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

RELATED

Manning Requirements, New Fleet vs Old

“A Sea Service Gone Ashore” –USNI

“Demise of the Cutterman, Part II” USNI Proceedings

Infrastructure Improvements

Historic former CG station on the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, at the end of a 1,000-foot pier.Photo: John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

It looks like the Coast Guard starting to get a bit more money for infrastructure improvements.

I am not going to make a new post every time I see an announcement about an improvement, but I would like to start passing along any press releases, so I am going to use this post as a place to post them in the comments.

“U.S. Coast Guard Presents Some Aging Infrastructure Concerns and Fixes” –USNI

Coast Guard Base Seattle

The US Naval Institute Blog has a post looking at Coast Guard efforts to repair or replace its aging infrastructure. It is in the form of questions and answers.

I asked the U.S. Coast Guard’s Public Affairs Department in September 2021 on to shed some light as to what aging and unsatisfactory infrastructure issues they have. Lieutenant (junior grade) Sondra-Kay Kneen, Coast Guard media relations, replied with answers taken from various U.S. Coast Guard personnel and sources.

“‘Great News’ For Great Lakes as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Approves $1 Billion for U.S. Coast Guard Infrastructure, Heavy Icebreaker” –gCaptain

Launch of USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30) on April 2, 2005. Photo by Peter J. Markham.

gCaptain reports,

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday approved $1 billion for U.S. Coast Guard shore side infrastructure nationwide and $350 million for a heavy icebreaker for the Great Lakes.

The funds were approved as part of its budget reconciliation bill, an action that the Great Lake Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) called “great news for the Great Lakes.”

Its probably too early to assume this will actually happen, but so far, so good, particularly with regard to the infrastructure portion.

As for the Icebreaker, what it is talking about is an icebreaker at least as capable a USCGC Mackinaw. What we might get is a second Mackinaw, but we could do better. This might be an opportunity to prototype the Arctic Security Cutter.

The Great Lakes contingent in Congress don’t seem to want any connection between the “Heavy” (really light) Great Lakes Icebreaker and the Artic Security Cutter, but they would be smart to consider the benefits.

First USCGC Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006. That may look pretty new now, but by the time the new Great Lakes Icebreaker is completed, it will be 20 years old. Looking further down the timeline, it will need to be replaced long before this second Great Lakes breaker. So some time in the future they will, presumably, have to again seek funding for a one-off unique design for the Lakes.

If the Arctic Security Cutter can transit the locks into the Great Lakes, they could supplement icebreaking in the Lakes and provide a ready replacement when the Mackinaw inevitably reaches the end of it life.

Combining the programs would also reduce the average unit price and would probably mean a more capable breaker for the Lakes than might otherwise have been possible.

“The US Coast Guard urgently needs help” –Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) in Defense News

The original boathouse for the Toms River Life Saving Station in 1898. Image from Norman McClure of Toms River.

Defense News brings us an editorial in support of increased funding to reduce the Coast Guard’s $3B maintenance and infrastructure backlog, by Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“What often goes unreported, however, is the woeful lack of resources supporting the Coast Guard’s missions.

“In too many cases, the Coast Guard operates out of trailers in parking lots, uninhabitable buildings and crumbling piers. It is time to give this branch of our armed forces its rightful attention and support.”

The commentary points out how Coast Guard funding for operations and support has fallen behind.

Since 2010, the Coast Guard has seen only a modest 8 percent increase in operation and support funding. By comparison, all other services have seen increases between 28 and 42 percent. Having the Coast Guard clearly identify its needs will inform Congress about how to modernize and recapitalize our Coast Guard fleet to meet its mission requirements.

That does also seem to suggest, that the Coast Guard has been remiss in identifying what it needs. The old habits of “doing more with less,” which ultimately result in either doing less or pushing the limits of safety, die hard.

“MTR100: #2 Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant, USCG” –Marine Technology Reporter

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

The Marine Technology Reporter has a short article about Admiral Schultz, largely based on an interview. It is primarily concerned with the Coast Guard’s relationship to the larger Maritime Industry and Infrastructure.

