Sorry this post is going to ramble a bit.
The Prize Winning Essays:
The August issue of the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings is again the “Coast Guard Issue,” and includes the three winning essays in their Coast Guard Essay contest.
First prize went to prolific author and repeat winner, Cdr. Craig Allen, Jr., USCG for his “Expeditionary Cutter Deployments Should Not Be a Mission to Mars.” It talks about some of the logistical difficulties encountered. His comments about the integrated C5ISR, navigation, and engineering systems and “controlled parts exchanges (taking working parts from one cutter and installing them in another) to deploy on schedule and/or remain underway” are partiuclarly troubling.
He offered three suggestions about how to make the Coast Guard more deployable.
- Improved cutter self-sustainability.
- Forward operating bases
- Mission support cutter.
I would note that large cutters are probably already have more self-sustainability than their Navy counterparts making extended single ship deployments with minimal support easier for cutters than for Navy ships, but it does sound like we have made some choices that may put those capabilities at risk.
It is probably diplomatically easier to establish a Coast Guard forward operating base than one for the Navy, particularly in Latin America. Realistically we are probably only talking about a base in the Eastern Pacific, near the drug transit zone. To make that happen would probaby require some initiative from SOUTHCOM.
Elsewhere we could probably ride the coat tails of the Navy and our allies including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.
The mission support cutter, or, more generally, a floating base might be addressed in a number of ways. Presumably SOUTHCOM will get their own Expeditionary Sea Base. Wherever it is moored will become a defacto forward operating base. There should be room aboard for priority Coast Guard unique support requirements. Unfortunately I understand, dispite their tanker origins, they don’t carry fuel for tranfer to other ships. That is unfortunate, but probably something that could be fixed. Any kind of forward operating base could make Webber class deployments to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones much more productive.
Effectively the Coast Guard has already been using buoy tenders as mission support cutters for Webber class in the Western Pacific.
One might think that a Navy owned MSC vessel might make a good mission support vessel, but the underway replenishment vessels they have currently, are far too large to be dedicated to supporting routine Coast Guard operations.
Something to consider might be a routine teaming of Charleston based National Security Cutters (NSC) with District 7 Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs). A NSC and a pair of FRCs could make a very effective team, with the NSC providing underway replenishment for the FRCs. There are three NSC in based in Charleston now and there are expected to be five when the program is completed. There are currently 20 FRCs based in district 7. These ships are the closest of their type to the Eastern Pacific Drug Transit Zones.
Second prize went to “The World’s Fishermen as a Maritime Sensor Network,” by Lieutenant Holden Takahashi, USCG, that suggest a cell phone based reporting system could provide additional eyes to Maritime Domain Awareness systems.
Third prize went to “Lost At Sea: Teaching, Studying, and Promoting Coast Guard History,” by Lt. Christopher Booth, USCG, and Mark Snell, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary contending,
“To foster pride in its heritage and promote its historic accomplishments to the public, the Coast Guard cannot continue to ignore its past. It must make a major shift in how it approaches, teaches, promotes, and preserves its history. The Coast Guard must rescue the history and heritage of “that long line of expert seamen” and their contributions to the nation, so they are no longer lost at sea.”
Other Posts of Interest:
There are also other posts that directly address the Coast Guard or at least would involve the Coast Guard.
“A Campaign Plan for the South China Sea,” by Captain Joshua Taylor, U.S. Navy advocates for persistent low-end presence.
A South China Sea campaign that translates these principles into action in a resource- and diplomatically constrained—but feasible and effective—manner should be organized around the following lines of effort and accompanying messages:
- Beat Cop. Persistent low-end presence—“The United States has skin in the game.”
- Neighborhood Watch. Build a regional coalition— “We are stronger together.”
- Vigilance. Information sharing—“We are always watching.”
ln terms of information sharing, also mentioned was this Maritime Domain Awareness program that I was not aware of.
Since 2016, the United States has invested more than $425 million through the Maritime Security Initiative to help Indo-Pacific countries develop the ability to “sense, share, and contribute” to a regional recognized maritime picture (RMP). While some of these funds have purchased secure communication systems, the standout success story has been the U.S. Department of Transportation’s unclassified web-based SeaVision maritime domain awareness and coordination tool. Drawing on government and commercially contracted datastreams, SeaVision fuses information from terrestrial and satellite Automated Identification System data, the satellite Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, satellite synthetic aperture radar, and—soon—satellite electronic signal detection to form a high-quality unclassified RMP that could support a countercoercion campaign in the South China Sea. Indeed, naval services throughout Southeast Asia already use it—with the notable exception of the U.S. Navy.
(My own ideas for a persistent low-end presence are here, Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific.)
“The Coast Guard’s Firefighting Fiction,” by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Phillip Null, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) suggests the Coast Guard should take a more active role in marine fire fight.
“Recent tragedies have shown the need for the Coast Guard to revisit its stance on firefighting, not to supplant municipalities or absolve them of their responsibilities, but to support them with real capabilities and expertise and to provide capability in unprotected waters to avert tragedy. The Coast Guard trains and equips its cutter crews to combat fires on board their own vessels, the success of which was recently demonstrated on board the cutter Waesche (WMSL-751) during a Pacific transit.8 Now it needs only to increase the capacity and foam-delivery capability of the pumps carried on its boats, expand the training and equipment available to its boat crews who operate in coastal regions where fire poses the greatest threat, and revise policies that limit involvement and inhibit on-scene decision-making even in unprotected waters.
While on the topic of maritime firefighting, take a look at this post by Cdr Sal, “How Many Fireboats Can You Buy for $1.2 Billion?” that discusses the Navy’s lack of fireboats. In so many cases, a less than optimal resourse on scene in a timely manner is far better that the perfect resource arriving late. Perhaps Coast Guard assets could have helped.
Some people in the Coast Guard are thinking about major ship fires, “Coast Guard, Long Beach and LA fire departments train for maritime fires.“