The Coast Guard will celebrate its 228th birthday Aug. 4. This unique uniformed service operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the president at any time, or by Congress during times of war.
Although the Coast Guard is not a Department of Defense agency, it does rely on DISA-provided services and capabilities to accomplish its many missions at home and abroad, including protecting shipping and trade, search and rescue, installing and maintaining aids to navigation, combating drug smugglers, and marine environmental protection.
"The Coast Guard is a Defense Information Systems Network, or DISN, subscriber," said Scott Steinmeyer, a representative from DISA's Mission Partner Engagement Office. "That means they have access to terrestrial and satellite infrastructure services supporting voice, video, and data transmission, including the Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet) and Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), and cybersecurity services."
Coast Guard Cmdr. Harold “Lars” McCarter, director of the Network Operations and Security Center at Coast Guard Cyber Command said the force uses DISN services across all operational mission areas, just like the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.
He specifically named a number DISA-provided security services the Coast Guard uses.
“Operationally, we leverage Joint Regional Security Stacks in addition to those tools provided by DISA for the DoD enterprise, whether it’s the Assured Compliance Assessment Solution, Host Based Security System, and the Windows 10 Secure Host Base Line," said McCarter. "As a DISN subscriber, we also get the shared benefit of Tier 1 security services at the DoD Information Network (DoDIN) boundaries."
The Coast Guard also uses Defense Collaboration Services (DCS), DISA's real-time collaboration tool suite, in both classified and unclassified environments, and Defense Enterprise Email on the SIPRNet, McCarter said.
Although the Coast Guard has been performing missions alongside the other services during every war since the nation was founded, a large portion of their communication today is done with people outside of the DoD.
"Unlike many of DISA's mission partners, the Coast Guard interfaces significantly with a range of civilian customers," said McCarter. "Web services, such as Homeport, which operates within the DoDIN, allow the Coast Guard to provide services to the civilian sector."
"Homeport is basically our interface with all our port owners and operators, who are, for the most part, civilian," said McCarter. "It's challenging because we have to make those systems work in a way where the civilian users can access the systems, while still meeting stringent DoD security requirements."
McCarter said the Coast Guard can operate on the DoDIN with confidence, knowing DISA is diligent about defending the network and ensuring high availability of services.
Another example he gave was DISA’s aid to the Coast Guard's mission of facilitating the secure arrival and departure of cargo in and out of the country. When ships need to come in to port, they have to send passenger manifests and cargo manifests to the Coast Guard.
"All personnel and cargo communications are vetted on our systems residing on the DoDIN," said McCarter. "External ‘.com’ emails and other forms of communications coming from the internet must traverse the DoDIN gateways to reach us within the ‘.mil’ environment."
In a video posted by DefenseNews.com, retired Adm. Charles Michel, former vice commandant of the Coast Guard, explained the unique nature of the Coast Guard's information technology infrastructure.
“We operate on the DoDIN but we're also a law enforcement agency, a member of the Department of Homeland Security, and a member of the intelligence community," he said.
DISA understands the Coast Guard's unique role in the defense of our nation, and stands ready to assist, said Ted Lewis, deputy chief of the agency's Mission Partner Engagement Office.
"Our goal is to allow the Coast Guard to focus on their core missions - protecting life, property, the environment, and our nation's economy - while we, DISA, focus on providing, sustaining, and securing their information technology and communications infrastructure."
"The Coast Guard motto is Semper Paratus, or 'always ready,'" said Lewis. "And DISA is always ready to support our port partners."