Notable People

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Rear Admiral James W. Underwood


Rear Admiral Underwood oversees the development of doctrine and policy guidance for all Coast Guard forces to effectively and efficiently accomplish operational maritime missions in the areas of search and rescue, law enforcement, defense operations, aids to navigation, boating safety and bridge administration. 

Rear Admiral Underwood graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree and from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government   in   1988   with    a   Masters degree in Public Administration.  He assumed his duties at the helm of the Operations Policy Directorate on 14 June 2004.

Prior to his assignment as Director of Operations Policy, Rear Admiral Underwood was the Commander of the Seventeenth Coast Guard District.  There Rear Admiral Underwood directed Coast Guard operations including search and rescue, maritime safety, environmental protection, fisheries law enforcement, and military readiness in Alaska and the North Pacific.  Units and personnel under this command patrol over 3.8 million square miles of ocean and 45,000 miles of coastline, including some of the most treacherous waters in the world. 

 Prior to his assignment as District Commander, Rear Admiral Underwood was the Director of Intelligence and Security in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation where he served as the Secretary's primary advisor on intelligence issues and also administered the Department's national security strategic planning processes.  He coordinated with the public and private sectors, international organizations, academia, and interest groups regarding issues of transportation security, infrastructure protection, national defense, and drug and migrant interdiction, as well as intermodal national security issues in transportation.  After the tragedy of 9-11, his role expanded to provide support to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on Homeland Security issues.

 Prior to his promotion to Rear Admiral he served as Chief, Operations Division in the US Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Before that he was the Commanding Officer, USCGC Dallas (WHEC 716), home ported in Charleston, SC, where he commanded the Flagship for Operations Frontier Shield and Frontier Lance.  During other afloat assignments, Rear Admiral Underwood was the Commanding Officer of the USCGC Confidence (WMEC 619) home ported in Port Canaveral, FL, from 1992 to 1994.  During this time he served as Commander, Task Unit 44.7.4, in support of Operations ABLE MANNER and SUPPORT DEMOCRACY.  He commanded the USCGC Sweetbrier (WLB 405), a buoy tender in Cordova, AK (1984-1987), served as Executive Officer on the medium endurance cutters Modoc (WMEC 194) and Citrus (WMEC 300) in Coos Bay, OR (1979-1981), and was a watch officer on USCGC Glacier (WAGB 4), an icebreaker home ported in Long Beach, CA.

 Rear Admiral Underwood’s previous assignments ashore include:  Chief, Intelligence and Investigations Branch for the Seventh Coast Guard District, where he directed the operation of the Maritime Intelligence Center (MARINCEN) in Miami, FL.  During his tenure, Admiral Underwood served aboard USS Mount Whitney as Commander, Task Group 185.5, which directed Coast Guard forces during Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY.  He has also served as Chief, Liaison to the United States House of Representatives (1988-1992), Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Training Team One (1982-1984), and Chief of Boating Affairs, Aide to the District Commander, and Public Affairs Officer in the Eleventh Coast Guard District (1974-1979) in Long Beach, CA.

 Rear Admiral Underwood’s decorations include the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal, three Legion of Merits, four Meritorious Service Medals, three Coast Guard Commendation Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Achievement Medal, and various service and campaign awards.

Rear Admiral Underwood is married to the former Katherine Ann V. of New Britain, CT.  They have one daughter, Kate, who is a graduate of the American University in Washington, DC and Johns Hopkins University.

Click here to see his URS biography.

Click here to see his URS resume.

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