Indonesian Maritime Security Agency vessel KN Tanjung Datu, left, sails alongside U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton during joint exercises in the Singapore Strait in August 2019. IMAGE CREDIT: PO1 LEVI READ/USCG

CIMSEC has an opinion piece written by Bryan Clark and Craig Hooper, both influential defense journalists, that advocates,

The Congress and DoD leadership should embrace the Navy’s focus on high-end warfare by shifting security and training missions to ships operated by other services, specifically the Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command. Congressional leaders have expressed interest in adding defense-related spending to the White House FY2023 budget proposal, which could build more of the existing ships the Coast Guard and MSC would use. And to operate them, the up to $2 billion in annual LCS sustainment, basing costs, and manpower funding could be moved to these new mission owners. If the Navy sheds the small boat mission, the costs should be taken out of the Navy’s budget.

We have seen that, to some extent, this has already taken place, but without the movement of money to the new providers.

The Navy hopes to save money by retiring LCS, so they can put money in other Navy programs, not so that they can hand it over to another agency (although, yes, MSC is really part of the Navy).

Navy seamanship training has had a lot problems recently, and I think a lot of that can be traced to the lack of smaller vessels with smaller wardrooms, where junior officers can get more experience in shiphandling. The Navy does not allow their surface warfare officers to specialize on their first tour. They are supposed to learn about complex engineering and weapons as well as seamanship and deck watch standing while serving on ships that may have many times the number of JOs that are on CG ships. The Navy is eight times the size of the Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard has almost as many wardrooms as the Navy. The Coast Guard has roughly 250 coastal and ocean-going cutters, patrol ships, buoy tenders, tugs, and icebreakers; as well as nearly 2,000 small boats and specialized craft. The US Navy has about 296 ships and a number of those are manned by civilian mariners of the MSC. On top of that, Navy ships are generally underway a smaller percentage of the time than Coast Guard ships, and Coast Guard vessels operate more frequently in high traffic coastal areas. It should not be surprising that Navy officers in general have less seamanship experience than their Coast Guard and merchant marine counterparts.  Unless the Navy develops a cadre of ship driving specialists, shedding their smaller ships will only exacerbate the problem.

2023 Budget Overview and a Quick Look at the 2022 Omnibus Bill

The Coast Guard has published its supporting document for the FY2023 budget. The Budget explanation begins on page 24.

There is at least one substantial surprise,

Commercially Available Polar Icebreaker $125.0M: Supports the purchase of a commercially available polar icebreaker, including modifications and integrated logistics support required to reach initial operating capability (IOC) for Coast Guard operations. This vessel will provide a platform capable of projecting U.S. sovereignty and influence while conducting Coast Guard statutory missions in the high latitudes.” (p.29)

Despite a professed intention to go to an all H-60 helicopter fleet, there is this,

MH-65 $17.0M: Supports modernization and sustainment of the Coast Guard’s MH-65 helicopter fleet to extend the service life of the MH-65 fleet into the 2030s, enabling the Coast Guard to participate in the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift program. Modernization includes reliability and sustainability improvements where obsolete components are replaced with modernized sub-systems, including an integrated cockpit and sensor suite.” (p.30)

One WMEC210 is to be decommissioned and one WMEC270 will loose its crew as it is being SLEPed (Service Life Extension Program, p35). Looks like they expect to have OPC #1 and #2 and NSC#10 operating by the end of FY2023.

Comparison of 2021, 2022, and 2023 budgets 

You can take a look at the 2022 Omnibus bill, the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022’’ that was signed into law by the President on March 15 here. It is an extremely long document but still only provides the top line for major categories of the Coast Guard budget. I was only able to find them by using control F “Coast Guard.”

Below I will just list the two major discretionary spending categories. We normally see some increases by Congress over and above the budget request. Most common seem to have been the addition of funding for additional Webber class cutters and C-130J aircraft. I have not been able to identify all the additions for 2022. We do know two additional Webber class ($130M) were added. Looks like the money for a second Great Lakes Icebreaker may be included.

