Note the hearing does not actually begin until time 57:45.
The video above is of a U.S. House Armed Services Committee hearing on “Future Force Structure Requirements for the United States Navy.”
While most of it is not closely related to the Coast Guard, there were considerations that may be significant for the Coast Guard. There is also discussion of a new class of combatant smaller than the recently selected 7,000 ton FFG(X) that might be shared in common with the Coast Guard.
- Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), Former Chief of Naval Operations
- Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
- Ronald O’Rourke, Naval Expert, Congressional Research Service
There were questions or comments about increased coordination and interoperability with the Coast Guard at time 1:09:15, 3:07:45 and 3:14:00.
There was mention of operating in the Arctic at time 3:03:00, but most of that was about submarines.
There was much discussion about the Navy’s failure to provide a 30 year ship building program (time 1:33:00 and throughout the hearing). The Coast Guard has never provided a long term shipbuilding program despite a Congressional mandate to provide a 20 year shipbuilding projection.
Perhaps the most interesting development was an apparent general agreement that there was a need for a class of combatants, smaller than the new frigates. At time 1:15:50 Admiral Roughhead, talked about the need for a high-low mix of surface ships. Time 1:23:00 Mr Clark, said there was a need a more diversified fleet including more smaller ships. 2:59 Corvettes were discussed by Mr. Clark.
The written statement by Mr. Clark reflected a Hudson Institute study that suggested a need for 91 corvettes. I think we could make a good case that at least some of them should be painted white with racing stripes.
Mr. O’Rourke’s written statement suggested the possibility of “Coordination with Coast Guard Shipbuilding,”
As can be seen from the above list of options, there is currently some potential, at least in theory, for coordinating procurement of smaller Navy surface combatants with procurement of Coast Guard cutters—something that might increase production economies of scale and help optimize the nation’s shipbuilding effort at the national level (rather than sub-optimize it at the individual service level).
Such coordination could be viewed as consistent with Navy-Coast Guard policy statements: On at least three occasions in recent years—in 2002, 2006, and 2013—Navy and Coast Guard leaders signed joint National Fleet Policy Statements to provide (as stated in the 2013 edition) “direction and guidance for our Services to achieve commonality and interoperability for 21st century maritime and naval operations.” The document states that “This Policy is particularly important in light of: significantly constrained fiscal resources; the growing costs of acquiring, training, and maintaining technologically advanced forces; and the complexity and lethality of national security threats and challenges confronting the Nation in and from the maritime domain.” It states further that “This Policy enables Navy and Coast Guard forces to effectively and efficiently support each other while identifying specific methods and measurements, avoid redundancies and achieve economies of scale to maximize our Nation’s investment of increasingly scarce resources.” The 2013 National Fleet Policy Statement was followed in 2015 by a joint Navy-Coast Guard National Fleet Plan for implementing the National Fleet Policy Statement.
These smaller combatants might be based on the National Security Cutter or the Offshore Patrol Cutter, or might be a new design that would give birth to a new class of cutters that could make a more meaningful contribution to the National Defense. Personally I could see a modification of the current OPC design to provide greater speed by say providing a gas turbine or a second set of diesels, with the Navy variant armed much I suggested earlier and the Coast Guard variant a bit more lightly armed but readied for rapid upgrade. These ships could presumably achieve 27 to 28 knots and could be built in second line shipyards.
If the Navy and Coast Guard start talking soon, we could probably see this new class replace the last six or eight OPCs in the program of record, replace the NSCs as they age out, and grow the large cutter fleet.