Sub-Committee Hearing, Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future, 26 Sept. 2018

Note, the hearing does not actually begin until time 20:30 on the video above. 

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation conducted a hearing on “Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future” on September 26, 2018.

You can see the “Summary of Subject Matter” that was prepared for the Congressmen here.

This is the first hearing for both Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) as subcommittee chair and Admiral Karl L. Schultz as Commandant. What I saw looked promising.

The Commandant’s prepared remarks has some items of interest. 

The Commandant announced that he would soon issue a Coast Guard “Strategic Plan 2018-2022”

He referenced the new icebreakers as “Polar Security Cutters.”

This past March, we released a request for proposal (RFP), setting the stage for award of a Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract in FY 2019 for the construction of up to three heavy Polar icebreakers. We are as close as we have ever been to recapitalizing our Polar icebreaking fleet; continued investment now is vital to solidify our standing as an Arctic nation and affirms the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured, year-round access to the Polar regions for decades to come.

This seems to be a part of an effort to broaden the appeal of the icebreaker program as discussed in a recent USNI post, “Coast Guard Renames Icebreaker Program ‘Polar Security Cutter.'”. Their “…hull designation will be WMSP. W is the standard prefix for Coast Guard vessels, and MSP stands for Maritime Security-Polar, Brian Olexy, a Coast Guard spokesman, told USNI News.”

Apparently we are working toward a fleet of 64 Webber class WPCs rather than the 58 in the Program of Record. The first two additional to replace six Island class WPBs currently assigned to Patrol Force South West Asia have already been funded.

“…Earlier this summer, we exercised the second option under the Phase II contract to begin production of six more FRCs. The FY 2018 appropriation also included funding for two additional FRCs, beyond our domestic program of record of 58 hulls (emphasis applied–Chuck), to initiate the vital replacement of our six patrol boats supporting long-term U.S. Central Command missions in southwest Asia.”

Q&A. Topics discussed during the question and answer period included:

Civil Engineering/Shore infrastructure. $1.6B backlog.

40:00 possibility of a 12th NSC

42:30 Where is the $34M taken out of the FY2018 budget will be coming from–reprogramming within the Department.

44:30 Closures of the Potomac

54:00 Diversity within the service.

1:14:40 Need for larger Reserve Force

1:18:00 Icebreaker program

1:20:00 Waterways commerce cutters

In addition response to the recent Hurricanes seemed to be very much on the minds of Representatives and was referred to repeatedly.

Interoperability Is a Core Coast Guard Strength–USNI

Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Shane Gunderson and Investigative Service agent Bobby Brisby deliver relief supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The USNI “Proceedings Today” has an article “Interoperability is a Core Coast Guard Strength,” that looks at the Coast Guard’s unique abilities to respond to natural disaster and offers some recommendations particularly in regard to improving the ability of the Coast Guard Reserve to respond. The author is LCdr. Eric Driggs, USCG (Reserve). He currently serves at the Coast Guard Reserve Unit at U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

SAG South

Following from the USCGC Hamilton Facebook page.

CGC HAMILTON, along with 11 other Coast Guard Cutters and over 500 Coast Guard personnel have moved out of the path of Hurricane Florence in preparation for a swift response to the potential impacts of the dangerous storm. CGC HAMILTON and 5 other cutters have repositioned to Mayport, Florida in preparation to head north following Florence’s landfall. Together, these cutters have formed Surface Action Group (SAG) South, whose mission is to conduct search and rescue, provide humanitarian aid, assist maritime commerce by surveying waterways and maritime aids to navigation, and provide security to insure a prompt recovery of any impacted sea ports.

In addition to Hamilton I see three 270s, a 210, and a Webber class. Other ships in the SAG include Spencer and Harriet Lane.

Reportedly SAG South has begun to move North out of Mayport.

(Does this mean there is a SAG North?)

RIMPAC 2018 Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief

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PACIFIC OCEAN (July 27, 2012) Ships and submarines that participated in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith Devinney/Released)

RIMPAC is a huge exercise. 

Twenty-six nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 27 to Aug. 2, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

It normally includes Coast Guard participation, although I have not seen any announcement about which Coast Guard Units will play, you can be sure there will be some CG presence.

There are scenarios within scenarios, but perhaps of most immediate interest to the Coast Guard, is the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) portion of the exercise. The US Naval Institute “Proceedings Today” online magazine has an interesting take on how to “Improve RIMPAC,” specifically the HA/DR portion. Given the Coast Guards outsized role in Disaster Relief, its world wide relationships, and its unique position as a military service in a predominately civilian department, it probably should be deeply involved.

Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

War on the Rocks offers a suggestion as to how to build greater cooperation and trust and support international norms in the Western Pacific.

“…establishment of a Combined Maritime Task Force Pacific that would be modeled off the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic construct that NATO operated in the 1970s and 1980s… It included 6-10 surface ships (destroyers, cruisers, frigates and support ships) that attached to the squadron for up to six months at a time…the real utility was that its permanent and consistent nature allowed contributing navies to work together to build interoperability during peacetime…it was always signaling contributing navies’ growing alignment and desire to work together.”

This seems like a pretty good idea, but I would suggest one change. Make the purpose of the force Law Enforcement (particularly fisheries), SAR, and Disaster Relief/Humanitarian Assistance and use primarily Offshore Patrol Vessels instead of conventional warships.

Signaling a shared belief in the norms of international behavior, and a determination to uphold those norms, would be the primary objective.

There are lots of potential participants beside the USCG, they might include navies or coast guards of Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines. COM7thFleet has already asked for a USCG presence, but this would not be under the COCOM. It would be a cooperative enterprise between participating nations, in most cases, coast guard to coast guard.

Vietnamese Coast Guard Damen 9014 Offshore Patrol Vessel. Photo: lancercell.com

All the vessels involved could host ship riders from the nation(s) where the force is operating.

We already plan to have most of the Bertholf class cutters in the Pacific, and putting three OPCs in Guam could further facilitate the arrangement.

This avoids the complications of a military alliance, but strengthens the hand of SE Asian nations that might otherwise be intimidated by China.

Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. The Bruneian patrol vessel Darulaman moored in Sydney Harbour. Australia is building 12 similar ships. Photo by Saberwyn.

 

Tropical Currents: SOUTHCOM’s 2018 Posture Statement–CIMSEC

SOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility

CIMSEC has a review of SOUTHCOM’s 2018 posture statement. Not surprisingly there is much discussion of the Coast Guard and drug interdiction.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.

 

 

“U.S. Coast Guard Hurricane Response 2017”–DefenseMediaNetwork

Houston rescues

Coast Guard Air Station Houston responds to search and rescue requests after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.

DefenseMediaNetwork has a great article about the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

“Remarkably, Harvey was merely the first major hurricane to strike the United States in what would become one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons in history, one of only six seasons on record to feature multiple Category 5 hurricanes. It was also the first season on record to feature three Atlantic hurricanes making landfall in U.S. territory at Category 4 intensity or stronger. Incredibly, these three hurricanes – Harvey, Irma, and Maria – all landed within a one-month window, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 20, making September 2017 the busiest month of U.S. hurricane activity on record. Before September, the U.S. mainland had never before endured two Category 4 hurricanes in the span of a year.”