Operations and Support (in thousands)

  • 2021 enacted        8,485,146
  • 2022 requested     9,020,770
  • 2022 enacted        9,162,120
  • 2023 requested     9,620,029

Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (in thousands)

  • 2021 enacted        2,264,041
  • 2022 requested     1,639,100
  • 2022 enacted        2,030,100
  • 2023 requested     1,654,858


Why It Would Make Sense to Award Two OPC Contracts.

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

The Navy League’s online magazine “Seapower” reports,

 Bollinger Shipyards submitted on March 18 its final proposal to the United States Coast Guard to build Stage 2 of the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter program. If chosen, Bollinger would construct and deliver a total of 11 vessels to the U.S. Coast Guard over the next decade, helping to sustain the Bollinger workforce through 2031.

It is obviously a Bollinger press release, talking about how much good it would do for the local economy, but it does occur to me…

If we have two truly competitive bids, this could be an opportunity to have two shipyards building Offshore Patrol Cutters.

The program is already too long delayed. The phase II contract proposals are likely to be very competitive. In March 2020, contracts for industry studies were awarded to nine different yards.

  • Austal USA of Mobile, AL
  • General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME
  • Bollinger Shipyards Lockport of Lockport, LA
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL
  • Fincantieri Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WS
  • General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD/NASSCO) of San Diego, CA
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS
  • Philly Shipyard of Philadelphia, PA
  • VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, MS

I know at least three yards, Eastern, Huntington Ingalls and Bollinger, and probably more, are submitting proposals for building first a single OPCs with options to build ten more. With Eastern already building the first four, this gives the Coast Guard the opportunity to contract for the remaining 21 ships based on the bids that will be received this year.

We could have the entire program completed by 2032 instead of 2038 and avoid the complication of a probably much less competitive phase III competition to build the last ten ships. Six years earlier completion would also probably allow us to avoid the expense of the life extension program planned for six of the WMEC 270s.

It would cost more in those years but this project really should have been funded ten to twenty years ago. It would be a big plus up for the PC&I budget but only a few percent increase compared to the Coast Guard’s total budget, small compared to the DHS budget and microscopic to the entire federal budget. It would align with the national objective of growing our naval shipbuilding capabilities, and further stimulate the economy. It might not be too hard to get Congressional support.

It would also provide a hedge against a natural disaster further delaying construction.




Commandant’s Remarks, USNI West 2022 -Sea Service Chiefs Town Hall, Feb 2022

There is a very good summary of the Commandant’s remarks reported by the US Naval Institute, “Coast Guard Weathering Cutter Production Delays as More Coasties Head to Sea.” There is really much more to the USNI post than the title would suggest.

The “big news” in the article, reflected in the title of the post, was this statement.

The Coast Guard is shifting some 2,000 billets in the coming years to sailing billets, largely to support the additional cutters. It might push the active force population somewhat beyond the 42,000 personnel currently, Schultz told USNI. “They’ll be some end-strength increase beyond that,” but it’s not clear yet how that will bear out.

I am not sure where this is coming from. The total number of afloat billets under the program of record is not significantly different from the number of afloat billets we had two decades ago. The additional icebreakers will make a small difference, but it would not approach 2000 billets. It is true we have seen some draw down since then, and the number of technical ratings afloat will certainly increase with the increasingly sophisticated ships.

The shift of billets from non-rates to highly technical ratings does mean we would be sending far fewer non-rates afloat. It maybe, we have seen the ill effects of this move and will be sending more non-rates afloat. I would applaud such a move. It would better prepare the non-rates for school and would increase the resilience of the ship’s crews. Below, I have linked previous posts that discuss the number of afloat billets.

A video of the “Town Hall” is above. There is nothing for about the first 47 minutes. If you would like to hear the Commandant’s remarks directly, the sections where he makes his remarks begin at approximately the following times. You may want to watch the whole thing. I was very impressed with the Marine Corps Commandant’s comments.

