action is and the bulk of life-and-death Search
and Rescue (SAR) work is accomplished.
In February 2014, this straight shooter
with a warm Southern charm sat down with
us for a wide-ranging conversation about U.S.
Coast Guard policy and a few complaints
about how the rockfish of the Chesapeake
Bay continue to escape him.
You’re a lifelong boater, Admiral. Do you
remember your first time on a boat?
LEE: It was with my dad on a little runabout with an old Johnson outboard on
the Chickahominy River, outside Richmond,
Virginia. My dad taught me how to boat and
fish, and to this day I still love the smell of the
IMAGINE YOUR FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL COACH, the one you feared a little but respected more? That’s Rear Admiral William “Dean” Lee, father of two boys, owner of two boats, and avid angler. His day job? Deputy for Operations Policy and Capabilities, and second in command for all U.S. Coast Guard operations policy — one of the most influential people in the USCG.
You can tell a lot about a leader from what his people say about him when he’s out of earshot.
USCG enlisted crew admire Admiral Lee, saying he takes the time to learn, to understand
everyone else’s assignments, that he’s approachable, and all heart. Unlike most officers of his
rank, Lee didn’t come up through the traditional U.S. Coast Guard Academy route, with operational tours on large Coast Guard cutters. He was commissioned through Officer Candidate School and rose to the
rank of Flag Officer. Those under his command respect
that he mainly ran small boat stations and crews on the
front lines, which they know is where the high-stakes
MEET ONE OF THE COAST GUARD’S TOP POLICY MEN
After 30 years rising through the USCG ranks, Rear Admiral Dean Lee knows a thing
or two about boaters, boats, and making Coast Guard policy work on the water
AFFAIRS BoatU.S. SPECIAL REPORT BY NICOLE PALYA WOOD