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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 9, 2021

Commandant and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Statement on Extremism

As members of the Coast Guard, we have all voluntarily sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and we share a commitment to our Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. We protect the homeland, we advance economic prosperity and other national interests, and when mariners in distress call for help, we proudly and professionally respond without hesitation. We answer the call because it is our duty. It is also our duty to respect those we serve with and we betray this duty if we allow bigotry, racism, or hate to infect our culture and service to America. In a Coast Guard anchored to dignity and respect, there is no place for extremism. Extremism goes against the fundamental principles of the Constitutional oath we share and our Core Values, tears away at unit cohesion, and degrades readiness and mission success.

The rights of freedom of speech and assembly are vitally important but are not unlimited. The Coast Guard will not tolerate extremism of any type. Speech or conduct that advances, encourages or advocates criminal activity, violence, illegal use of force, and efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights, or any form of harassment or unlawful discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or national origin, among other personal characteristics, will not be tolerated. This applies equally to on-line speech. None of us can be indifferent to extremism.

Military members are subject to discipline and punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they actively support extremist causes by raising funds, recruiting or training others, taking a visible leadership role, or distributing literature or materials which undermine loyalty to the Constitution, interfere with the performance of duties, threaten discipline, or bring discredit upon the Service. Military members cannot participate in demonstrations or rallies in many circumstances, particularly when the event is a breach of law and order or is likely to result in violence. COMDTINST M1600.2, Discipline and Conduct, provides additional information and guidance. Civilian employees are subject to discipline for conduct that impairs the efficiency of the Federal Service. This may include criminal conduct in or away from the workplace, and other inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Aligned with recent guidance issued by the Secretary of Defense, we are directing that a service-wide stand-down to confront extremism in the military occur at each unit before 31 March 2021. I expect commanders and supervisors to talk with their crews about this destructive cancer, to lead intrusively, and act when they encounter any indicators of extremism in our ranks. More specific guidance and expectations regarding this stand-down is forthcoming. 

As your Commandant and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, we are dedicated to ensuring our Service supports and defends the ideals and institutions created and guaranteed by the Constitution, and that we foster a Service free from hatred, intolerance and extremism. Beyond being an Armed Force, as members of a federal Law Enforcement Agency, we have a special obligation to each other and the citizens whom we serve.

Jason M. Vanderhaden
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard

Karl L. Schultz
Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant