“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –Congressional Research Service


Mr. O’Rourke has been busy (as usual). Also on 26 Oct. 2018, the Congressional Research Service also Issued an updated version of his study of Coast Guard Cutter procurement programs, specifically for National Security Cutters (NSC), Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), and Fast Response Cutters (FRC). Again I have reproduced the summary here. I do think it is strange that we are still talking about initial testing of the NSCs more than ten years after the first of these was commissioned (see page 14).

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests a total of $705 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $682 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring a total of 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2018 has funded 11 NSCs, including two (the 10th and 11th) in FY2018. Six NSCs are now in service, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth are scheduled for delivery in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $65 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 12th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC program as the service’s top acquisition priority. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $391 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $400 million in acquisition funding for the OPC program for the construction of the second OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2022) and procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2023).

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $58 million per boat. A total of 50 have been funded through FY2018. The 28th was commissioned into service on July 25, 2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.

The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following: 

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 12th NSC in FY2019;
  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2019, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;
  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
  • the procurement rate for the OPC program;
  • the impact of Hurricane Michael on Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL, the shipyard that is to build the first nine OPCs;
  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs; and
  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base. .

You Can’t Get There From Here

An Allied convoy heads eastward across the Atlantic, bound for Casablanca, in November 1942. U.S. Navy (photo 80-G-474788), Post-Work: User:W.wolny – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 520948.

In planning for the possibility of a major war in Europe or Asia, the US is finding it has a number of problems with Logistics. 90% of the weight of supplies and equipment have to go by sea, but,
  • We have too few ships
  • The ships we have are old
  • These old ships are in many cases steam powered
  • These ships may not have been maintained as well as they should have been
  • We have too few mariners to man the ships
  • Too few of the mariners we do have know how to run steam ships
  • Most of our mariners have no concept of how to contend with a wartime environment
  • and, oh by the way the Navy does not have ships to protect the few ships we have as they make their way through contested waters.

After outlining the problem, I’ll talk about how the Coast Guard might mitigate the problem.

Recent Reports:

DefenseNews in a post, “The US Army is preparing to fight in Europe, but can it even get there?” reports,

The U.S. sealift capacity — the ships that would ultimately be used to transport Army equipment from the states to Europe or Asia — is orders of magnitude smaller than it was during World War II. Combine that with the fact that the commercial shipbuilding industry in the U.S. is all but gone, and the U.S. can’t launch the kind of massive buildup of logistics ships it undertook during wartime decades ago.

Among the ships the country has for sealift and logistics forces, the Government Accountability Office has found a steady increase in mission-limiting equipment failures, which raises questions about how many might actually be available if the balloon goes up.

The ships the U.S. counts among its ready stock available for a large-scale contingency are 46 ships in the Ready Reserve Force, 15 ships in the Military Sealift Command surge force, and roughly 60 U.S.-flagged commercial ships in the Maritime Security Program available to the military in a crisis,

The 46 Ready Reserve Force ships, overseen by the Maritime Administration, are old and rapidly approaching the end of their hull life, as are many of the senior engineers who are still qualified and able to work on the aging steam propulsion plants.

DefenseNews commentary, “The US armed forces have a mobility problem,” reports,

“Our Merchant Marine fleet’s wartime role is to move weapons, ammunition, troops, equipment, fuel and supplies. Our current fleet — simply put — does not have the capacity to meet today’s requirements.

“We don’t have enough ships, and even if we did we don’t currently have the crews to sail them. We’re short at least 1,800 merchant mariners.

“The human capital shortage may be worse than the shortage in ships. A report by the Maritime Administration to Congress highlighted the problem. The report “estimates that 11,768 qualified mariners … are available to crew the Ready Reserve Force … the estimated demand for mariners [in an emergency] is 13,607.” ”

There is a Navy Times report, “Pentagon investigators slam military’s oversight of supply ships,” based on an IG report that looked at 20 ships we have in the MSC’s Prepositioning Program. It seems to indicate that some of these ships, already loaded with critical equipment, may not be ready to sail.

Perhaps most troubling of all, “‘You’re on your own,’ US sealift can’t count on US navy escorts in the next big war,” that reports

“The Navy has been candid enough with Military Sealift Command and me that they will probably not have enough ships to escort us. It’s: ‘You’re on your own; go fast, stay quiet,’” Buzby told Defense News in an interview earlier this year.

The head of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Adm. James Foggo, tried to put a positive spin of the personnel shortage, “The tradition of the Merchant Marine is we go to sea no matter what, damn the torpedoes. Most of us believe that our people will not be dissuaded. But until they walk up the gangway, you never know.”

It does seem that the fleet obsolescence may be addressed, but the lack of personnel and escort ships remain.

A Modern Convoy:

I have real problems with the idea of independent sailing in the age of satellite reconnaissance, not only because the ships become easy pickings, but also because there would be no one to rescue the crews. This would certainly make mariners think twice before signing on. The answer is as old as naval warfare, convoy. Certainly we are not likely to ever see the likes of WWII convoys, with ships steaming only a few hundred yards apart. Ranges of both sensors and weapons have increased by an order of magnitude or more. We don’t want one sub to be able to simultaneously target several ships. A modern convoy would be spread over a much greater area, perhaps a moving grid 100 miles on a side. It might include escorting ships, but it would certainly include at least one escorting aircraft.

WHAT THE COAST GUARD CAN DO?:

“Convoy WS-12: A Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bomber from USS Ranger (CV-4) flies anti-submarine patrol over the convoy, while it was en route to Cape Town, South Africa, 27 November 1941. The convoy appears to be making a formation turn from column to line abreast. Two-stack transports in the first row are USS West Point (AP-23) — left –; USS Mount Vernon (AP-22) and (Coast Guard manned) USS Wakefield (AP-21). Heavy cruisers, on the right side of the first row and middle of the second, are USS Vincennes (CA-44) and USS Quincy (CA-39). Single-stack transports in the second row are (Coast Guard manned) USS Leonard Wood (AP-25) and (Coast Guard manned) USS Joseph T. Dickman (AP-26).”

A little Coast Guard History:

It might be worthwhile to look at what was done in the past. Before the start of WWII both the US Navy and Army had transports. The Navy transports were manned by regular Navy personnel. The Army transports were manned by civilians. During a large scale exercise before the war started, the civilian mariners refused to operate with darkened ships, considering it unsafe. This lead to the Coast Guard being assigned to crew these transports. Personnel were available because ten cutters had been lend leased to the British and their crews were available. These were the first of 351 Navy ships and craft manned by Coast Guard crews. While these included over 100 surface combatants, most of them convoy escorts, the rest were mostly transports and landing ships and craft. In addition the Coast Guard manned 288 Army vessels, mostly small inter-island freighters.

So what can we do now?

Encourage Coast Guard members to become credentialed mariners:

The first thing the Coast Guard might do is to encourage and facilitate the credentialing of personnel by the time they leave the service. The Coast Guard Cuttermen’s Association has provided guidance as to how coastguardsmen can become credentialed mariners, “”A Coasties Companion Guide to the Mariner Licensing Process” (PDF document).

A Navy program, Credentialing Opportunities On-line (COOL), in partnership with Military Sealift Command (MSC), provides training in a military to mariner program. that may be open, or if not already, could be opened, to the Coast Guard.

Money is the sincerest expression of appreciation, and if this is a national security issue, perhaps there should be a monetary incentive to obtain and maintain mariner’s credentials after a member separates from the service (Navy or Coast Guard). Apparently there is still on the books (46 U.S. Code 51701) provision for the Secretary of Transportation to set up a United States Maritime Service that could:

  1. Determine the number of individuals to be enrolled for training and reserve purposes in the Service:
  2. Fix the rates of pay and allowances of the individuals…
  3. Prescribe the course of study and the periods of training for the Service; and 
  4. Prescribe the uniform of the Service and the rules on providing and wearing the uniform. 

