Bertholf Transits Taiwan Strait

Reuters is reporting that the Bertholf transited the Taiwan Strait in company with the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur. This really should not be worth a mention. I am sure they were in international waters, but China has been getting their panties in a twist every time an American Warship passes through the Taiwan Strait. Don’t sweat it. If we were coming to do harm to China, we would bring more than a destroyer and cutter.

Exercise Obangame Express 2019 –Capacity Building in West Africa

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC-910) approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea, March 14, 2019. Thetis, homeported in Key West, Florida, is on its first patrol to support operations with U.S. Africa Command and U.S. 6th Fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally/Released)

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910) has been participating in a capacity building exercise in the Gulf of Guinea. I would not have known that except that the cutter rescued a couple of fishermen already given up for dead.

Looking for news of the wrap up, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, did recognize the cutter.

More than 220 U.S. military personnel participated in OE19, including the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC 910). Specifically, United States forces conducted training in visit, board, search and seizure, maritime interdiction operations, legal, and surface warfare.

This was a pretty big exercise.

“We brought 33 countries together, [including] 95 ships, 12 high-performance aircraft, 19 maritime operations centers, [all] tied together in Obangame Express, and seven national military command centers for over 80 scenarios and exercises in the last two weeks,” said Foggo.

https://www.stripes.com/news/us-partners-work-to-strengthen-sea-policing-as-piracy-off-west-africa-surges-1.573639

This is the ninth iteration of the exercise.

“Obangame Express has grown in scope from a communications exercise to become what it is now — a comprehensive maritime security event that exercises the full spectrum of activities from command and control, to maritime force responses, and ultimately the handing and transfer of evidence to bring criminals to justice,” said Rear Adm. Heidi Berg. “Today, we face serious challenges at sea such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics, people, and the ongoing threat of piracy. This illicit activity undermines rule of law, food security, and economic development. Our efforts here will help make the region a safer place for maritime commerce and help increase prosperity throughout the region.”

The 33 nations scheduled to participate include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States.

One of the highlights of the event was the opening of a Maritime training school in Nigeria.

As part of the events to open the 2019 Obangame Express, Consul General Bray and Vice Admiral Ibas commissioned the Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Training School in Apapa. The training school was built by the Nigerian Navy and equipped by the United States Navy.

 

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

If you look at the Gulf of Guiana you can see that a fleeing pirate can quickly transit from one jurisdiction to another. They need cooperation between neighboring states.

Obangame Express is part of a comprehensive strategy by U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners that address maritime security concerns. The Nigerian Navy is hosting the 2019 exercise from March 14 to 22.

The word ‘Obangame’ comes from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa. It means “togetherness.”

This area still needs a lot of help. Five crew members were recently kidnapped off of an Offshore Support Vessel despite protection of an armed Nigerian Navy escort. One Nigerian Navy Guard was killed in the exchange of gun fire.

“According to the International Maritime Bureau, the number of piracy incidents reported in the Gulf of Guineas in 2018 in surged to 201 incidents, including six hijackings, marking a steep rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and 191 in 2016. Among the 201 incidents reported, there were 13 ships were fired upon, 130 hostages taken, and 78 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. To make matters worse, some experts estimate that some 40% of incidents in the region go unreported, so the number of actual incidents is likely much higher. “

They do seem to be making some progress in achieving greater coordination helped by these exercises.

COMMODORE OLISEMENOGOR: “… Within the last three months in Western Naval command areas, I think we have arrested over fifty-something vessels based on this collaboration with other nations.”

Cruise Ship Stranded off Norway, Passengers being Evacuated

Norway is apparently in the middle of a potentially huge SAR case. Aljazeera reports,

The maritime rescue service on Saturday said the Viking Sky, which suffered an engine failure and has roughly 1,300 passengers and crew on board, had sent a mayday signal as it had been drifting towards land..

The ship has managed to restart one engine and is at anchor two kilometers off shore. Passengers are being hoisted by helicopter. Fishing vessels are assisting. More from the BBC here.

Top Coast Guard officer outlines future of service in San Pedro –News Release

Below you will find a CCGD11 news release regarding the Commandant’s State of the Coast Guard speech delivered today quoted in full. It also includes a link to the text of the speech. I will make some additional observations at the end. 

State of the Coast Guard Address 2019State of the Coast Guard 2019State of the Coast Guard 2019State of the Coast Guard Address 2019State of the Coast Guard address 2019

State of the Coast Guard 2019 State of the Coast Guard 2019

Editors’ Note: Click on above image to download full-resolution photos and view the videos.

