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Coast Guard officers, who have military and law enforcement authority serve on Navy frigates and their own vessels, and can arrest smugglers and seize their vessels and cargo.

The sequester, along with the Navy’s decision to expedite the decommissioning of its frigates, has left the task force without the ships it needs, the admiral said, adding that there are many demands on Navy resources.

“It’s not just all about the money,” he said. “This is a very complicated and daunting problem.”