Coast Guard In a “Death Spiral?”

Dec. 4, the US Naval Institute had a seminar, “Defense Forum Washington 2014, What Does the Nation Need from its Sea Services?” VAdm Charles D. Michel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, was the Coast Guard representative on the panel discussion labeled “Sea Service Briefing.” He did a credible job of representing the Coast Guard. He also made some headlines when he said that the LCS was an excellent asset for drug enforcement, and eloquently presented a case for maritime drug interdiction.

But I would like to particularly recommend a portion of the presentation by Ron O’Rourke, who is the Congressional Research Service. He devoted the last few minutes of his presentation to the Coast Guard, beginning about minute 24:30. He does a better job of explaining the crisis in Coast Guard budgeting than I have ever seen done by any Coast Guard representative.

Looking at some of the other speakers, I learned that they have taken the program to replace the Ballistic Missile Submarine Force out of the regular navy shipbuilding budget. I think this is significant, because the effect of the SSBN replacement on the Navy ship building budget, is very similar to the effect of the heavy icebreaker procurement on the Coast Guard budget. Perhaps this might be used as a precedence for a special, separate appropriation for the icebreaker.

16 thoughts on “Coast Guard In a “Death Spiral?”

  1. Pingback: New U.S. Maritime Strategy Coming "Very Soon"

  2. Chuck, I definitely agree, it is a good assessment that does raise some good questions that need to be asked. Perhaps it will get us some much needed attention. From a business perspective, I sure would like to see some sort of ROI model on our funding. We all know that it would be a very high return, but conveying that message to those who control the budget is a whole other issue.

    • It always seems the government is more inclined to pour money into programs that are not working, in hopes of improvement, rather than putting additional money into those that provide good return on investment, because they are already working well enough.

    • In the case of shipbuilding, you can make a case for the fact that inflation in the shipbuilding industry is higher than in the economy as a whole and higher than the interest rate the government pays on borrowed money, so the government would actually save money by borrowing money and building the ships sooner.

      • See there you go….. That makes perfect sense – so therefore it will never happen!

  3. Pingback: New US Maritime Strategy Coming “Very Soon” – CIMSEC | maritimelawsource.com

  4. Personally I think part of any death spiral is being part of the DHS. Sure, it makes sense to be part of DHS, but it is easily one of the most irresponsible agencies in terms of money wasted in the government…and any popularity it may have once had is long gone. While the relationship between Navy & CG has varied wildly over the years, I can’t help but think that being under the DOD instead of DHS might actually work in the CG’s favor at the present time. After all the splitting off the new boomers and bombers for StratCom is part of DOD spending strategy, not DHS.
    It would be nice if instead of the present Northern Command we had a special Homeland Defense Command made up of Air Guard, Army Guard, and CG responsible for defending the home soil. The present command is too over-arching and the DHS is too minimal.

    • DHS’s first problem was that they thought they were all about counter terrorism. In fact they should be about disaster response, whether the disaster is man made or natural.

    • I think they should be under the department of the Navy. You would have some overlapping in capabilities like Anti-ship and ASW, But you would enable the Coast Guard to focus more on maritime security operation while Navy would do power projection. Just look at the Marines and Army for comparison. Service rep and budget would be navy sec while agency head would be DHS. Sort of like in peace time the guard is under state control, but their budget is DOD. And it would allow you to not violate the “pussy commie act” if you don’t get that last quote watch the movie tank with James Garner.

      stupid question why isn’t National Guard under DHS since they are first responders in peace time.

      • I think because NG is state not federal. Though your federal government forgets that when it is convenient! I would argue that some, by that I mean your southern border states, would like more control over “kinetic” security. As Mexico continues to disintegrate I see that becoming a major cause of friction between them and DC.

        (PS: Though saying that the Mexicans unlike the Canucks have never burned your capital to the ground. 😉 )

  5. I think we’re going to see a major evolution in DHS over the next few years. Part of that will be driven by the organizational changes made as part of the southern border and approaches campaign. The biggest hurdles within the department are redundancy and obstacles to interoperability. If we can smooth those out so that the capabilities, resources, and authorities within the department are organized logically and efficiently (big “if”) then DHS will fulfill its intended role.

    SBA is worth checking out if anyone hasn’t seen it yet: http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/14_1120_memo_southern_border_campaign_plan.pdf

    • While I give Secretary Johnson credit for his attempt to forge a more efficient DHS, commissioning three task forces isn’t likely going to overcome the hurdles that were institutionalized on Day 1 of DHS – the department is a poorly structured mess created as a panicked response to the 9/11 attacks. The Secretary’s 3 JTFs don’t override the individual agency authorities that exist as a matter of law, and it remains to be seen whether the JTFs can overcome the cultural differences across DHS agencies that have made dealing with DHS a PITA for the rest of the interagency.

      There’s a reason why year after year, DHS holds the “honor” of being the worst place to work in the Federal government among the larger departments.

      • I understand your skepticism. SBA is not a panacea, but moving the department in the right direction.

  6. Pingback: Members' Round-Up Part 6

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