Add Reserve Units capable of manning US ships: 

The Coast Guard Reserve could be expanded to include crewmembers for these ships, either as augmentees or as complete crews. Some of the MSC ships currently have mixed crews of military and civilians. Presumably if the ship had an all military crew, it would be a commissioned ship, rather than an MSC ship.

Provide Rescue Ships: 

If we had a modern convoy, watched over by Maritime Patrol Aircraft, a Coast Guard cutter equipped with helicopter could act as rescue vessel. It would probably be positioned near the center of the convoy perhaps toward the rear. Its helicopter could remove the crew of a sinking ship and the cutter could provide damage control assistance.

Provide Administrative Escort:

The same ship that provides rescue and assistance might also serve as an administrative escort. The idea is to use the superior communications ability of the larger cutters including the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) on the National Security Cutters (and perhaps the Offshore Patrol Cutters) to route the convoy away from danger.

Bring Back the Coast Guard ASW program:

Perhaps it is time to revive the Coast Guard’s ASW capability. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Coast Guard dismantled its ASW capability as no longer relevant, but things have changed. China appears increasingly aggressive and is building a modern fleet at an alarming rate. Russia is also resurgent with their submarines now patrolling at levels similar to those seen during the cold war, while our own Navy has been drastically reduced. It appears, in ten to twenty years we will face a naval challenge greater than pre-WWII Japan. I don’t really think the 20 planned FFGs are going to be enough. Providing suitable weapons and sensors for the eleven NSCs and 25 OPCs, augmented by Navy Reserve ASW helicopters, could make a huge difference in our ability to move supplies and equipment safely across the Oceans.

 

 

Contracts for First OPC, Long Lead Time Items for OPC#2, and NSC#11

The Acquisitions Directorate has been busy. They report exercising a $317.5M contract option for construction of the first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Argus, and long lead time items (propeller and steering components, marine diesel engines, the ship integrated control system, switchboards, and generators), for the second OPC, USCGC Chase. Delivery of Argus is expected in 2021. 

They also report exercising an option for long lead time items for an as yet unnamed eleventh National Security Cutter (NSC).

“The option exercise is valued at approximately $97.1 million. This amount supports the initial order of long lead time components and material necessary to prepare for the construction of the new cutter, including steel plating, propulsion system, marine turbine/diesel engines, air search radar, ship integrated control system, switchboards and generators.”

NSC names

We currently have names for the first nine NSCs.

I am hoping we will name one for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb, who was CO of the Cutter Hudson at the Battle of Cardenas Bay. He really should have gotten the Metal of Honor. It would also give us a nice tie into the Navy since they had a heroic destroyer named for Newcomb. 

I also think Walsh would be a good choice. His Navy Cross citation.

WALSH, Quentin R., CDR, (Retired as Captain) USCG, Navy Cross, For heroism as Commanding Officer of a U.S. Naval party reconnoitering the naval facilities and naval arsenal at Cherbourg June 26 and 27, 1944. While in command of reconnaissance party, Commander Walsh entered the port of Cherbourg and penetrated the eastern half of the city, engaged in street fighting with the enemy. He accepted the surrender and disarmed 400 of the enemy force at the naval arsenal and later received unconditional surrender of 350 enemy troops and at the same time released 52 captured U.S. Army paratroopers.

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.

Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness–Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

This is not going to flow well, I apologized for the mishmash. The video above is of a House Sub-Committee hearing that occurred on July 24. I think it is still worth a look. The video does not actually begin until just before time 19:55

Before watching the video, I would suggest a look at the “Summary of Subject Matter.” This is what the Congressional Representatives are looking at.

End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates:

Check out the charts on page 2. The second chart shows “End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates.” It illustrates the risks and loss of capacity that appears likely, if OPCs are funded at the planned rate of no more than two ships a year. It is unclear why the WMECs are to be retired in the order intended since it is not the order of their completion. Presumably it is based on an assessment of the condition of the ships, but it is very clear that they will all be well over aged. The 210s will retire first. The youngest retirement would be at age 53 and some would qualify for Social Security before replacement.  (Diligence, 66)

How they arrived at the expected service life shown is hard to understand, because every 210 is going to be 53 years old or older at the end of projected service life plus 15 year life extension. The 210s were, of course, substantially reworked during a “Major Maintenance Availability” 1986 to 1990, but no further life extension work is apparently planned based on the testimony in the video.

