Coast Guard banned from necessary technology because it is not part of DoD

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews fly over Atlantic City during a formation training flight March 13, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews fly over Atlantic City during a formation training flight March 13, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A California congressman is hoping to rip through some government red tape to fix a problem in the system that’s preventing the Coast Guard from using essential night-vision technology.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is maddened by the fact that Coast Guard helicopters are equipped with night-penetrating Electro-Optical Sensor Systems, but can’t use it because of a “quirk in the federal bureaucracy.”

This laser equipment could potentially help the U.S. Coast Guard rescue stranded boaters, catch drug smugglers or even prevent terrorists from sneaking onto US shores.
Unfortunately though it’s just sitting and “collecting dust” according to Fox News, because the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, and its use of the equipment is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Other branches of the Armed Forces, which fall under the DOD, are able to use this technology–which converts even the faintest light into an electronic signal readable by instruments.

Hunter points out, however, that the Coast Guard is “basically performing a Department of Defense mission in the Caribbean…the routes that they cover are dangerous. These are routes where 5,000 pounds of drugs are smuggled on fast boats. If these smugglers can transport that amount of drugs, there’s no reason to think that this is not a serious national security issue.”

The congressman sent a letter to the FDA earlier this month hoping to see some changes soon. Hunter, a Marine Corps vet who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, wrote: “Illuminators and laser sights stand to provide a clear advantage during use of force operations and other missions, but imposed limits on the use of these tools creates needless challenges and safety risks.”

Coast Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chad Saylor said the Coast Guard is trying to get authorization to use the equipment.

“The Coast Guard intends to use the ESS technology and is in the process of ensuring that it can be done safely,” Saylor said in a statement. “The systems are administratively prohibited, and there are locks on the controls to prevent access/use.”

A user on sailnet.com summed up the problem quite succinctly: “If you have a problem that results in you floating around in a life raft some dark night and a Coast Guard SAR helicopter flies right over you but keeps on going, you can thank the Food and Drug Administration, if you survive.”

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