Keeping the commercial maritime waterways humming means business for the subsea community, and a quick ‘by the numbers’ look at the U.S. maritime industry is enlightening and puts the Commandant’s mission in perspective: 95,000 miles of shoreline, 25,000 miles of navigable channels, 361 ports, 50,000 federal aids to navigation, cumulatively support more than 30 million jobs and $5.4 trillion in economic activity.

The Commandant also discussed the cyber threat and what the Coast Guard is doing about it.

“Think about automated ships and facilities. With those automated ships and facilities comes risk, technical and cyber risk. With all of the technology comes increased vulnerability. We’re building out our cyber capability at the Coast Guard. I have about 300 positions today on cyber at the Coast Guard, and the 2020 budget has about another 60 bodies as we have to defend Coast Guard networks from attack and we have to bring a cyber regulatory face to the waterfront. We need to build our own technical experts in this area” and to that end there is a new cyber major at the Coast Guard Academy, with the class of 2022 being the first with graduates with a cyber degree.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

COAST GUARD SHORE INFRASTRUCTURE –GAO

The original boathouse for the Toms River Life Saving Station in 1898. Image from Norman McClure of Toms River.

I am going to do something I seldom like to do, and point to a report without comment. I seem to have a lot of topic I have not been able to address lately so this is just a heads up to its existence. The GAO has created a report on the Coast Guard’s management of its shore infrastructure and as usual, they have suggestions. The report is 59 pages. 

Below I duplicated the opening summary:

What GAO Found

About 45 percent of the Coast Guard’s shore infrastructure is beyond its service life, and its current backlogs of maintenance and recapitalization projects, as of 2018, will cost at least $2.6 billion to address, according to Coast Guard information. The deferred maintenance backlog included more than 5,600 projects, with an estimated cost of $900 million. The recapitalization and new construction backlog had 125 projects, with an estimated cost of at least $1.77 billion as of 2018 (see figure). GAO’s analysis of Coast Guard data found that as of November 2018 there were hundreds of recapitalization projects without cost estimates—the majority of recapitalization projects. Coast Guard officials told GAO that these projects are in the preliminary stages of development.
The Coast Guard’s process for managing its shore infrastructure did not fully meet 6 of 9 leading practices that GAO previously identified. Of the nine leading practices, the Coast Guard met three, partially met three, and did not meet three. For example, the Coast Guard generally has not employed models for predicting the outcome of maintenance investments and optimizing among competing investments, as called for in leading practices. In one instance, the Coast Guard used a model to optimize maintenance for its aviation pavement and, according to Coast Guard officials, found that it could save nearly $14 million by accelerating investment in this area (e.g., paving runways) sooner rather than deferring such maintenance. Coast Guard officials told us that such modeling could be applied within and across all of its shore infrastructure asset types, but the Coast Guard did not implement the results of this model and does not require their use. Without requiring the use of such models, the Coast Guard could be missing opportunities to achieve cost savings and better manage its maintenance backlogs.

FY2019 Budget


US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

With a bit of help from a friend, the actual FY2019 budget documents were located:  “The Joint Explanation” and “The Conference Report.”

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

Aircraft

  • 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
  • C4ISR                                                                                    23.3M
  • 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.

New Base at Port Clarence?

Bering Strait. Port Clarence bay is the large bight in the southeast.

Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by Seth Ilys.

At the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 6, the Commandant discussed the Coast Guard’s Arctic presence. We noted the Commandant’s remarks on the Polar Security Cutter earlier, that he was guardedly optimistic, but the US Naval Institute report on the same presentation, brings us more information about the possibility of a new port facility in Western Alaska.

Long-term, Schultz said it’s possible the Coast Guard would look to create a permanent presence in the Arctic. Most likely, Schultz said, the Coast Guard would look for a sea base, possibly in the far northern Port Clarence area. One option, Schultz said, is for the Coast Guard to install moorings to provide a safe haven. Port Clarence, Alaska, had a population of 24, according to the 2010 Census.

Port Clarence was at one time a LORAN Station, and it appears it may still have a substantial runway, so it might also develop into a seasonal air station.

The Secretary of the Navy has already expressed an interest in having a strategic port in Alaska. From the Navy’s point of view it is near the potentially strategically important Bering Strait.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz meets with Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan in Nome and Port Clarence, Alaska to discuss the construction of deep draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018. This would allow the Coast Guard and Navy to have a strong presence in the U.S. Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

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.