New Command Could Mean New Coast Guard Security

A new commander is now in charge of the Houston-Galveston sector of the United States Coast Guard, a change in leadership that could bring some changes in port security with it. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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During a change of command ceremony, Captain Richard Kaser officially passed his duties to incoming commander Captain William Diehl, who will now lead one of the largest Coast Guard sectors in the country. The Houston-Galveston office is the primary military organization in charge of protecting one of the nation's most important and strategic ports.

"We're going to keep it safe. We're going to put the assets where we need to to protect things at risk and we're going to work with the industry if something does happen, to get the ones that need to be open opened right away. That's going to be our approach. It's a daunting task, but with the help of the community, we're going to meet it."

Captain Diehl arrives at the Houston-Galveston sector after two years as the Coast Guard Liaison Officer to the Panama Canal Authority. He says he hopes to implement some of the security measures he learned there here in Houston.

"The canal is well-protected. They have excellent security. Some of the ideas I see there, I want to talk to the people here and see if maybe they can work here just to take us up another notch. I thought my two years there was sort of a good study for me to get a little bit better for port security."

A recent change in command structure within the Coast Guard means Captain Diehl will be in charge of all aspects of the organization's operations in Houston and Galveston. Congressman Gene Green says many residents don't realize that the Coast Guard is the first line of defense against terrorism in the Port of Houston.

"If people think how bad it was when Katrina shut down the oil well in the Gulf and the gas wells, just think if some terrorist sank a barge in the Houston ship channel, there would be no crude oil in and no product out and that's why it's so important that we stay vigilant to protect not only our people but also the assets we have and the facilities we have."

Sector Houston-Galveston serves as command and control for all Coast Guard missions in the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana area.

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