  • 47:30 Intros
  • 50:30 Readiness
  • 1:00:00 Recapitalization vs Operating expenses/maintenance & infrastructure
  • 1:07:30 Competition for personnel
  • 1:17:00 Specialty personnel
  • 1:26:00 What do we need from industry
  • 1:32:00 Civilian hiring. Need to speed up the process. Civilian career development
  • 1:34:30 What the CG got out of the infrastructure bill
  • 1:39:00 Contract shipyards
  • 1:42:30 Supporting old cutters
  • 1:49:00 Should the CG be forward? 2000 additional at afloat billets. Additional help for ships during inports. Reserve utilization. Additional mental health professionals.
  • 1:54:00 Strategic integration of sea services
  • 2:01:00 Long term/distant deployments


Manning Requirements, New Fleet vs Old

“A Sea Service Gone Ashore” –USNI

“Demise of the Cutterman, Part II” USNI Proceedings


Ships from the U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard conducted exercises near the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, Feb. 21, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball and Japan Coast Guard Ship Akitsushima, two of the respective services’ newest and most capable vessels, operated alongside helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball/Released)

CIMSEC brings us a podcast of particular interest to the Coast Guard.

I don’t really like podcasts myself. It seems a slow and inefficient way to pass information compared to reading. Inevitably, interviews are not as well organized as the written word. But then I don’t have a long commute anymore. That might have changed my opinion.

If you don’t have that long commute, I would recommend reading his Naval Institute Articles as a better use of time.

Of course, if you are not a US Naval Institute member, you may not have access to the full articles. We have discussed a couple of these earlier.

Don’t know how I missed writing about the most recent post which advocates a larger and more stable Coast Guard budget.

“Recognizing the various U.S. instruments of national power—diplomatic, information, military, economic, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement—arguably, no other government entity is as well-positioned, has the reputation for fiscal stewardship, nor has broader authorities and existing bilateral relationships to collectively exercise the full range of these instruments as effectively as the Coast Guard. It is time to properly include the Coast Guard in military rebuilding efforts to properly attend to business beyond U.S. borders that is booming with no remedy in sight. Coast Guard leaders need to get all GCC commanders on board to craft a 24-star letter expressing their need for a more robust and constant Coast Guard presence for the greater good of not only U.S. international partners, but also our own national interests.”


“Schultz: U.S. Coast Guard in ‘Prolific’ Shipbuilding Period” –USNI

Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, speaks at the Coast Guard Cutter Benjamin Dailey commissioning ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute reports on the Commandant’s remarks at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.

There did not seem to be any surprises. The Commandant’s messaging has been very consistent. He did spend some time discussing the Coast Guard growing role in international affairs.

“Well, I think we really play a key role in shaping the diction of global maritime security, global maritime safety, and I suspect navies around the world are recognizing that the language and purpose of coast guards are well supported to their interests and their sovereign interests. And that’s why we’re adapting our operations abroad,” Schultz said.

There was discussion about the recapitalization of the fleet, which the Commandant called the Coast Guard’s “largest shipbuilding period since World War II.” The cost of the contracts has been unprecedented and the 34 year time span from acceptance of the “Program of Record” in 2004 until its projected completion in 2038 must be some kind of record. The FRC program has certainly been a success, but aside from them, we have only delivered the nine National Security Cutters in the almost fourteen years since Bertholf was commissioned. This does not look that intense compared to the nine-year period from 1964 to 1972 when the Coast Guard commissioned 28 major ships–12 WHEC378s and 16 WMEC210s–along with 35 WPBs.

By the time we expect to get the last OPC, the first NSC will be 30 years old. We need to change our mind set and that of Congress. If we are to maintain a fleet of 72 major ships, i.e. 36 Offshore Patrol Vessels, six icebreakers, and 30 seagoing and coastal buoy tenders, and I don’t think that is really enough, and we are to replace them in a timely fashion, building two ships a year needs to be the norm, not the exception.

We are not building at a high tempo; if anything, we are building too slow.

“Troubled CBP Gets $3.7 Billion Infrastructure Boost While Coast Guard Gets Peanuts” –Forbes

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

Forbes makes a case that DHS is directing money to Customs and Border Protection because it’s broken, while minimally funding the Coast Guard because it works.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, better known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, did a lot for the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard, the maritime component of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, got a $434 billion windfall (that has to be million vice billion–Chuck) to fund operations and pay for physical improvements.

