Rep. Courtney: U.S. Needs Comprehensive National Maritime Strategy Soon–USNI

A sailor explains the layout and functionality of Ford’s flight deck to Rep. Joe Courtney in 2016. US Navy Photo

The US Naval Institute news service reports the comments of Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn) regarding the Nations lack of a comprehensive Maritime Strategy. He is apparently mostly talking about building more submarines in his home district.

There are a couple of points I think might be worth discussing that were brought up at the end of the post.

Asked if there were plans to build new icebreakers to compete with Russia and others who are moving into the Arctic, Courtney said the Seapower panel does not deal with the Transportation Department programs (emphasis applied–Chuck), which include the Coast Guard and its icebreakers. But he said they have encouraged the Navy to cooperate to help the Coast Guard get the icebreakers it needs.

However, he added, they just heard that in the 2019 appropriations bill, the Transportation Department “gets no money for icebreakers. Some of us will want to work on that.”

First, the fact that there is no money in the 2019 budget for icebreakers.

Second, that the Seapower Sub-Committee does not deal with Coast Guard programs, seems to be part of the problem. The Coast Guard has become an increasingly important part of American Sea power. The Coast Guard is the defacto low mix in American naval power’s high-low mix. We have virtually all the patrol boats. The Coast Guard now has about one eighth the number of personnel of the US Navy. It has more personnel than either the British or French Navies. That the Seapower subcommittee does not have the opportunity to consider relative low marginal cost add-ons that could significantly increase the military value of cutters (and perhaps aircraft) is a lost opportunity.

It seems the Navy does not want to look to the Coast Guard for any significant role in a major conflict, even though the need for additional ASW assets is abundantly clear. Maybe they think a stronger, more militarily competent Coast Guard would divert money from Navy programs. Maybe they are just deferring to the Coast Guard, “Well what do you want to do?” The Coast Guard does not seem to have much of a clue what they will do in the next major, war because their platforms are not equipped to do much in the way of military missions. Hopefully there is really more coordination and planning than is evident looking in from the outside, but given our history, I doubt it.

Note, we do have A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready,” but it is a strategy for maintaining the peace, not a strategy for maintaining Maritime dominance, which requires a healthy shipbuilding industry and merchant marine.

Having a healthy shipbuilding industry and a healthy merchant marine seem to be at odds. The merchant marine needs cheaper ships and cheaper crew costs, both likely to happen only if we allow some foreign shipbuilding and some foreign crewmen. A healthy shipbuilding industry seems to require buying ships made in America at costs above the going international rate. Some Western Countries seem to have cracked to code on how to have both high wages and healthy shipbuilding and merchant marines. Some of that is due to subsidies. I wish our leadership luck in coming up with a good maritime strategy. We did it once, during the run-up to WWII, and it may have saved the world from tyranny.  

(Sorry about the rant, is my frustration showing?)


2 thoughts on “Rep. Courtney: U.S. Needs Comprehensive National Maritime Strategy Soon–USNI

  1. Every congressional type with a backyard shipyard, is provincial in their view of what the military needs~

    And YES shipbuilding gets more attention because of the above and there are more lobbyists to advocate for shipyards. No where near as many merchant mariner groups to address their needs. The US Navy long ago gave up supporting the US Merchant Marine!

  2. I wonder if the Areas still act as MDZ Lant and Pac? The presense of submarines near our shores, the command and control structure already in place, and WPB/WPC assets already in place seem to point to an “easy” complimentary wartime use of *some* of the CG. Just assign the appropriate Navy CONUS Patrol Squadrons, and there is a useful contribution already.

    Cutters need weapon upgrades, and that will require the willpower within CG and cooperation from the Navy… Both not easy to get…

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