James Holmes , professor of strategy at the Naval War College and author of “The Naval Diplomat” blog, makes the argument that the Coast Guard will need to prepare itself to again take an active role as a naval force, this time in the Arctic.
He argues that the Coast Guard already has the lead in the Arctic, and that the Navy and Marine Corp will continue to be preoccupied with China and Iran.
Professor Holmes sees changing the culture of the Coast Guard as being a greater challenge than getting the proper equipment.
I see it a little differently. Coast Guard personnel are nothing if not adaptable, and if they need to fight, they will learn how, just as they did in WWII–assuming the US Navy is willing and able to teach. The Coast Guard cannot make an not an overnight transition, but threats do not materialize overnight either. On the other hand, it does take time and planning to have the right assets available. The Coast Guard needs a clear vision of its wartime role and it needs to define its requirements with those roles in mind, even if it a case of “fitted for, but not with” the military capabilities. I don’t think we have that vision, and I don’t think the Navy has a plan for the Coast Guard either. It has not mattered much since the Soviet threat dissolved, but it is beginning to matter again. With the possibility that Chinese defense expenditures may equal those of the US by 2023, we may have a true peer competitor long before the assets we are buying today reach the end of their lives.
If the Coast Guard does not have a role in wartime, questions regarding why we have ships (NSC) that looks like a frigate and cost as much as frigate, but cannot do the work of a frigate may arise. The administration may ask why we should have large ships in the Coast Guard at all, if Navy ships using LEDETs can do CG missions in peacetime and also be ready for war.