With the letting of a $17 billion modernization contract in late June, the U.S. Coast Guard eventually will become second in size of the world fleets only to the U.S. Navy. And, if President Bush has his way, the nation's oldest sea service will leave the Department of Transportation to serve in its most expanded mission since WW 2 under the U.S. Homeland Security.

A team of defense contractors, including Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop, has formed the Integrated Coast Guard Systems that will coordinate the huge deepwater construction program over the next several decades. The ICGS will build, subcontract, and supply the Coast Guard with cutters, aircraft and the necessary communications and technology equipment to make the expansion possible.

Some congressional opposition stands in the way of the overall plan, but the pro forces believe they will have a majority vote to fund the first $500 million that will bring the Coast Guard roaring into the 21st Century.

With its 43,640+ active duty and reserves, the Coast Guard would be the largest agency transferred to the president's proposed Department of Homeland Security. Other proposed transferees in order of size are the Transportation Security Agency 41,300+, Immigration and Naturalization Service 39,460+, Customs Service 21,740+, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 8,620+, Secret Service 6,110+, Federal Emergency Management Agency 5,130+, and others at 3,140+ personnel. The new department would rank third largest behind Defense and VA.

Initial congressional reaction to the DHS has been mixed, seemingly based more on politics than the essence of the concept, with political opponents not willing to agree to the president's sense of urgency relating to the War on Terrorism. Some pundits believe this may backfire on the nay Sayers come the November elections.