That’s better than a kick in the head. But the service got mere fraction of the $3.7 billion Congress meted out to the Department of Homeland Security’s continually-troubled Customs and Border Patrol.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency in government to throw money at agencies that are not performing, in hopes of seeing an improvement, and providing no additional funds to agencies that are providing a good return on investment, inverting good investment strategy.

He also points out that for whatever reason, despite numerous demands from Congress, the Coast Guard is not providing the information Congress needs to make an informed decision about the true needs of the service.

At least this time the Coast Guard had provided an unfunded priority list. In many previous years there was none. The “program of record” for cutter procurement was formulated in 2004 and has not changed in 17 years. The only Fleet Mix study was done in 2011, a decade ago. There is no long-term capital asset or ship building plan.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Thanks to formerdirtdart for bringing this to my attention. 

“Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, December 7, 2021


The Congressional Research Service has once again updated their look at the Polar Security Cutter (heavy icebreaker) program. (See the latest version here.) My last look at this evolving document was in regard to the October 19, 2021 revision.

The one-page summary, which has not changed, is reproduced below, but first I will point out what appears to have changed since the October 19 edition.

From page 13 re program delays (This is based on the report discussed here)

An October 19, 2021, press report stated

Delivery of the first new Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker has slipped a year to 2025 due to the fact that it’s been 45 years since the last heavy icebreaker was built in the U.S. and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, Adm. Karl Schultz, the service’s commandant, said on Tuesday [October 19].

The first Polar Security Cutter (PSC) is expected to be delivered in the third quarter of fiscal year 2025, Schultz told a Senate Commerce Committee panel that oversees the Coast Guard. The PSC was originally expected to be delivered in March of 2024, which is in the second quarter of FY ’24. That timeline was later revised to May 2024, which is the third quarter….

Schultz said that COVID “complications” have hampered “international collaboration” on PSC ship construction, noting that the program is ambitious and “on a compressed timeline.”

A Coast Guard spokesman told Defense Daily in an email reply to questions that infection rates and travel restrictions due to COVID “significantly affected Halter Marine’s ship design efforts and subcontractor integration, resulting in unavoidable delays. COVID-19 was particularly impactful to HMI’s efforts to hire and maintain staffing levels across multiple occupation categories (labor, management, and engineering) and hindered collaboration with its ship design subcontractors, many of whom are based internationally and were significantly affected by early COVID-19 restrictions.”

The spokesman added that “The Coast Guard and Navy Integrated Program Office recently negotiated a consolidated contract action that definitizes COVID-19 delays and rebaselines the delivery schedule by 12 months.” Still, the program remains on track to begin operations in 2027 with Operation Deep Freeze, he said.

From pages 29 and 30, re a Great Lakes Icebreaker and a Forth PSC

Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376)
Section 110023 of H.R. 5376 as passed by the House on November 19, 2021, states

In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated for fiscal year 2022, out of funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $350,000,000, to remain available until September, 30, 2031, to the Coast Guard, for acquisition, design, and construction of a Great Lakes heavy icebreaker, as authorized under section 8107 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (P.L. 116-283).50 The Coast Guard shall return to the Treasury any funds appropriated under this section that have not been expended by September 30, 2031.

Section 10024 of H.R. 5376 as passed by the House states

In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated for fiscal year 2022, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, $788,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2031, to the Coast Guard, for the acquisition of the fourth heavy Polar Security Cutter, including scientific laboratory and berthing facilities, to expand access for scientists to the polar regions, to improve climate and weather research, for other polar missions, and for other purposes, as authorized under section 561 of title 14, United States Code.

Summary (Note no change from previous edition-Chuck)

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program is a program to acquire three new PSCs (i.e., heavy polar icebreakers), to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new Arctic Security Cutters (ASCs) (i.e., medium polar icebreakers). The PSC program has received a total of $1,754.6 million (i.e., about $1.8 billion) in procurement funding through FY2021, including $300 million that was provided through the Navy’s shipbuilding account in FY2017 and FY2018. With the funding the program has received through FY2021, the first two PSCs are now fully funded.

