11 thoughts on ““Hull Envy,” the Looming Crisis of the US Coast Guard

  1. This article feels very familiar. Given the recent high profile discussions between the USCG and Royal Navy, I’ll describe why.

    The Royal Navy suffers from many similar problems: shortfalls in funding, unfavourable comparisons to other services, a largely invisible presence (the army and RAF are prominent in the public eye), and an assumption that it can carry on, regardless. Recent high profile acquisitions like carriers have been at the expense of useful numbers of surface escorts and patrol vessels, so that the RN must frequently send civilian-manned auxiliaries to cover certain patrol tasks, while it has often failed to contribute a warship of any description to some important taskings. And it hasn’t a hope of adequately securing the UK’s EEZ and SAR region, which is enormous.

    The RN is also suffering a personnel crisis – hence the recent deal to host USCG engineers! But what does recruitment look like for the USCG at present? Does its diminished reputation (as discussed in the article) create problems for recruitment and retention? That is the real killer, far more so than a lack of hulls.

    • Recruitment has not been a problem, in fact we hear this is the best we have ever had it for personnel. The Coast Guard has actually had to force some people out.

      Our aviation and small boat components are in good shape. It is the large ships, inland tender fleet, and shoreside infrastructure that have fallen behind.

    • I am told that thanks to smart practices and tactics we don’t need hulls to physically patrol the UK’s EEZ. Intelligence lead efforts are all.

      • The answer should be based on the proposition, if you have actionable intelligence, how long will it take for a ship to get there to act on it?

  2. The author of this article has been misled or hasn’t done their homework. Evidenced by their not mentioning the Deepwater program. The “looming Crisis” goes all the way back to 9/11.

    This is yet another article stating what the CG leadership has been forced to say now for years. The fleet is a disaster, far worse than
    before Deepwater began, missions are failing at an increasing rate and massive amounts of $$$ are needed to fix it. The same battle cry that
    brought us Deepwater, ICGS and a project price tag that went from $17B to over $30B with a fraction of the deliverables. Unfortunately the CG
    leadership wants to pawn their political cowardice and misplaced loyalty off to the taxpayer as their being the victim of congressional budget
    cuts and an aging fleet. Yes budgets in recent years have gone down. HOWEVER if you look at the post 9/11 RAND report on the timetable to get
    the fleet where it needed to be you will see the CG was fully funded and ICGS was paid under a contract mission performance guaranty.
    Unfortunately they fell far short of their guaranteed delivery.

    Instead of taking on industry CG leadership has rewritten history and swept their incompetence and political cowardice under the rug so they can
    portray themselves as the victims, They are trying to convince us to forget Deepwater ever happened and to fund doing it all again. Just look
    at the 123s, their purposeful desire to put crews at risk to save money and lie about it and their getting every ship contract under the sun
    since. (Watch to see who wins the second set of FRCs and the OPCs.)

    The courageous answer would be to use that guaranty to push the contractors, congress and even themselves to clean up their mess

      • One other aspect of the article worth mention is the growing use of Coast Guard forces in the South China sea, and its environs, to pursue aggressive territorial agendas where the use of grey-painted assets could trigger a military response leading to open conflict.

        White hulls = police action where grey hulls = war.

        In this context the US is foolish not to ensure that the USCG retains appropriate platforms and sufficient depth of resource of those platforms to deploy globally into such areas, whether as an arm of defence (police?) diplomacy or as escorts for trade, or for freedom of navigation missions. If all the other players are intentionally avoiding the use of grey hulls then the US might be seen as the provocateur if it sent USN vessels into the area, and could provide one or more aggressors in the region with an excuse to escalate.

        So we could view Coast Guard assets as a means to prosecute goals without risking further conflict in the interim.

        Another aspect is the comparison on the USN’s relationship with the PLAN verses the USCG’s relationship with the China Coast Guard. The former is described as either ‘on’ or ‘off’ while the latter is more or less continuous, diplomacy and politics notwithstanding. It’s not hard to see which of these two stances is more useful and constructive. The USCG is clearly ahead of the game, here. The USN would do well to emulate it. But I get the impression the USN is too much in love with its status as a ‘hard power’ with such overly simplistic phrases like ‘put metal on metal’ abounding in its public discourse.

      • While there may be some credibility to the white hulls good, gray hulls bad perception, it may have been oversold. The British and French Navies both do coast guard work with gray hulls, in fact most nations’ navies do more coast guard work than war fighting.

        It was a serious mistake for the Philippines to believe that because their 378 was painted gray, it should be withdrawn from the Scarborough Bank, but that may have been in part due to US intervention.

  3. @ Chuck

    I don’t know. I am not a maritime security expert. All I know is the French have 10 inshore boats and 3 390t vessels between Brest and Calais, the Belgians have 3 police boats and 1 custom cutter and 2 naval patrol boats for their 60 or so miles of coast, the Dutch have 3 police boats and 2/3 coastguard vessels plus other police boats patrolling their coast, and the Germans have 8 custom cutters and 6 federal police boats and 2 plus state bpats patrolling their coast. The UK currently have for inshore work for the entire coast 5 cutters; 2 of which are now in the Med, and Hampshire police patrolling the Solent and Southhampton Water with their 2 small boats. But no intelligence is all; we Brits are so clever.

      • Exactly. As a layman all I can do is look at the capabilities of other countries (equipment equal capability, the need for which is derived from assements) and geography (our side of the Channel and North Sea is no different from their side) and wonder why there is such a disparity You could argue technology (such as drones) may impact the need for hulls in the water but all I see is peer nations buying sophisticated expensive hulls

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