White Hulls Must Prepare for Gray Zone Challenges–USNI

The US Naval Institute’s 2016 Coast Guard Essay Contest winner, “White Hulls Must Prepare for Gray Zone Challenges,” by LCdr.Craig Allen, Jr., USCG is worth the read.

Much of the focus is on the PATFORSWA and LCdr Allen seems to know where of he speaks.

“Lieutenant Commander Allen is a cutterman assigned to the Office of Defense Operations at Coast Guard Headquarters. He previously commanded the Sentinel-class cutter USCGC William Flores (WPC-1103) and the USCGC Baranof (WPB-1318), an Island-class cutter forward deployed to Manama, Bahrain. He also served as the executive officer of the USCGC Tornado (WPC-14), a Cyclone-class patrol craft. Commander Allen is a 2014 graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.”

But as he points out. These “Gray Zones” are not limited to SW Asia. We see them in South East Asia, East Africa, West Africa, and even in Central and South America.

While the post concentrates on crew preparation, I think its appropriate to point out an observation by Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, that attacks like those on the USS Mason, where a non-state actor employed cruise missiles are likely to become more common.

Maybe adding a CIWS (preferably the SeaRAM) to the OPC might not be a bad idea.

12 thoughts on “White Hulls Must Prepare for Gray Zone Challenges–USNI

  1. Low intensity combat does not equal less dangerous imho. That is why the uscg must be prepared for what ever task it would be assigned during the conflict.

  2. The theme of this article is “history repeats” again.
    The Coast Guard and the Revenue Cutter Service has operated in those so-called “gray” areas since the service’s first diplomatic mission in 1794. Nothing new here. The difference is the lingo used.
    “Coast Guardsmen reflexively think in terms of law enforcement use of force rather than rules of engagement; preparing these personnel for expeditionary environments requires supplementing core domestic skillsets with in-depth area and mission-specific training.”

    Use of force and rules of engagement are the same bucket of bolts. The Coast Guard’s law enforcement role is based on rules developed over the centuries of national service. The Coast Guard easily supplanted law enforcement rules to those rules of engagement in Vietnam very easily. Most are common sense. In depth training, may also be counter-productive. When in a quasi-war time area of operations, the training may be used in unexpected ways because the people were told they could act in a different way. Of course, this does not mean some additional and area specific training could not be implemented. I recall going through SERE training for jungle operations in the deserts of southern California. Other groups attended in the snows of Whidby Island.

    “Because OCO funds are uncertain from year to year, the Coast Guard has been reluctant to commit to evolving how it approaches the mission. Nor has it moved to translate the experience it has gained there into a sustainable skillset. Coast Guard members assigned to PATFORSWA complete a one-year tour and then rotate to other units. Once a member departs, there is no mechanism to sustain, grow, or capitalize on the skills gained during his or her deployment. As a result, rather than benefiting from 14 years of collective experience, PATFORSWA essentially has gained one year of experience 14 times. ”
    Same, Same GI. Those coming home from Vietnam were never utilized when the law enforcement mission rose again in the late 1970s. In fact, many captains pushed the experience of these men to the background because it was not considered to be law enforcement. I had one cutter captain tell me prior to a boarding, “Chief, you aren’t in Vietnam.” The meaning was clear. The Coast Guard does not want wartime experience because it does not fit into the “life-saver,” environmentalist, and regulatory function roles.

    “And there is almost no mutual training or interaction between the Coast Guard and Navy patrol craft crews, even though they perform nearly identical missions side-by-side and operate similar platforms once deployed. ”

    There wasn’t any in Vietnam either. Ridealongs produces nothing but a view of how the other half acts strangely. The missions may be similar but the attitudes are different. In Vietnam, the Coast Guard had the most professional small craft sailors. The reasons were clear why. The majority of the enlisted men had years of sea duty and the junior officers, for the most part, were on their second WPB command. The level of actual experience in patrol work was much higher than in the Navy.

