09Feb22 DILIGENCE conducting small boat training in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (Credit: BM3 Cayne Wattigney)
Below is a D8 news release. Sounds like a pretty typical WMEC Eastern Pacific patrol, but I would point out something I think is a bit unusual–they carried no helicopter. Awning over the flight deck and no mention of HITRON in the news release. Was this because of H-65 availability or because adequate air support was available from land bases? Maybe some other difficulty? Without a helicopter there is no armed overwatch and no way to chase down boats that may be faster than ship’s boats.
Looks like they left homeport a few days before Christmas.
U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Heartland
Coast Guard Cutter Diligence returns to homeport after 60-day Eastern Pacific Ocean patrol
Editor’s Note: Click on images to download high-resolution version.
PENSACOLA, Fla. — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Diligence returned to their homeport of Pensacola Sunday following a 60-day counter-drug patrol in Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Partnering with three other Coast Guard cutters, Diligence interdicted three suspected drug-smuggling vessels resulting in the apprehension of 12 detainees and the interdiction of more than 4,321 lbs of cocaine with a street value of approximately $82 million.
“Diligence’s crew demonstrated professionalism, resilience and perseverance while conducting complex high-speed boat pursuits in the drug transit zone,” said Cmdr. Jared Trusz, Diligence’s commanding officer. “I am honored to serve with and proud of the crew’s superlative efforts that directly support the United States national security interests.”
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations.
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, California. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Diligence is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Pensacola with78 crewmembers. The cutter’s primary missions are counter-drug operations, migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fishery laws and search and rescue in support of Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.
We knew the Coast Guard was in the process of replacing H-65s with H-60s because they have become increasingly difficult to support.
The Coast Guard has on-going life extension programs for both H-60s and H-65s, but the author thinks progress is too slow.
There are two issues here.
Replacing land-based H-65s
Having helicopters that can operate off the WMECs.
I would like to think the Coast Guard has a workable plan to replace the land based H65s but waiting way too long to start replacement programs does seem to be part of the Coast Guard’s DNA.
As to the helicopters for WMECs, Cooper notes,
“At sea, the Coast Guard’s 27 aged mid-sized cutters cannot fully support the larger footprint of an MH-60 platform. Delays in getting the Coast Guard’s highly anticipated Offshore Patrol Cutter into service means the old cutters will remain in the fleet—and needing Dolphin helicopters—for years.”
As I recall, the 13 WMEC 270s were designed to operate H-60s and Alex Haley looks like her facilities may be large enough as well. Certainly, operating H-60s from the 14 WMEC 210s is a non-starter.
The number of H-65s required solely to support 210 operations is relatively small. Judicious use and cannibalization could probably keep a few operational until the last 210 goes out of service. That should happen about 2032.
If that is not possible, there is another alternative, UAVs. They could certainly operate Scan Eagle. Another possibility is Fire Scout.
The Navy is phasing out their MQ-8B VTOL drone in favor of the larger MQ-8C. Perhaps the Coast Guard could take over some or all 30 ot the B models and operate them from 210s. They might also be operated alongside H-60s from Bertholf class NSCs and Argus class OPCs. Although they probably cannot do armed overwatch (or maybe they could), they might be a better search asset than the H-65, given their greater endurance. This would also prep the Coast Guard to also participate in the MQ-8C at some time in the future.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 18, 2019) Sailors push an MQ-8B Fire Scout assigned to the Wildcards of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 on the flight deck of the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josiah J. Kunkle/Released)190918-N-YI115-1004
“Replacement helicopters will be slow to arrive. The U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, says the Service is “looking fifteen or so years down the road at our rotary wing aviation program.” Unless the Coast Guard acts quickly to have their basic performance requirements folded into the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift Initiative, a Coast Guard variant of whatever the Navy gets will likely take two decades—or more—to obtain and field.”
The FVL program is expected to produce at least two airframes, one to replace the H-60 and a smaller aircraft to replace the Army’s scout helicopters.