The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $170.0 million in procurement funding for the PSC program, which would be used for, among other things, procuring long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third PSC.

The Navy and Coast Guard in 2020 estimated the total procurement costs of the PSCs in then year dollars as $1,038 million (i.e., about $1.0 billion) for the first ship, $794 million for the second ship, and $841 million for the third ship, for a combined estimated cost of $2,673 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion). Within those figures, the shipbuilder’s portion of the total procurement cost is $746 million for the first ship, $544 million for the second ship, and $535 million for the third ship, for a combined estimated shipbuilder’s cost of $1,825 million (i.e., about $1.8 billion).

On April 23, 2019, the Coast Guard-Navy Integrated Program Office for the PSC program awarded a $745.9 million fixed-price, incentive-firm contract for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of the first PSC to VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, MS, a shipyard owned by Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering. VT Halter was the leader of one of three industry teams that competed for the DD&C contract. The first PSC is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and be delivered in 2024, though the DD&C contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery.

The DD&C contract includes options for building the second and third PSCs. If these options are exercised, the total value of the contract would increase to $1,942.8 million (i.e., about $1.9 billion). The figures of $745.9 million and $1,942.8 million cover only the shipbuilder’s costs; they do not include the cost of government-furnished equipment (GFE), which is equipment for the ships that the government purchases and then provides to the shipbuilder for incorporation into the ship, post-delivery costs, costs for Navy-specific equipment, or government program-management costs.

The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. Polar Sea, however, suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been nonoperational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. The Coast Guard plans to extend the service life of Polar Star until the delivery of at least the second PSC. The Coast Guard is using Polar Sea as a source of spare parts for keeping Polar Star operational

“Coast Guard Head Schultz Optimistic Congress Will Approve 2022 Budget; Warns Year-long Continuing Resolution Would be ‘Devastating’” –USNI

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on April 4, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service reports on remarks by the Commandant on prospects for the FY2022 budget and the potential effects of operating a full year under a “Continuing Resolution.”

Spoiler Alert: It is not all doom and gloom.

“WEB EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Adm. Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard” –National Defense

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

National Defense has an interview with the Commandant. There is a lot of discussion about COVID and how the Coast Guard has adapted to the reality of annual continuing resolutions (CR).

There is a good deal of discussion here about icebreakers. Polar Security Cutter construction is the program most effected by COVID and the first of class is now not expected until 2025. The Commandant actually wants more than six icebreakers, perhaps as many as nine, including some for the Atlantic side, more than three PSCs, and (for the first time I have heard this) we are also looking at something less than a medium icebreaker.

 “I’ve been having a conversation for most of my tenure that we really need a minimum of six icebreakers. Of that six, three will be Polar Security Cutters. We’ll have a hot production line, I hope that conversations is really about more than three Polar Security Cutters, but we’re also talking about maybe something a little less than a medium icebreaker. We’ve done some work at the behest of the last National Security Council in the Trump administration that has played forward for this administration. They seem very interested. So, I think we’re having the right conversations about a fleet of maybe six or nine that can work in the high latitudes both the High North and down in Antarctica.”

There was brief discussion of armament for the icebreakers. The Commandant noted that the PSC design included space, weight and power for upgrades (type unspecified), but no intention to make those upgrades now. There was no mention of Antarctica in that discussion.

There is a discussion about the Coast Guard in the Western Pacific in regard to both the Webber class FRCs and deployment of National Security Cutters to the far Western Pacific.

The interviewer seemed to be pushing the Commandant to acknowledge that the hardware elements of the Deepwater program were essentially complete. The Commandant’s response was more muted, noting that the Offshore Patrol Cutters are the “backbone” of the recapitalization and that program has essentially only just begun.

There was only one question that mentioned unmanned systems and the Commandant’s response made no mention of them. There was also no discussion of replacement of the H-65s with H-60s.