Brookings contends that the Coast Guard, not the Navy, is the proper instrument to counter Chinese maritime “gray zone” operations. But it needs more money, something in the range of $200-500M more per year, a 1.7-4.2% budget increase.
Simply put, for a relatively meager influx of operations and maintenance funds, at least in DoD terms (where the unit cost of a single Ford–class aircraft carrier is more than the Coast Guard’s entire annual budget), the Coast Guard could provide substantially more services in the Pacific. Enhanced funding in the range of $200-$500 million would translate to improved readiness and availability of its National Security Cutter (NSC) fleet and other Coast Guard assets capable of operating deep into the Pacific theater. Importantly, this funding might actually save money for DoD. Using the Coast Guard to conduct joint military exercises and patrols, capacity building, and international training is far cheaper than using a higher-end Navy ship to perform the same missions. (emphasis applied–Chuck)
It goes on to suggest that the PATFORSWA model be replicated in the Western Pacific and suggests,
As a corollary, as the Coast Guard plans for its Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition, it should consider whether it could optimize a sub-class of these vessels for these types of defense-flavored operations in the Pacific.
There is also a suggestion of overseas basing,
Finally, it may also be time for the Coast Guard to consider independent foreign basing options for the first time in recent memory, perhaps with America’s close ally and “Five Eyes” partner, Australia. A Coast Guard detachment in Australia would not only provide for an additional Pacific-centric staging area, besides existing Coast Guard locations in Hawaii and Guam, but would also assist with Coast Guard strategic icebreaking operations directed towards Antarctica, which is itself becoming more and more relevant in the era of great power competition.
Once we have our fleet of icebreakers, we might want to base one in Australia or New Zealand, but Guam still looks like a good place for our patrol ships, even if we might include OPCs in addition to the three Webber class FRCs currently planned. Patrolling our Western Pacific EEZ and that of friendly Micronesian states, we might want to replenish at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where Australia is developing a joint use base. At least for short term deployments, our ships and aircraft might also exploit the newly improved base at Wake Island 1,501 miles (2,416 kilometers) east of Guam, 2,298 miles (3,698 kilometers) west of Honolulu.