Airbus Helicopters, Inc. (AHI) has delivered the first of 16 new H125 helicopters uniquely configured for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO). AMO collaborated with AHI as part of a long-term fleet upgrade initiative, and the resulting configuration has led to one of the most advanced, high-tech law enforcement helicopters ever developed.
This light (Max takeoff weight: 2,250 kg (4,960 lb)), single engine helicopter, previously designated the AS350, has enjoyed great success with CBP. Wikipedia notes,
By 1999, the AS350 had become the prime helicopter being used by the United States Customs Service for light enforcement operations; by 2007, the agency had become the single largest operator of the type in the world.
Apparently these are being procured via GSA contract.
I found the Joint Explanation easiest to wade through. The Budget breakdown is found on pages 65 to 69 of the 612 page pdf.
Note in some cases I have rounded to the nearest $0.1M
Our total Coast Guard FY2019 budget is $12,015,921,000. This is $91,803,000 less than last year, but $577,720,000 more than the budget request.
The Operations and Support allocation is $7,808.2M. That is $434.9M more than last year (a 5.6% increase), and $215.1M more than requested.
I have provided information on the PC&I budget below including a complete list of line items that I was unable to provide before.
PROCUREMENT, CONSTRUCTION, AND IMPROVEMENTS (PC&I) $2,248.26M
Vessels and Boats
Survey and design: 5.5M
In service vessel sustainment: 63.25M
National Security Cutter: 72.6M (Follow up on ships already funded)
Offshore Patrol Cutter: 400M (Second of class + LLTM for third)
Fast Response Cutter: 340M (Six Webber class including two for PATFORSWA)
Cutter boats 5M
Polar Security Cutter: 675M (First of class + LLTM for second)
Waterways Commerce Cutter: 5M
Polar sustainment: 15M (Polar Star Service Life Extension)
—-Vessels Subtotal: $1,581.35M
HC-144 Conversion/Sustainment: 17M
HC-27J Conversion/Sustainment: 80M
HC-1330J Conversion/Sustainment: 105M
HH-65 Conversion/Sustainment: 28M
MH-60 Conversion/Sustainment: 120M
Small Unmanned Aircraft: 6M
—Aircraft Subtotal: $356M
Other Acquisition Programs:
Other Equipment and System: 3.5M
Program Oversight and Managemen: 20M
CG-Logistics Information Management System (CG-LIMS): 9.2M
—Other Acquisitions Programs Subtotal: $56M
Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation:
Major Construction; Housing; ATON; and Survey and Design: 74.51M
Major Acquisition Systems Infrastructure: 175.4M
Minor Shore 5M
—Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation Subtotal: $254.91M
The PC&I total, $2,248.26M, was $446.48M less than FY2018, but it was $361.51M above the budget request.
R&D was cut by almost a third. This is probably a place to spend more not less.
Reserve Training disappeared as a separate line item, so I can’t tell what happened there.
Also included in the new budget is $5M for the National Coast Guard Museum
Incidentally, the total amount appropriated for the polar security program includes $359.6M (FY2018 and prior) + $675M (FY2019), or $1,034.6M, of which $20M is for Long Lead Time Material for the second ship, and the remainder is for the first ship and other program-related expenses.
With Operations and Support up more than 5% over 2018 and Procurement Construction &Improvement (PC&I) over $2B for the second year in a row, this is the kind of budget we can live with. It just needs to keep happening.
$1,507.6M For Ships (LLTI refers to Long Lead Time Material):
$675M for the first Polar Security Cutter and LLTM for the second
$400M for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter and LLTM for the third
$340M for six Fast Response Cutters
$72.6M for the National Security Cutter program
$15M for life extension work on Polar Star
$5M for initial work on procuring an additional Great Lakes Icebreaker
Coast Guard C-130J
$208M For Aircraft:
$105 for the HC-130J program (I think that is one aircraft)
$95M for MH-60T recapitalization (reworking existing aircraft I believe)
$8M for upgrades to the MH-65s
That is $1,715M for the items above. This, hopefully, is not all. I don’t have a figure for the Waterways Commerce Cutter (a small figure at this point), no information on unmanned systems, and there should also be money to address the backlog of shoreside improvements, but this does seem to show a recognition of the real needs of the Coast Guard for recapitalization. Looks like the $2+B annually for PC&I the Coast Guard has been saying they need is within reach.
