“Future Coast Guard: Think Special Operators, Not a Less Capable Navy” –Real Clear Defense

Real Clear Defense has an interesting article that ask decision makers to think about the special talents the Coast Guard brings to international relations.

Part of the reason this article is perhaps significant is the position held by the author.

Jason Smith currently serves on the faculty at the National War College.  He has served in the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army, as an advisor to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, as Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Senate and on the staff of the National Security Council.

The author draws parallels between the way special forces should be used and the way the Coast Guard should be used internationally. This particular point is something that I have come to believe.

Frequently require discriminant and precise use of force. This often requires development, acquisition, and employment of equipment not standard for other Department of Defense forces.

The author seems to be thinking Gray Zone Ops, but I am thinking counter terrorism missions. To do our missions the Coast Guard may need equipment and weapons that are not in the Navy inventory. We need light weight anti-surface torpedoes to forcibly stop larger vessels, regardless of their size. We need small missiles to stop small, fast, highly maneuverable terrorist controlled vessels (manned or unmanned) while avoiding collateral damage.

I also believe the Navy will need similar weapons if there is a major naval conflict, to enforce blockades and counter coast wise infiltration, but these weapons are not sufficiently sexy to warrant career making attention within the Navy.

The Coast Guard also has the unusual job of enforcing flight restrictions over the National Capital. Conventional fighter aircraft are not appropriate for this. On the other hand the helicopters we currently use are not really fast enough to keep up with high performance general aviation aircraft. (Plus it seems we may be phasing out the MH-65s.) The aircraft special operations is considering for armed overwatch look like a good fit for the mission and linking Coast Guard procurement with that of the Air Force Special Operations Command could provide cost savings.

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