiction, will explore these issues, describe his own experiences -- some routine, many exciting, and others harrowing -- and offer conclusions for your consideration.

Colloquium Speaker: Capt. James Howe

Jim Howe retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after a 27-year career, where he spent 11 years at sea.  He served aboard five cutters, in two of them as commanding officer.  At sea, he carried out hundreds of law enforcement boardings, interdicted eighteen drug-laden vessels, helped save scores of lives, and rescued nearly a thousand migrants headed for U.S. shores.

Ashore, Howe's last duty assignment was as Chief of Congressional Affairs, where he oversaw all Coast Guard activity related to Capitol Hill.  Prior to that, he served in the Office of the Vice President of the United States as a Special Advisor for Homeland Security, focusing on border and transportation security issues.  Earlier, he was the author of the Navy and Coast Guard's first-ever tactical manual for carrying out maritime interdiction operations.

Howe is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Government.  He earned a Master of Liberal Arts in Government from Harvard University (Extension School); there, his thesis examined maritime drug interdiction activity in the Caribbean.  He also was a distinguished graduate of the Marine Corps War College, earning a Master of Strategic Studies degree, and later earned a Master of Science in Space Studies from American Military University.  He is a graduate of the MIT Seminar XXI program, and currently is conducting post-graduate research at the University of Leicester.  

Howe is an award-winning author who has written for military and policy journals, and his first book, Red Crew, is the true story of service aboard a small fleet of high-speed cutters in the early years of the war on drugs.  Red Crew is published by the Naval Institute Press.  Howe lives in northern Virginia with his wife and five children.