180710-G-ZV557-1313 PACIFIC OCEAN (July 10, 2018) Crewmembers aboard the USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) check the flight deck July 10, 2018, alongside the flight crew of the a U.S. Navy HSC-4 Black Knight MH-60 helicopter 15 miles south of Oahu, Hawaii, while in support of RIMPAC 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Weydert
We previously discussed the fact that the Coast Guard is working on life extension programs for both the MH-65s and the MH-60s, but a recent post from the Naval Institute News Service brought up an interesting possibility that might offer increased capability.
We would like to enlarge the MH-65 fleet, but, because that now appears impossible, we will be obtaining and rejuvenating some Navy H-60 airframes.
“Part of the Coast Guard’s strategy includes refurbishing used Navy MH-60 Seahawks and keep them flying for about 20,000 more hours.”
Presumably these airframes will bring along their folding rotor blades and tails that would permit them to be hangered on most of our larger ships.
I’m wondering if we will retain the ability to take these helicopters to sea. It could substantially improve shipboard helicopter range, endurance, and weight carrying ability.. Perhaps the helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville should get some of these aircraft. (They currently have ten MH-65Ds. They will probably need to retain some H-65s as long as we are using 210s for drug interdiction.)
Would like to point to a nice summary of aviation assets that is available on line from the US Naval Institute (USNI, unfortunately behind the pay wall–see late addition below). It is the work of a friend, Jim Dolbow, who many years ago encouraged me to blog. He now works for the USNI and is responsible for the two latest editions of the Coast Guardsman’s Manual.
Included are aircraft of the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, and NOAA as of 31 July, 2018
Navy and Marine units list aircraft type, squadron, and base but don’t actually list numbers of aircraft.
Coast Guard aircraft numbers, by type, are listed below, but the article goes on to identify number and type at each CG air station. It also notes there are 160 civilian CG Aux. aircraft.
Coast Guard aviation as of 31 July 2018 consisted of 7 different types of aircraft representing 207 airframes based at 27 different locations, including:
(17) HC-130H Hercules
(9) HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft
(18) HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft
(14) HC-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft
(2) C-37A Gulfstream V
(45) MH-60T Jayhawk medium range recovery helicopter
(102) MH-65D/E Dolphin short range recovery helicopter
I was a bit surprised to find the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations had more aircraft than the Coast Guard, 97 fixed wing and 128 helicopters (vs 60 fixed wing and 147 helos for the CG). Numbers of each type is provided but no information on basing.
NOAA has nine manned fixed wing aircraft, identified by number and type, all operated out of NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, FL.
Just realized the USNI post is only available to USNI members (You really should be a member). Hopefully they will forgive me if I copy and paste a good chunk of the CG portion below.
Current Asset Laydown of USCG Aircraft:
USCG Air Station Cape Cod, MA
USCG Air Station Atlantic City, NJ
USCG Air Station Washington, DC
USCG Air Station Elizabeth City, NC
USCG Aviation Logistics Center, Elizabeth City, NC
“U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert Parkes, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 774 V-22 crew chief, poses in front of a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City HH-65 Dolphin on Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., June 14, 2018. The Marines conducted a forward air-refueling point for the first time – refueling an HH-65 with a VMM-774 V-22 Osprey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ariel Owings)”
My first reaction, is that this is a good exercise for the Marines, but I had a hard time imagining how the Coast Guard might use this capability. There were times when we had to call on the Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service to fly very long missions out to sea because Coast Guard helicopters did not have an aerial refueling capability, but this would not help us in those cases. On the other hand this might be useful in the Arctic where fuel stops can be few and far between. There aren’t many Marine assets in Alaska, but the Air Force might have a similar capability.
The Canadian Coast Guard does not operate SAR aircraft the way the USCG does. Canadian SAR aircraft are operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). They have a fleet of 14 AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) helicopters. According to Wikipedia,
In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based on the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.
