CIMSEC Event Invite: 20 JUN DC Discussion: The USCG in the SCS

Join CIMSEC’s DC chapter for an evening happy hour discussion on the challenges and opportunities presented by the potential for an expanded role of the U.S. Coast Guard in Southeast Asia, and in particular a focus on the question of what role, if any, it should play in the South China Sea.  Discussants will be announced shortly.

Time: Wednesday, 20 June, 6:00-8:00pm

Place: Fuel Pizza Farragut Square, 1606 K St NW, Washington, DC 20006 (via Farragut North or West Metro Station).

RSVPs not necessary but appreciated: director@cimsec.org

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.

 

“Small Dots, Large Strategic Areas: US Interests in the South Pacific”

The Commandant talks about how the Coast Guard goes to areas the DOD tends to overlook, the Eastern Pacific and the Arctic. There is another area that the US seems to have taken for granted, These are the island nations of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau joined with the U.S. in “Compacts of Free Association.”

The Lowy Institute has a reminder of how important these little “dots” on the map are and what we have to loose if we don’t pay attention.

The Coast Guard is uniquely qualified to provide the help these nations need in terms of capacity building for policing their fisheries resources.

 

Japan Coast Guard expands Liquid-Robotics’ Wave Glider Fleet–NavyRecognition

We have discussed the Liquid Robotics Wave Glider before, as a way to improve Maritime Domain Awareness, noting it is being used by the Brits for fisheries monitoring and by Boeing in support of the US Navy.

Now NavyRecognition brings us a report that the Japanese are using it to monitor the environment providing real time information

Certainly better information about surface currents could help us in search planning.

Video–“Coast Guard Readiness: How Far Can We Stretch Our Nation’s Only Multi-Mission, Military Force?”

Above is the video of the Senate Subcommittee hearing for which I provided the Commandant’s prepared remarks earlier.

Participating Senators I noted were:

  • Dan Sullivan, Sub-Committee chair (R, Alaska)(Lt.Col., US Marine Corps Reserve)
  • Gary Peters, ranking member (D, Michigan)(LCdr. US Navy Reserve, Supply Corps)
  • Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Commerce Committee (D, Florida)(Capt. US Army Reserve)(NASA Scuttle payload specialist)
  • Roger Wicker, Chairman of the Seapower sub-committee (R, Mississippi)(Lt.Col. ret. USAF reserve)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut) (USMC Reserve 1970 to 1976 discharges as Sargent)
  • Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii)
  • Ed Markey (D, Mass.) (Spec4, US Army Reserve, 1968-73)
  • Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) (Spec4, US Army, 1956-1958)
  • Maria Cantwell (D, Washington)

You can also check out the original post from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (Same video is available there, but the meeting does not actually start on that version of the video until minute 36.) There you can also find the written statements of the other three witness who constituted the second panel. The Commandant was the sole witness on the first panel.

This was something of a love fest for the Coast Guard with repeated praise for the people and actions of the Coast Guard.

This hearing was reputedly about how the Coast Guard had been impacted by the unusually severe Hurricane season. There is not a lot new here but there were some interesting remarks.

Polar Icebreaker Contracts

The intention is to Contract for the first Icebreaker and then employ block buy for the next two (28m). To me this seems to negate most of the advantage of a block buy. I don’t believe we will or should buy one and then wait until we have tried it out before contracting for the next two. That would necessitate a delay of at least five years during which we would still have the nightmare scenario of our only heavy icebreaker having no rescue if it should break down in the ice–certainly not an impossibility even with a new ship. If we are going to contract for the remaining two before testing the first, we might as well block buy all three.

First of class is always the most expensive. If the shipyard gets a block buy they know that initial improvements in productivity can be amortized over the entire block buy quantity. In some cases, in order to win the whole project, the shipyard will cut the price of the first ship substantially knowing they will make a profit over the entire project.

If we buy one and then block buy the second and third, we have paid for improvements to the winning yard with the first contract and minimized the chances for a competitive bid for numbers two and three.

Legislation has capped DOD participation in icebreaker procurement, so the bulk of icebreaker procurement costs will come out of the Coast Guard budget.

Authorization

There was a lot of discussion about the need to have the Coast Guard Authorization Bill signed into law, still not approved. You can see it here.

Other topics

There was a discussion of the high cost of the Coast Guard response to the recent series of Hurricanes.

Representative Sullivan spent a lot of time, discussing and advocating for an eleven mile road from King Cove  (population estimate–989) to Cold Bay, Alaska (population estimate–122) which has an all-weather airport with two runways, one 10,180 feet and one 6285 feet in length. The Coast Guard connection is that the road would minimize or eliminate the necessity for the Coast Guard to Medivac emergencies from King Cove by helicopter, which is frequently hazardous. It is a Federal issue, because the road would run through a Federal reserve. The Commandant fully supported the desirability of completing the proposed single lane gravel road as a means of minimizing the requirement for helicopter medivac.

Video Breakdown

28m Domestic icebreakers–Design work on new domestic icebreakers is expected to start in 2030. That sounds a bit late to me. Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006 so if that is what he is really talking about, that makes sense, but the 140 foot icebreaking tugs are a different story. The first for of these will be 51 years old in 2030. More than  half of them have already completed in-service which was expected to add 15 years to their service life. Morro Bay, at least, is expected to reach the end of her service life in 2030, and considering how long it takes us to build a ship we really need to start the process not later than 2025.

45m Western Pacific Fisheries Protection–They have not seen much risk of Illegal, Unregulated, or Unreported fishing. 

51m Inland River Tenders

56m We may need to replace the 52 ft MLBs with something larger than the 47 foot MLB sometime in the future, but their end of life is not yet apparent

58m Coast Guard Museum in New London

60m Sexual Assault in the CG

1h02m Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands continuing commitment and its effects on drug seizures and alien migrant interdiction.

1h05m Vessel homeporting

1h08 CG center of expertise, particularly in regard to clean up spills in ice and fresh water

1h16m Army Corp of Engineers dredging backlog.

1h17m  Second Panel begins.

1h19m Medivac from King Cove

1h31m Mr Smithson regarding Deepwater Horizon experience, unified approach, investment in mitigation.