When Coast Guard Rear Adm. Scott A. Buschman takes charge as commander of District 7 on Friday at the Opa-locka air station, he returns to a region where he has served for years — from commander of the Key West sector to chief-of-staff in Miami at the time of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Buschman, 53, replaces Rear Adm. Jake Korn as the top Coast Guard officer in the Southeastern United States and Caribbean Basin. The area of responsibility includes Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, with more than 15,000 miles of coastline.
In one of his earliest commands, in fact, he was commander of the USCGC Vashon, a now defunct cutter, home ported in Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, a now defunct outpost. That vantage point got him familiar with the region’s mixed mission of boater safety, migrant interdiction and law enforcement.
In April 2008, as commander of the Key West sector, he expressed disgust for smugglers transiting the Straits of Florida. “They operate recklessly at high speeds, with little regard for the people they're carrying and little regard for law enforcement safety,” he said at the time.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
By 2010, he was District 7 chief of staff when Haiti’s horrific quake hit — sending a buoy tender with a recovery team to survey the harbor and help critical supplies reach Port-au-Prince by water. Later, the Coast Guard also conducted damage-assessment flights over northern Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, another operation Buschman supervised from regional headquarters in Miami. Some days, when the boss was away, he was acting commander, a post he now takes up permanently.
Buschman, a New Hampshire native, comes to the job from Yorktown, Virginia, where he has been commander of the Coast Guard’s Force Readiness Command since May 2013. He’s a 1984 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As he wrapped up the Key West job in May 2009, he called that sector unique among Coast Guard assignments. “There’s no place like it. I’m also going to miss the community,” he told the Florida Keys Keynoter.
Key West City Commissioner Mark Rossi remarked at the time that Buschman was an up-and-comer. “I think he's one of the best commanding officers the Coast Guard has had here in a while,” Rossi said. “He's very involved. You'll see Scott Buschman as the commandant of the Coast Guard some day.”
That has yet to happen.
But as commander of force readiness, he is no stranger to controversy.
A year ago, he was openly criticized in a blog’s comment section for cuts to a tuition assistance program — and responded in kind, on the blog. “The current budget environment has necessitated tough choices,” he wrote, “and we have worked hard to balance operational training requirements with professional development and educational opportunities.”
Follow @CarolRosenberg on Twitter