In 2017, the Liberal government announced funding for the mid-life upgrade of the fleet, to be led by ‘Team Cormorant’, a team composed of Leonardo Helicopters and IMP Aerospace and Defense. Estimated at around C$1.5bn, the programmes will offer a common fleet featuring latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars and sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems as well as a new 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) GE CT7-8E engine. On May 10, 2017, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended the government move forward with a proposal to expand the Cormorant fleet by upgrading the 14 CH-149 aircraft and converting seven VH-71 airframes currently in storage to the same operational capability. This would expand the Cormorant fleet to 21 aircraft, and keep them operational until 2040. All of the upgraded helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2024.
But now Defense News reports that Sikorsky will be offering the civilian version of their S-92 (known as the CH-148 in Canada) claiming to be “more affordable at acquisition and thoughout the entirety of the lifecycle.”
These helicopters are larger than the USCG MH-60 Jayhawks (empty weight 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)/max take-off weight 21,884 lb (9,926 kg))
The RCAF has already begun operating the CH-148 as a replacement for 50 year old SeaKing (H-3) helicopters. Navy Recognition reports a navalized ASW variant of the S-92, has recently completed a series of test with the Canadian Navy, operating day and night from Canadian frigates HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax (12% larger than the National Security Cutter) in up to and including Sea State Six seas.
Key among the design features for the Cyclone, Sikorsky engineered:
a retractable probe on the belly of the aircraft to more securely cinch the 29,300-lb. Cyclone to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states;
a ground support tool with an articulating arm that, with the Recovery, Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system, allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.
This program was plagued by developmental delays and may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Canadian procurement personnel, but there would be undoubted advantages in operating a common type of helicopter.
Note the video does not really start until approximately time (17m08s).
This is going to be a hodgepodge, but it is all about the 2019 budget. There is a video above. There will be my own observations on the video. There will be a brief outline of the Procurement, Construction, and Improvement (formerly AC&I) portion of the budget copied from the “Summary of Subject Matter.” At the tail end I have reproduced the Commandant’s prepared statement that was presented at the hearing
Above is a video of a 14 March, 2018, House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. The commandant testified as well as Master Chief Steven W. Cantrell, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, USN, Ret., Administrator, Maritime Administration, and The Honorable Michael A. Khouri, Acting Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission
You can find more information including all the prepared statements and the subcommittee chairman’s opening remarks here.
This subcommittee has been highly supportive of the Coast Guard, and we see the same in this hearing. The chairman, Duncan Hunter (R, CA), (17m30s) expressed his opinion that the Coast Guard was not fairing well under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He also noted the apparent obstruction of measures of effectiveness by DHS.
Ranking member, John Garamendi (D, CA), (22m) noted that there had been a welcomed significant bump in Coast Guard funding, but questioned if this would continue or would it prove an anomaly. He noted that attempting to stop drug trafficking would be better served by putting more money into the Coast Guard than by building a border wall.
(33m30s) MCPO Cantrell addressed quality of life concerns.
(55m30) Ranking member Garamendi noted the addition of $720M added to the budget for Heavy Polar Icebreaker(s) (HPIB) in addition to $30M already in the budget, and stated that he saw this as money for the second icebreaker because the DOD was not relieved of their obligation to fund a HPIB.
(1h03m) Commandant expressed his confidence in the helicopter life extension programs expected to keep them in operation until 2033 when the Coast Guard would be able to join in the Army lead Future Vertical Lift program. He suggested that a single helicopter type might be able to replace both the MH-65 and MH-60s.
(1h07m) Commandant answering a question about AMIO in the Caribbean noted that the Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) we working well in this role, but there is a shortage of ISR assets that he believed might be addressed by land based unmanned air systems (UAS).
(1h17m) In answer to a question about replacement of the Island Class six 110 foot Island class cutters currently assigned to CENTCOM as PATFORSWA, the Commandant, noting the 110s would time out in 2022, said this has been discussed at the highest levels with the Navy and there was a possibility that Webber class replacements could be funded by the Navy. Interestingly, he also noted that the Navy’s Cyclone class patrol craft would time out in 2023 suggesting to me perhaps he believes the Navy is considering a version of the Webber class.