SAN PEDRO, Calif. — The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard delivered his first State of the Coast Guard address Thursday at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach in San Pedro.

Speaking from the largest port in the nation, Adm. Karl Schultz highlighted Coast Guard security and marine safety operations, which facilitate $4.6 trillion in annual economic activity.

Schultz also recognized the service and sacrifice of Coast Guard men and women deployed around the world ensuring global peace and prosperity, including servicemembers supporting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command. He also honored servicemembers in San Pedro, who help ensure the safety and timely movement of vessels operating in the Ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach.

“We must make a difference today, for the Coast Guard of tomorrow,” said Schultz. “Our Coast Guard men and women are united by a shared commitment and eagerness to serve, to demonstrate skill and courage, so that America’s Coast Guard will remain Semper Paratus—Always Ready.”

Schultz also made multiple policy and acquisition announcements including:

  • Increased presence in Southern California, including construction of a new air station at Ventura County Naval Station; the homeporting of the service’s first two new Offshore Patrol Cutters at Base Los Angeles-Long Beach in 2021; and four new Fast Response Cutters in Los Angeles.
  • Confirmed the service was poised to release an update to its Arctic Strategic Outlook in the coming weeks.
  • $675 million to fully fund the Polar Security Cutter and award the first construction contract for the cutter in the spring.
  • Provided an update on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s deployment to the Western Pacific in support of United States Indo-Pacific Command combating North Korea’s maritime sanctions evasion activity.
  • Confirmed the service will accelerate delivery of unmanned aerial systems for National Security Cutters to enable operations that reduce violence and economic/political instability in the Western Hemisphere.

“As Congress makes tough fiscal decisions and looks at the best ways to spend the nation’s precious resources, there’s not a better return on investment in government than the United States Coast Guard,” said Schultz.

Download his full remarks at www.uscg.mil/AlwaysReady.


My Comments: 

The statement that the first two OPCs will go to Long Angeles/Long Beach is the first time I have heard this. Still don’t think I have heard where NSCs #9-11 are going.

The Commandant wants to double the rate at which we procure Scan Eagle for the  National Security Cutters and he wants to put them on OPCs as well.

He talked a lot about Port Security cyber. This is going to continue to grow.

He talked about making the service more inclusive, and a safe workplace. In this regard he referred to the Women’s retention taskforce. which is expected to report next week. He also indicated there will be an underrepresented minorities retention task force.

He reported that he was putting Coast Guard Reservists directly under vice Commandant for Operations.

These are inevitably feel good events, and watching it you could feel pride in the Coast Guard and in its people and accomplishments. I know I did. It is not good form to  complain too much about the administration or the Department or how Congress has treated the Coast Guard, but the Commandant did talk about how the Coast Guard had a backlog of deferred maintenance and a $1.7B shore infrastructure backlog, and that the operating accounts have been flatlined for the last eight years resulting in a 10% loss of purchasing power. He included a reminder in the third and forth paragraph from the end that we really need a steady budget increase. He did not say it, but that is not the case with the FY2020 budget, in fact it is smaller than the FY2019 budget. Congress could still fix that.

“To be the Coast Guard that America needs takes more than just recapitalization. It requires sufficient operating and support funding to maintain our platforms, to train and equip our crews, and to support our Coast Guardsmen and their families. We’re appreciative of the fiscal year 2019 enacted budget, which provided over $2.2 billion dollars for capital investments and ensured continued frontline operations. I am also thankful for the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, which will sustain our Service.

“However, to be an absolutely Ready, Relevant, and Responsive Coast Guard requires a 5% annual increase in operating and support funding. As Congress makes tough fiscal decisions and looks at the best ways to spend the Nation’s precious resources, there’s not a better return on investment in government than the United States Coast Guard.”

Coast Guard FY 2020 Budget Request

Below I have duplicated the Coast Guard’s FY2020 Budget “Fact Sheet”. You can see supporting documents here. My comments are at the bottom.

U.S. Coast Guard Fact Sheet

Fiscal Year 2020 President’s Budget  

BACKGROUND: The FY 2020 President’s Budget requests $11.34 billion for the Coast Guard, including $9.32 billion in discretionary funding.  This begins to address the Service’s erosion of readiness through critical investments in the workforce, cybersecurity, and depot maintenance of legacy assets and infrastructure.  The Budget also supports the Service’s highest priority acquisition, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), and continues recapitalization efforts for capital assets and infrastructure.