    “Comparing the Navy riverine crews’ predeployment training to the Coast Guard’s, the former appears to be more comprehensive in several respects.”

    The training of deploying SWIFT boat crews was about four-months in length. The Coast Guardsmen receive virtually no shipboard training for their jobs. The reason, as stated above, was clear. They were already trained in their jobs. Piling on pipe-line training will not make them better or worse; just more expensive.

    The issue is service cultures. The Coast Guard does not want to be a war fighter and the Navy doesn’t really want small craft operations.

    The Coast Guard does not know enough about its history to begin taking on more operational experiments. It does not learn from the past.

    • I may be ramblin but here it goes.

      What is the USCG core mission during war/conflict, and can they carry out their mission. If not why? I don’t care about peace time. That’s like asking what the role of the National Guard is during peacetime. That is the question that the admirals need to address. But don’t worry. The Marines are asking themselves the same question.

      • I have tried to address at least what the cutters might do in war time, https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/02/10/what-might-coast-guard-cutters-do-in-wartime-part-2-coast-guard-roles/ but this really should be a joint discussion between the Commandant’s staff and that of the CNO and the COCOMs.

        Still I am afraid there is not a lot of in depth discussion beyond tagging a few ships for contingency operations.

        Still if things go badly at sea during a major conflict, it will be the Navy’s responsibility. If the CG performs well in wartime it will just be a pleasant surprise for the general public.

        What we do in peacetime, particularly in terms of Homeland Security, is still a valid questions because I don’t think we are really prepared for that, and it is a uniquely Coast Guard mission. We have essentially let the Navy off the hook as far as responsibility for defending US ports against terrorist attacks.

  3. In 2007, at the end of a six-year FOIA request to obtain the Coast Guard’s Vietnam Records, then Lower Half Rear Admiral Hewitt wrote in the final denial, “Detailed information regarding the Coast Guard’s interactions with the Navy [in Vietnam] more than 35 years ago would not significantly contribute to the general public’s present level of understanding of Coast Guard operations and activities.”

    There ya go folks. This is the attitude that the senior officers do not believe the past may be of any assistance to the Coast Guard.

      • having dealt with cghq and their lawyers not a surprise. had a return from them state that cg is not part of the armed services and therefore did not have to adhere to parts of usc that dealt with armed services. wow, was I trained wrong.

  4. This comment was misplaced. should have been here.

    JamesWF on November 25, 2016 at 4:43 pm said:
    Really well written piece. Covers a lot of ground on the micro and macro level. He seems to be saying something that I feel strongly about. The military (or many in the pentagon at least) wants to prepare for the war they want to prepare for rather than the “war” we are most likely so wage. I think it is a reaction to Iraq, and in part a desire to wish the problem away by focusing on high end warfare where we know we have the advantage.

    Maritime security assets are just as important as an SSN, CVN, or DDG. Yet they are being neglected. We accept risk in the Persian Gulf for policing forces that we would never accept for our high end forces. The LCS should be a program to address this, but they keep going in different directions rather than commit to it, which is one of the reasons the program is such a mess.

    I love his idea of a common sentinel patrol boat and cutter, and his ideas for increasing interoperability between the USCG and USN are good.

    Though not the point of his article he inadvertently explains why the USCG is so unspecific in some of the congressional hearings that have frustrated Duncan and the ranking member. The USCG would probably like to have a 10th NSC, but are reluctant to commit to any additional missions or roles.

  5. The USN has Alfred Thayer Mahan, who wrote the book “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660–1783′ which helped define what the role of the USN should be. A modern day Mahan needs to do the same with the USCG, and define their role in peacetime,and war. But at the same time things have to change at the top.

    • A lot smaller readership for the roles of the USCG. Almost every nation has a different construct on how to handle our missions.

      We do try to chip away at the question here. There have been “Roles and Missions” studies. Memories are short. Sometimes it seems we only know what we did yesterday.

  6. Pingback: “Brandish America’s ‘Small Stick’”–USNI | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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