(1h39m) Concern was expressed that while the Commandant has consistently expressed a need for $2B annual in the AC&I account (now PC&I) and $1.8B was provided in FY2018 and $1.9B in FY2019, that the current projection is only $1.4B in FY2020.
There is also a note on a change in accounting procedure.
In FY 2019, the Coast Guard will transition to the DHS Common Appropriations Structure (CAS). Accordingly, activities funded through the previous Operating Expenses, Reserve Training, Environmental Compliance and Restoration, and Medicare Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund Contribution are included as part of the new Operations and Support (O&S) account. In addition, acquisition personnel costs previously funded through the Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements account ($118.2m in the FY2018 budget request–Chuck) are included as part of the O&S account. The Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements account transitions into the Procurement, Construction, and Improvements account and the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation account becomes the new Research and Development account.
Below is the summary information on the PC&I section that replaces the AC&I portion of the budget.
Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (previously Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements)The President requests $1.89 billion for the Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (PC&I) account, a $516.7 million (or 37.7 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. The PC&I account funds the acquisition, procurement, construction, rebuilding, and physical improvements of Coast Guard owned and operated vessels, aircraft, facilities, aids-to-navigation, communications and information technology systems, and related equipment.The FY 2019 budget request includes $1.76 billion for the acquisition of aircraft, vessels, and the continued build-out of Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. This represents an increase of $597.1 million (or 51.7 percent) from the FY 2017 enacted level. The budget request includes:$30 million for the construction of a Heavy Polar Icebreaker. The FY 2019 Budget Addendum included an additional $720 million, for a total of $750 million;
$65 million to conduct Post Delivery Activities on National Security Cutters (NSC) 7 through 9;
$240 million for the production of four Fast Response Cutters (FRC);
$400 million for the construction of the second Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and to facilitate evaluation of the Long Lead Time Materials for OPC 3. The OPCs will replace the Service’s aging 210-foot and 270foot Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC);
$80 million to fund the requirement to establish logistics for 14 newly acquired HC-27J aircraft. The request funds HC-27J Asset Project Office activities, logistics, training, and engineering studies to assess and resolve aircraft obsolescence issues;
$20 million for the continued modernization and sustainment of the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter fleet;
$23.3 million for C4ISR design, development, and integration; and
No funding for the Alteration of Bridges program in FY 2019. The program did not receive funding in FY 2017 or FY 2016. Established by the Truman-Hobbs Act of 1940 (33 U.S.C. 511 et. seq.), the Alteration of Bridges program authorizes the Coast Guard to share with a bridge’s owner the cost of altering or removing privately or publicly owned railroad and highway bridges that are determined by the Service to obstruct marine navigation.
The budget requests $135 million to construct or renovate shore facilities and aids-to-navigation. This request is a $35.5 million (or 26.3 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. The Coast Guard currently has a backlog of 95 prioritized shore facility improvement projects with an estimated combined cost of over $1.5 billion
THE COMMANDANT’S PREPARED TESTIMONY
Below you will find “TESTIMONY OF ADMIRAL PAUL F. ZUKUNFT COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD ON “THE COAST GUARD’S FISCAL YEAR 2019 BUDGET REQUEST” BEFORE THE HOUSE COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE” which I have copied in full.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today. Thank you for your enduring support of the United States Coast Guard, particularly the significant investments provided in the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, recent Hurricane Supplemental, and ongoing deliberations to support our FY 2018 and FY 2019 President’s Budget requests.
As the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service, the Coast Guard offers a unique and enduring value to the Nation. The only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community – the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to help secure the maritime border, combat transnational criminal organizations (TCO), and safeguard commerce on America’s waterways.
The Coast Guard’s combination of broad authorities and complementary capabilities squarely aligns with the President’s national security and economic prosperity priorities; furthermore, it offers an agile toolset to address the Nation’s most pressing challenges. Appropriately positioned in DHS, the Coast Guard is a military service and a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States at all times.1 We are also an important part of the modern Joint Force2 and currently have forces assigned to each of the five geographic Combatant Commanders, as well as Cyber Command.