BUDGET PRIORITIES:

  • Maximize Readiness Today and Tomorrow—increasing global complexity and expanding demand for Coast Guard services necessitates investment in the workforce, assets, and infrastructure to address the erosion of Service readiness.   
  • Address the Nation’s Complex Maritime Challenges—as the Nation’s unique instrument across the full spectrum of maritime operations, the Budget invests in capabilities and capacity to detect, deter, and counter maritime threats in support of homeland security and defense operations.
  • Deliver Mission Excellence Anytime, Anywhere—the Coast Guard is an agile and adaptive force whose greatest value to the Nation is an ability to rapidly shift among its many missions. The Budget advances modernization efforts in both operations and acquisitions by adapting to the dynamic nature of maritime operations.

MAXIMIZE READINESS TODAY AND TOMORROW: The FY 2020 Budget requests $7.9 billion for Operations & Support (O&S).  Budget highlights include: 

  • $118 million for requisite military pay and allowances as per the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requirements, which keeps DoD and Coast Guard military members compensated equitably, as well as providing civilian benefits and retirement contributions.
  • $59 million for new assets including: crew and shore-side support for NSC #9; operations and maintenance for FRCs #3741; crews for FRCs #39-43; shore-side maintenance personnel for FRC homeports; crew for OPC #1; maintenance support personnel for the C-27J fleet; and operations, maintenance, and flight crews for HC-130J aircraft #12. 
  • $27 million for human capital support infrastructure, and vessel, aircraft, and C5I maintenance funding to address spare parts inventory shortfalls that have led to decreased operations and lower readiness levels due to unplanned repairs. 
  • $22 million for the final phase of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance upgrades, including the replacement of obsolete aircraft equipment and systems necessary to meet 2020 airspace requirements.

ADDRESS THE NATION’S COMPLEX MARITIME CHALLENGES: The FY 2020 Budget requests $1.2 billion for Procurement, Construction, & Improvements (PC&I) to continue recapitalization of the Service’s highest priority acquisitions: 

  • $792 million for vessels, including: $457 million for the construction of Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) #3 as well as long lead time materials for OPCs #4 and #5; $140 million for the procurement of two Fast Response Cutters (FRCs); $60 milllion for post-delivery activities for the seventh through eleventh National Security Cutters (NSCs); $35 million for program management and production activities associated with the detail design and construction contract for Polar Security Cutters (PSCs); and $15 million for a multi-year Service Life Extension Project (SLEP) for POLAR STAR. 
  • $200 million for aircraft, including: $20 million to support service life extensions for MH-60T helicopters; $50 million for a service life extension and avionics upgrade on the H-65 helicopter fleet; $120 million for missionization of fixed-wing HC-27J and HC-144A aircraft; and $9 million for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).
  • $174 million for shore infrastructure projects, including funding for: utility upgrades and construction at Air Station Ventura, CA; improvements at Station Tillamook Bay, OR; replacement of moorings at Station Siuslaw River, OR; and facility upgrades and construction to support FRC and OPC homeports.

DELIVER MISSION EXCELLENCE ANYTIME, ANYWHERE: In FY 2020, the Coast Guard will make sound, riskbased decisions to efficiently allocate resources while investing in critical recapitalization initiatives.  Highlights include: 

  • $15 million to address obsolete communications equipment on cutters, aircraft, and shore facilities to ensure continued interoperability with DoD Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) in theater, as well as in the high latitudes, and during disaster response.
  • $12 million in savings associated with the planned decommissioning of one High Endurance Cutter (WHEC) and three 110foot Patrol Boats (WPBs).  These assets are being replaced by new, more capable NSCs and FRCs, respectively.

My Commentary: 

The $118M quoted above for military pay and allowances is to fund the pay increase not the full amount of pay and allowances.

The top line amount in the budget request, $11.34B, is roughly $770M less than the final FY2019 budget and about $860M less than the FY2018 budget as enacted. Fortunately Congress has usually made additions to the request, but this request is also less than last year’s request.

The big difference, more than $1B, is in the Procurement, Construction, and Improvement account. Amounts requested for Ships and Boats, Aircraft, and Shore-side Infrastructure are all lower. The $1.2B total is little more than half the approximately $2B/year the Coast Guard has been saying they need.

Items missing in the description of the budget that might have been expected, are a second “Polar Security Cutter” (better to do it in 2020 when we are not trying to also fund two OPCs), the Waterways Commerce Cutter, any additional HC-130J aircraft, and a land based Unmanned Air System. The procurement of only two Fast Response Cutters is below the optimum build rate and appears to have resulted in higher unit costs.