The Commandant Answers–the National Security Cutters: Multiple Crewing, Build Rates, OPC Compared

The Commandant has been good enough to answer three more of our questions, and we expect to hear more in the near future. Today we hear more about the National Security Cutter (NSC).

File:USCG National Security Cutter BERTHOLF (WMSL-750).jpeg
USCG National Security Cutter BERTHOLF (WMSL-750)

Will the Coast Guard implement the National Security Cutter multi-crewing plan referred to as the Crew Rotation Concept?  Has the concept been adequately tested?  If the plan is workable, would it be implemented on smaller vessels?

Current plans are to implement the Crew Rotation Concept on the National Security Cutters.  Thorough testing will be required to ensure that return on investment forecasts are correct, and the Coast Guard will make adjustments as needed.  Validated studies of Navy efforts conducted by Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office have shown that success requires proper planning and infrastructure to succeed.  The Coast Guard has received funding in support of the Crew Rotation Concept, and is nearing the point where testing of the concept can begin.

The Coast Guard continues to build National Security Cutters at the rate of one a year, while the average age of the large cutter fleet continues to increase.  Is there any chance of increasing the rate at which ships are replaced?

It is imperative that the Coast Guard recapitalize its aging surface fleet.  While we would like to equip Coast Guard men and women with the latest equipment as quickly as possible, schedule acceleration is not free and complex acquisitions such as the National Security Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter and Fast Response Cutter take time to execute properly.  We are also in a period when all federal agencies are being asked to put even greater emphasis on good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.  The Coast Guard has developed acquisition plans that balance our needs for not only surface assets, but aviation and C4ISR.

Is the National Security Cutter significantly more capable than the Offshore Patrol Cutter as currently envisioned?

The National Security Cutter is built for more distant operations where logistics and other support are not as readily available and where its extended presence capability and endurance can be brought to bear.  It is particularly suited for extended operations in the Western and Eastern Pacific, as a force component of a Naval Battle Group, or when the mission requires persistent command and control of multiple interagency assets during a major event.  With lesser endurance, speed, and seakeeping capabilities than a National Security Cutter, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will operate
primarily within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.  The National Security Cutter will have the higher speed and capabilities necessary to respond in time when distance and sea state would preclude the use of the Offshore Patrol Cutter.

The Offshore Patrol Cutter will have the space, weight and power for the Sensitive, Classified, Information Facilities allowing for potential future outfitting of capabilities that employ Ship’s Signals Exploitation Equipment.  The National Security Cutter is delivered with a fully operational Sensitive, Classified Information Facility.

13 thoughts on “The Commandant Answers–the National Security Cutters: Multiple Crewing, Build Rates, OPC Compared

  1. I am sure his already overworked staff was just thrilled with having an additional workload courtesy of your 30 or so busywork amatuerish questions.

    • The questions and answers have also been posted on the FAQ tab on the Senior Leadership page, and by the way, we didn’t initiate this.

    • Leaving the quality of the questions aside, I doubt this increased anyone’s workload. Given the number of times we all have to answer questions from the Hill, I’ll bet that all the drafters of these answers did was cut and paste from answers previously prepared for delivery to Congress.

      • Maybe a mole from HQ can post the multiple taskers from the Second Deck which were likely staffed out to the various Directorates courtesy of Mr. Hill’s ignorance about current day CG policy?

        Sorry, Anonymouse, I like the way you think and almost always agree with you here. But, IMO, HQ staff has enough to deal with within their portfolios and nonsense like this from this site and Mr. Hill is a an unnecessary waste of their time.

  2. I found LANTAREA Desk driver’s response to be rude and uncalled for. (that coming from a rude and uncalled for post’er to previous work by Bill Wells, sorry Bill) While staffed and canned answers are readily available, the whole point is to drive a reasonable discussion on the issues. I believe that there will be a debate as to the actual ROI for the CRC as we progress into that phase. I can disagree with our current service position of proceeding with CRC but in the end the congress made the investments into that concept and the Senior leadership decided that we ne to be honest brokers when it comes to following up on the plan that was started when the money was appropriated. I have heard the COMDT speak to this issue in his own words in response to similar questions at cuttermen calls and in other forums. He is consistent, measured, and understands the ramifications of his decisions. Perhaps they aren’t amatuerish as you suggest.

  3. Having served in CGHQ for a couple years before retirement, I am fully aware that the Commandant does not write the answers. However, since they go out under his signature, you can bet he and many others read them before they are released. This is just SOP. It is done for any other type of question or inquiry as well.

    I also know the answers are collaborative in the office assigned to answer the question or inquiry. Personally, I like to ask questions after I’ve done some research. This way more than voice is being heard. It is also responsible inquiry. Anyone who does research knows there is always an element of institutional favoritism toward a particular outlook. This is human nature.