As demonstrated in the 2017 record hurricane season, the Coast Guard is the Nation’s “maritime first responder” and plays a leading role in executing the National Response Plan (NRP) for disaster situations. Our ability to rapidly surge in response to emerging threats or contingencies are critical to success across the spectrum of missions we prosecute.
We live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. Rapid technological advancement, increasing globalization, and intensifying threats from state and nonstate actors alike challenge international norms and threaten global governance.
To ensure we meet the demands of today while preparing for tomorrow, the Coast Guard is guided by a five-year Strategic Intent and suite of regional and functional strategies that drive our Service’s operations and investments.
These strategic efforts are informed by the National Security Strategy and applicable DHS strategies, and are coordinated to augment Department of Defense (DoD) priorities. Using these strategies as guideposts, leveraging the intelligence community, and employing a risk-based approach to focus our limited resources allows us to address maritime threats with the greatest precision and effect.
Fueled by the Service’s unique authorities and capabilities, our Western Hemisphere Strategy continues to yield large-scale successes in our counter-drug mission. The Coast Guard’s persistent offshore presence and associated interdiction efforts sever the supply lines of criminal networks where they are most vulnerable—at sea. Leveraging over 30 multilateral and bilateral agreements with a host of government organizations, the Coast Guard’s long-term counter-TCO efforts promote stability and strengthen the rule of law throughout these regions. Working with interagency partners, the Coast Guard seized 223 metric tons of cocaine and detained and transferred 606 smugglers for criminal prosecution in FY 2017. Highlighting our record-breaking mission performance for drug interdiction was the STRATTON’s offload of over 50,000 pounds of illicit narcotics, with an estimated street value of over $6.1 billion. This was a result of collaborative efforts between four U.S. Coast Guard cutters, DHS maritime patrol aircraft, and a U.S. Navy ship in over 25 separate interdictions. Beyond the important task of removing cocaine from the illicit system that gets it to U.S. streets, prosecuting smugglers facilitates deeper understanding of TCOs and ultimately helps our unified efforts to dismantle them.
Without question, National Security Cutters (NSC) have been a game-changer not only for our drug interdiction and counter-TCO operations in the southern maritime transit zone, but also in contributing to other national security priorities, such as supporting DoD Combatant Commander requirements across the globe and projecting sovereign rights in the Arctic.
Looking forward, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) will provide the tools to more effectively enforce Federal laws, secure our maritime borders, disrupt TCOs, and respond to 21st century threats. Continued progress on this acquisition is absolutely vital to recapitalizing our aging fleet of Medium Endurance Cutters (MECs), some of which will be over 55 years old when the first OPC is delivered in 2021. In concert with the extended range and capability of the NSC and the enhanced coastal patrol capability of the Fast Response Cutter (FRC), OPCs will be the backbone of the Coast Guard’s strategy to project and maintain offshore presence.
As one of the five Armed Forces, the Coast Guard deploys world-wide to execute our statutory Defense Operations mission in support of national security priorities. On any given day, 11 cutters, two maritime patrol aircraft, five helicopters, two specialized boarding teams, and an entire Port Security Unit are supporting DoD Combatant Commanders on all seven continents. In the Middle East, our squadron of six patrol boats continues to police the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf in close cooperation with the U.S. Navy, promoting regional peace and stability. Likewise, as one of the principal Federal agencies performing detection and monitoring in the southern maritime transit zone, the Coast Guard provides more than 4,000 hours of maritime patrol aircraft support and 2,000 major cutter days to DoD’s Southern Command each year.
In the high latitudes, the Arctic region is becoming increasingly accessible at a time when global interests in energy, clean water, and subsistence continue to intensify. The Coast Guard is committed to the safety, security, and environmental stewardship of the Arctic, and we will remain closely engaged with our partners, including Russia, via the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. By focusing on collaboration over conflict, we are promoting governance and building a shared approach to prevention and response challenges in the region.
