“Future Force Structure Requirements for the United States Navy” and the Possibilities of a Dual Service (Navy/Coast Guard) Ship

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.

Witnesses were:

  • Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), Former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
  • Ronald O’Rourke, Naval Expert, Congressional Research Service

Links are provided to prepared statements by Bryan Clark and Ronald O’Rourke that are more comprehensive than their initial oral statements.

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.



9 thoughts on ““Future Force Structure Requirements for the United States Navy” and the Possibilities of a Dual Service (Navy/Coast Guard) Ship

  1. This a very positive development but is this drive for a common small surface ship coming from Mr Clark and the Hoover Institute or from the Navy?

    I know is a proponent of the idea and I agree with him. I’ve not seen anything yet from the Navy though to indicate they are on board.

    • Right now it is just a possibility that has been pointed out by the Congressional Research Service. Neither Mr Clark nor Adm Roughead made any mention of a dual service ship. Neither the Navy or the Coast Guard have moved in this direction. The Corvettes would replace the large unmanned surface vessels that are currently in the 2021 budget.

  2. ” The Coast Guard has never provided a long term shipbuilding program despite a Congressional mandate to provide a 20 year shipbuilding projection.”

    There has never been a shipbuilding program in the service – no one that extends into the future. History shows us sporadic attempts but once the line of ships are built any thought of replacement died. That is until someone hawks about the poor condition of the cutters; then process begins again.

    From 1790 to about 1860, new cutters were paid for from customs duties collected. This set up a problem of either taking money out of the Treasury or putting it in. Most customs people wanted money to go in. Cutters would survive until they sank.

    When the use of appropriated money began for USRCS shipbuilding, things did not really change. Replacements came again in sputters and missteps. Usually, the Treasury Department took in surplus Navy vessels which shows the feasibility of similar ships being used by the Navy and Coast Guard. The first steam vessel used by the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction for training in steam came from the Navy. However, it as a matter of cost and availability without a plan and not much different from a flea market purchase.

    Prohibition gave the Coast Guard a good shot at similarity. The ‘four-stacker’ destroyers were small but difficult to maintain. Despite the problems, the Coast Guard took them as a stop gap measure. In the meantime, public works project money opened up more new construction. Three classes of cutters totaling over 40 were built in ten years. Even here, some of these cutters remained in service for over a half-century and supplemented with former small Navy vessels. The later remained in service for over 40 years – without a long range plan.

    The problem could be is the lack of seamen in the Coast Guard. In 1964, about 65% of Coast Guard personnel were in sea billets. Today, the number at sea hovers around 16%. Fewer and fewer flag officers are qualified seamen.

    A long range plan requires an even longer look at the sea-going culture within the Coast Guard. A service in which people whom have no interest or desire to go to sea will not create plans for new ships.

    • That should be the joint-crewed USCG, USMC, and USN ship because if a nuclear-powered USA icebreaker was to be built, it would need Marines to guard the nuclear power plant and weapons 24/7/365. I highly doubt that such a nuclear USA icebreaker would just be a gunboat.

      I think such a nuclear icebreaker should be built by the US Navy. The USCG has no nuclear power, missile armament, or much military EW/ECM sensor experience or training facilities. Trump is essentially desiring an armed nuclear icebreaking warship. The Polar Security Cutters should belong to the USCG, but any nuclear icebreaker should belong to the US Navy.

      • The USCG Academy used to have a nuclear reactor and taught nuclear physics and application to propulsion. Not sure that is still the case, but it was many years ago…

  3. A smaller combatant ship than the FREMM USN Frigate and jointly crewed by the USN and USCG only makes sense if it carries weapons that the Future Frigate, NSC, FRC, and OPC do not have, such as triple torpedo tubes, 76mm or 5-inch gun, lasers perhaps, SAMs, ASCMs, Anti-torpedos, 30mm chaingun, and CIWS.

    There is a huge need for missiles and torpedoes to remedy the deficiencies of these smaller US combat ships. In the future, the USN and USCG cannot rely on the small number of US SSNs for CONUS shore defense from spying enemy subs…the USN and USCG should possess light frigates or corvettes able to conduct ASW, SuW, and AAW defense.

    Russian bombers and ships transiting International space cannot always be intercepted by the USAF; the USCG and USN need to step in. I recall an article that said it was a shame that (I think) Greece couldn’t put any fighters into the air to escort nighttime UFO planes because their Air Force only had planes flying 9AM-5PM due to cost-cutting measures of a bankrupt government! Italy and Switzerland had to scramble fighters to intercept because they are a 24/7/365 Air Force!

    The USN and USCG need picket ships to maintain patrols and CONUS littoral defense and the USCG cutters lack weapons to deal with AAW and ASW threats. ASW shore defense is left to Navy SSNs, but how many and where are a closely guarded secret. In order to forward deploy the few active-duty US SSNs overseas, the USCG and USN need corvettes or light frigates operating solo or in pairs or packs capable of all areas of defense to leave the OPCs, NSCs, destroyers, cruisers, and FFGXs able to deploy overseas on duty.

    • The CG does not need an all-aspect defense ship with anti-air or heavy anti-surface capabilities. The closest serious air threat to CONUS is 2000 miles away, and most are 3000-4000 miles away. USCG isn’t ever going to get into shooting down Bears with Standard missiles… The ASuW for CG likewise would not be a major mission around CONUS. Any large surface action group would be engaged by the Navy, and if they do get close to CONUS, the AF has Harpoon-capable fighters and bombers. The rogue or seized by terrorist merchant which Chuck has described in the past is the most likely scenario there. The ASW mission is where the CG should focus any combat readiness or armaments. That is an ideal and necessary mission for the CG.

  4. Our European allies are already a step ahead of us on the corvette front with their European Patrol Corvette. I believed the Chuck previously posted infor on this design. Italy, France, Greece and Spain have signed onto joint development and Bulgaria and Portugal are considering joining. The design is similar in size to the OPC with upgrade combat capablity, VLS, AShM. RAM, and Towed Array Sonar, and more. This design could service both the CG and Navy. Mr. Clark states that his new future fleet architecture would need 91 ships of this size.



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