The Coast Guard has issued a new Strategic Plan for the next five years. It is an amplification of the new Commandants mantra “Ready, Relevant, Responsive.” I’m always a little dubious about these sorts of document since, frequently they look more like public relations documents than real plans, but this may have some actual clues that point to changes of emphasis and direction.
The plan continues the previous Commandant’s intention to counter Transnational Criminal organizations, but there seems to be an increasing emphasis on the Coast Guard’s role in emerging great power competition.
Another shift in the strategic environment is the return to great-power competition. Rival powers, such as China and Russia, are challenging rules-based international order through inter-state aggression, economic coercion, maritime hybrid warfare, gray zone activities, and overreaching territorial claims. Through their actions, they are attempting to diminish American and partner-nation influence abroad. By exploiting pockets of weak governance, these near-peer competitors could undermine democratic institutions, escalate conflict, poach maritime resources, jeopardize access to critical sea lanes, and ultimately disrupt peaceful regions
There is again emphasis on cyber.
The security environment is also affected by the rising importance of the cyber domain – where adversarial nation states, non-state actors, and individuals are attacking our digital infrastructure and eroding the protections historically provided by our geographic borders. At the stroke of a key, rivals in remote regions of the world can attack, disable, and alter our critical infrastructure and financial networks. These bad actors can unleash volatile malware that could have devastating consequences worldwide. While improved interconnectivity expands our capabilities, we must be wary of the corresponding increase in risk
There is recognition that our disaster response role has now become increasingly routine.
The increasing severity and scale of catastrophic incidents is another reality. Coastal regions are densely populated, and ports have become heavily developed. Catastrophic events, whether man-made or natural, can have enormous consequences to our coastal communities and disrupt regional and global commerce. Recent hurricanes, floods, and other maritime disasters have reinforced the Nation’s need to prepare for the size and impact of such incidents.
This is reflected in an objective on page 24:
3.1.1. Lead in Crisis
Whether a maritime disaster or catastrophic event, the Coast Guard is a leader of the integrated response. Drawing on our vast organizational experience, we will:
• Cultivate crisis leadership as a core competency;
• Be the Nation’s premier incident management experts for complex maritime disasters; and
• Enhance the management of surge capabilities and the mobilization of adaptive force packages
There is recognition of increasingly global deployment of Coast Guard assets.
The Coast Guard is deployed globally to promote peace, fortify alliances, attract new partners, and challenge threats far from U.S. soil. For example, we provide United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) detection, monitoring, and response capability in the Western Hemisphere to combat transnational crime in the Transit Zone while building the interdiction and crisis response capabilities of our partner nations. In United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), our Rotary Wing Air Intercept assets and Maritime Security Response Teams rapidly deploy as singular elements or as a supplement to joint- force packages in support of Homeland Defense missions. As the Federal surface presence in the Arctic, we advance safe, secure, and environmentally-responsible maritime activity by improving awareness, modernizing governance, and broadening partnerships. In the Indo-Pacific, we are actively building partner capacity and theater security cooperation throughout the region to enhance maritime governance and bolster stability in collaboration with United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). In United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), our patrol boats and advanced interdiction teams conduct maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. Along the West African coast, we support United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) to strengthen partner-nation capability for self-policing in order to thwart transnational threats such as piracy, illegal fishing, and contraband trafficking.
Among the many bulleted action items there are a few that might indicate change of direction.
• Preserve maritime norms and influence acceptable behavior to facilitate the unimpeded flow of lawful maritime commerce;
• Create opportunities and build avenues for regional information sharing;
Are these looking perhaps at the South China Sea or the West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea?
There were a couple of items that emphasized improved working relations with DHS and DOD:
2.2.1. Strengthen Integration with DHS The Coast Guard employs both distinct and complementary capabilities to help DHS and its components meet their strategic objectives. To maximize our value to the Department, we will:
• Enhance integration with DHS at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels;
• Implement DHS best practices across the Service including joint requirements management, acquisition processes, research and development, and IT solutions; and
• Connect our capabilities with other DHS components to further DHS strategic priorities.
2.2.2. Leverage Joint Capabilities and Authorities to Complement DOD Our unique authorities, specialized capabilities, and established relationships will complement DOD to provide an agile response to contingencies, address sources of maritime discord, and deter threats to our national interests. To better integrate capabilities for national defense, we will:
• Employ our authorities to support National Defense Strategy (NDS) objectives;
• Synchronize engagement, operations, and capacity-building efforts to strengthen maritime governance around the world;
• Leverage DOD to field interoperable equipment and reduce redundancies in the acquisition of new capabilities; and
• Target interoperability with the U.S. Navy and other maritime services to include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD)
Looks like generally, continuity with long established priorities, and recognition of some new unfortunate realities.
What is missing is the hard decision to reinstate the Coast Guard’s ASW mission.