Meanwhile, the 42-year old POLAR STAR recently completed another Operation DEEP FREEZE patrol in Antarctica. Just one major casualty away from leaving the Nation without any heavy icebreaking capability, POLAR STAR supported U.S. strategic interests and the National Science Foundation by breaking a navigable shipping lane to deliver fuel and critical supplies to the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound.
I appreciate your support for the $150 million appropriated in Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) funding in the FY 2017 Omnibus. This is a great step forward to secure our future in the Polar Regions and finally recapitalize the Nation’s icebreaker fleet. This funding coupled with the $750 million in the FY 2019 President’s Budget, would enable the Coast Guard to award a contract for detail design and construction and deliver the first new heavy polar icebreaker in 2023. These critical investments reflect our interests and standing as an Arctic Nation and affirm the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured access to the Polar Regions.
At the same time the Service was conducting counter-drug missions in the Eastern Pacific and projecting sovereign rights in the Arctic, the Coast Guard also launched one of the largest responses in history during a historic 2017 hurricane season. Over a five week period, Hurricanes HARVEY, IRMA, MARIA, and NATE impacted over 2,540 miles of shoreline3, and Coast Guard men and women in helicopters, boats, cutters, vehicles and on foot rescued over 11,300 people and over 1,500 pets.
During our 2017 hurricane response, the Coast Guard resolved over 1,269 aids to navigation discrepancies, handled 290 pollution cases, located and assessed more than 3,623 grounded vessels, with more than 1,585 removed to date. Within hours after each storm’s passage, Coast Guard damage and recovery assessment teams were on-scene determining the status of ports and waterways, leveraging electronic aids to navigation when feasible to facilitate the rapid reopening of key ports and waterways, and assessing impacts to Coast Guard facilities and capabilities. This enabled a vital portion of the country’s waterways to reopen, helping maintain our Maritime Transportation System (MTS) which contributes $4.6 trillion annually to our Gross Domestic Product.
The daily activities of Coast Guard men and women are heroic, as they support nearly every facet of the Nation’s maritime interests, protect our homeland, and secure our economic prosperity. In addition to the hurricane responses, the Coast Guard prosecuted over 16,000 search-and-rescue cases and saved more than 4,200 lives; interdicted more than 2,500 undocumented migrants; completed over 9,100 Safety of Life at Sea safety exams on foreign vessels; and responded to over 12,200 reports of pollution incidents.
Beyond operations, we earned our fifth consecutive clean financial audit opinion – the only Armed Service that can make such a claim. Further, our major acquisition programs and product lines are delivering new assets on schedule and on budget that have proven to meet our operational requirements. To better guide our modernization, we developed a Long Term Major Acquisitions Plan (LTMAP), a roadmap to field modern platforms to address 21st century threats. We have been working with the Administration to finalize the details of the LTMAP and are committed to delivering this report to Congress as soon as possible.
Our greatest strength is undoubtedly our people. Coast Guard operations require a resilient, capable workforce that draws upon the broad range of skills, talents, and experiences found in the American population. In FY 2019, the Coast Guard will maintain a proficient, diverse, and adaptable workforce that responds effectively to changing technology, an increasingly complex operating environment, and dynamic partnerships. Together, modern platforms and a strong, resilient workforce will maximize the Coast Guard’s capacity to meet future challenges.
History has proven that a responsive, capable, and agile Coast Guard is an indispensable instrument of national security. Funding 21st century Coast Guard platforms and people are especially prudent investments given today’s challenging fiscal environment. I firmly believe no other investment will return more operational value on every dollar than the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard—which includes 48,000 Active Duty and Reserve members, 8,500 civilians, and over 27,000 volunteer members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. As illustrated by our sustained response to an historic hurricane season, another record year removing illicit narcotics from the maritime approaches, and unique support to Combatant Commanders around the globe; our ability to rapidly surge resources to emerging threats continues yield unprecedented results for the Nation.
With the continued support of the Administration and Congress, the Coast Guard will continue to live up to our motto – Semper Paratus – Always Ready. Thank you for all you do for the men and women of the Coast Guard.