Coast Guard: Initiatives to Address Aids to Navigation Challenges Could be Enhanced to Better Ensure Effective Implementation

One of the Coast Guard’s statutory missions is the care and maintenance of aids to navigation (ATON). Much like drivers need signs and universal driving rules, mariners need equivalent nautical “rules of the road.” As of November 2019, the Coast Guard managed 45,664 federal fixed and floating ATON that are designed to assist those operating in the U.S. Marine Transportation System, which includes about 25,000 miles of waterways, 1,000 harbor channels, 300 ports, and 3,700 terminals. According to the Coast Guard, as of July 2018, these ATON had a collective replacement value of about $1.6 billion. The Coast Guard has faced an array of challenges in managing its ATON, such as deteriorating buoys, and questions have been raised regarding the extent to which the Coast Guard is addressing these challenges. This report (1) describes what is known about the condition and costs of maintaining the Coast Guard’s ATON, and (2) examines challenges the Coast Guard has experienced in managing its ATON and how it is addressing them. To address these issues, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed ATON regulations and guidance, analyzed data on ATON condition and cost measures, collected input from all nine Coast Guard districts on ATON challenges, accompanied ATON units on mission activities, assessed agency initiatives using leading program management practices, and interviewed headquarters and field unit officials. GAO recommends that the Coast Guard update its ATON initiatives by including the specific outcomes to be achieved and associated time frames. The Department of Homeland Security concurred with the recommendation.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; Photos; References;
  • Pagination: 43p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01730820
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-20-107
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 12 2020 9:45AM