    I cannot say if the questions are amateurish or not. These are not of my particular expertise. I can lend some personal experiences to the topic that desk drivers in the Coast Guard do not usually acquire. It may not be their fault. There are far to few hulls for the ever expanding officer corps and only those who wish to step forward and lead from the front seek the more arduous (as defined by the Coast Guard’s Personnel Manual) jobs.

    I did notice on the Senior Leadership page that March 21, 2011 was declared Hopley Yeaton day. However, there is no historical evidence that Yeaton was the first commissioned officer. If he knew the Coast Guard dug him up and moved him to “the Sink” he would be very upset. He was old, sick and disgusted with the paltry ways the Treasury Department treated its officers and cutters. He just wanted to live out his days and remain for eternity in Maine. If anyone wishes to begin a thread about Master Yeaton they may. There is a wonderful spin-off story of Yeaton’s service during the 1809 Embargo.

  4. First point I would make is that nearly everything the Commandant says is crafted by a speech writer.

    Second point would be that this post would be more transparent if it stated that the “Office of the Commandant or the Commandant’s Press Secretary said,” but that just an opinion from someone held to task by this very Blog in the past.

  5. There was an error in my second question. The Coast Guard is not building one NSC a year. The average is actually more like one every two years.

    I had not seen anything published recently regarding the intent to proceed with the Crew Rotation Concept (CRC). I’m sure many of our readers had not either. The update is appreciated.

    Can’t help but wonder what the Coast Guard will do if the crew rotation concept fails? What is plan B? Build 12 NSCs? Continue at the rate of one every other year and put off the OPC for eight more years, with first delivery in 2027? It’s unfortunate previous administrations didn’t try out the concept before the Coast Guard “painted its self into a corner” where it virtually has to work.

    The NSC seems only marginally more capable than the projected OPC for military roles. Looks like they would actually have the same missions, primarily maritime interdiction operations. The NSC’s one great advantage is being able to operate two helicopters. Weapons are essentially the same. The NSC is slightly faster, but once the FFGs are retired (which will be very soon), the NSCs will be about five knots slower than any of the ships normally assigned to a Carrier Strike Group (CSG). They have relatively little capability to add to a CSG aside from taking permanent assignment as plane guard, and if the CSG decides it has to move fast, the NSC will be left behind. On the other hand, it looks like both the NSC and the OPC will have adequate speed to operate with and support Amphibs and Auxiliary Ships, which are all in the 20 to 24 knot max speed range. Range and endurance normally isn’t an issue when operating with the Navy because all cutters down to the 210s have more range than any of the conventionally powered Navy combatants (they are not made for cruising at relatively low speed). At higher speeds the cutters’ range comes down. 378s in a CSG burned fuel relatively rapidly because they were up on turbine(s) virtually all the time, but that will not be the case with either the NSC or the OPC. Both should be able to cruise at over 20 on diesels. The ability to operate for long periods independently (in a low threat environment) would seem to be one of the Coast Guard units’ strengths relative to the Navy’s LCSs, FFGs, DDGs and even CGs. If the OPC has typical range for a cutter of it’s size, it would not have to replenish any more frequently than their Navy counterparts perhaps less so.

    For those events “when the mission requires persistent command and control of multiple interagency assets during a major event” like Katrina, there will almost certainly be a large Navy amphib on scene that is at least as capable of providing command and control. I would expect no more than two NSCs would be on the East Coast, so one could not be assumed to be available all the time anyway. Is this really a “requirement” or just nice to have?

  6. Dear Shipmates….let me attempt to clear the air. I read many blogs. On this blog, I have been impressed with the discussions of our cutter projects by CDR Hill – he does not cut us any slack. I have been impressed with master Chief Wells discussions on Coast Guard history – he does not cut us any slack. I have been impressed with LT Erickson’s observations on a variety of topics from a junior officer perspective – he does not cut us any slack. But all three gentlemen post under their own names, and they are polite and demonstrate respect for their Shipmates.

    I offered them the opportunity to ask questions. Yes…people gather information for me, but no answer gets released until I read it, and add my own edits. Yes…people write for me, but they listen to my ideas, my direction, and they employ my words.

    I have publicly stated that I will (and do) post on blogs from time to time. But I am finding that most blogs are lowering the discourse, rather than keeping it polite and constructive. Increasingly negative and impolite people, particularly those who will not post under their own name and take shots from under the cover of “anonymous” do nothing to elevate the level of discussion.

    Admiral Bob Papp
    Commandant

  7. I remember one of the best no slack givers was just that. At Friday morning muster, the BMC tested how well his deck force honed their knives. He believed in sharp knives. His test involved a piece of 21-thread held in a loose bight. The test was could the person’s knife cut the line in one swipe in the bight. If it could, early liberty was the reward and since there is no reward without some recourse, those failing went ashore at regular liberty day time. It was not always the largest knife that won.

    It was a small test with an great reward but it also showed his deck force two things. The first was there were consequences for not paying attention to directions. The second was to teach how to think out the problem besides simple honing.

    Thanks for the post and concur with Chuck’s comment.

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