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Research Questions

  1. What does USCG of the future look like in terms of capabilities, personnel, and operations?
  2. What investments does USCG need to make now to meet future needs?
  3. How can the service better capitalize on innovation and adapt more quickly?
  4. What changes in policy, resources, or capabilities are required to meet future needs?

The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) carries out 11 different statutory missions and must address immediate requirements and future contingencies, both domestically and overseas. Various ongoing changes to, and new developments in, the physical, economic, social, political, and technological domains place additional stresses on service resources, as well as affect the composition of the service itself. Being ready for the spectrum of challenges that the future might bring requires leaders to be mindful of how change will affect USCG in both the near and long terms.

Evergreen was established in 2003 to address this overarching goal of readiness, and it includes Project Evergreen, a scenario-based strategic foresight planning process. Evergreen activities seek to identify emerging challenges and future trends that may alter the volume and types of demand for USCG missions, as well as its ability to perform them. These activities are based on a number of plausible future scenarios in which USCG's current plans, policies, and capabilities are stress-tested, and participants must determine the trade-offs that USCG needs to make today to be able to fulfill future demands. Evergreen thereby also supports effective decisionmaking under conditions of uncertainty.

Prior to Evergreen V, there was no deliberate effort to publicize or publish Evergreen products. Long-term institutional knowledge about Evergreen has been a historical challenge because active-duty personnel are typically reassigned every one to three years. This report documents Evergreen work and insights into the current and future needs of USCG that have emerged from the program to date.

Key Findings

  • Increased efforts to recruit underrepresented minorities and women are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the service.
  • USCG will need to adjust to an employment environment in which people are less willing to commit to long-term career relationships, and fewer of them may be moved by USCG's sense of purpose.
  • A workforce that includes more civilians, reservists, and auxiliary personnel relative to active-duty personnel may help USCG acquire the numbers and the specific talents it needs.
  • Technological advances will drive future workforce needs, such that almost all personnel will need to have a basic level of familiarity and comfort with the use of technology and data, particularly IT and data analytic methods.
  • The rapid and accelerating pace of technological advances requires USCG to be more willing and able to integrate new technology over shorter time spans and be more innovative in ascertaining how it can best employ that technology.
  • USCG's own infrastructure is increasingly subject to both chronic and acute degradation caused by climate change, even as environmental and economic changes increase demand for USCG across most of its statutory missions.
  • USCG requires greater capacity and capability — in terms of infrastructure, technology, and personnel — to address a growing demand for involvement in overseas operations while still fulfilling its missions at home.
  • As the U.S. Coast Guard operates more overseas, partnership and interpersonal skills will be particularly critical.


  • USCG must invest more in its human capital and technological capabilities as demands for its services increase due to climate change, the growth of populations living on the coast, greater technological capabilities of malefactors, and more overseas responsibilities.
  • USCG should redouble its efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities and women and use skill sets, rather than rank, as the main criteria for filling positions.
  • USCG should ensure that all personnel have the needed technological skills through a combination of enhanced recruiting and training and by offering greater flexibility in entering, departing, and reentering the service, particularly for people with in-demand skill sets.
  • USCG must become proficient in technologies used by the parties it partners with and those it supports and regulates in order to facilitate interaction and interoperability with them.
  • USCG should also use emerging technologies to increase capabilities and capacity, while reducing personnel requirements and costs.
  • At the same time, USCG should foster greater critical-thinking and interpersonal skills so that personnel can more effectively do the tasks that machines cannot, such as building partnerships and making complex decisions with incomplete information.
  • USCG needs to invest in maintaining, improving, and adapting infrastructure and enhancing flexibility and resilience to meet future demands, as well as to communicate these needs clearly and effectively to external stakeholders, such as the Department of Homeland Security and Congress.

This research was sponsored by the Coast Guard Office of Emerging Policy (DCO-X), and conducted within the Strategy, Policy and Operations Program of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC).

This report is part of the RAND 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.

RAND 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.