It may appear we are in much better shape with respect to the 270s, but these more complex ships may actually be harder to keep operational. We saw this in the number of breakdown experienced after the Haitian Earthquake eight years ago. They were commissioned between 1983 and 1991 and are expected to be replaced between 2130 and 2135. Legare, second to newest, is planned to be the first replaced, and would be “only” 40 years old. Harriet Lane one of the earliest completed is expected to be one of the last replaced and would be 50 years old. The rest fall within that range. SLEP for 270s beginning 2021, but it is not certain it will be applied to all 13 ships. 

Because ships are not being replaced as quickly as they were originally built, we see a growing gap between the end of the ship’s projected service life, even with a 15 year service life extension, and the projected date of replacement.

Cutter Capability (by operating hour):

See also Appendix A, which illustrates the current shortfall in cutter hours available compared to the “Legacy Fleet” the recapitalization program was intended to replace. The “Legacy Fleet” is based on 12 WHECs, 29 WMECs, and 49 island class WPBs. (Not sure why they used 29 WMECs, since we had 32 as recently as 2001.)

There are two charts, the first includes WPBs and Webber class WPCs as well as WHECs, WMECs, NSCs, and OPCs. The second considers on the only the larger vessels, excluding WPCs and WPBs. 

The first chart shows that we are currently down 20,450 hours (8.6%) relative to the legacy fleet, but that when the recapitalization is complete the total will be 31,970 hours (13.4%) greater than the legacy fleet. This increase is all due to the greater number Webber class and the greater number of hours each is expected to operate annually compared to 110s.

The second chart looks only at the larger ships, leaving aside the Webber and Island class WPCs and WPBs. It shows we are currently down 13,950 op hours (10%) and further, that when the program is completed, we will be down 15,030 hours (10.7%)reflecting the smaller number of large patrol cutters. If we could view this as a chart of actual cutter available on a yearly basis, it suggest that we will never be down by more than the 10.7% that shows upon completion of the program. Actually that is unlikely to be the case. The aging fleet means a higher probability of unplanned maintenance and even catastrophic failure that may result in WMECs being decommissioned prematurely and becoming parts donors like the Polar Sea.

The saving grace may be that the Webber class have proven capable of performing some WMEC like duties and they are coming on line very rapidly. In all probability, the 58 cutters in the FRC program of record will all be delivered by the end of 2024.

At some point Coast Guard leadership is going to have to tell Congress the ugly truth that we have started the OPC/WMEC replacement program much too late, and we need to double down on the production rate. As soon as the first ship is completed and tested we need to issue a Multi-Year Procurement contract and it should include building up to four ships a year, at least until all sixteen 210s are replaced and at least three ships a year until all the WMECs are replaced.

We need to tell the Congress this as soon as possible, because bad news does not get better with age. Unfortunately it did not happen in this hearing. In fact when asked about the possibility of accelerating OPC production, time 1:10:00, VAdm McAllister seemed to dismiss the possibility saying we had other higher priorities. This was the wrong answer. You don’t always get to decide how money is spent. If we should get the opportunity to accelerate OPC construction, as has happened with the FRCs, we should welcome it.

Mission Needs Statement:

You can see the “Mission Needs Statement” referred to here. It is 70 pages plus about 45 pages of Appendices, but as noted, “…  it does not identify asset gaps or a material solution to meet Coast Guard’s mission needs.”

GAO findings, failure to plan long term:

The GAO has taken the Coast Guard to task because their acquisition portfolio planning has been limited to apparently short term planning using the annual budget and five year Capital Investment Plan (CIP). That this has resulted a bow wave of unfunded requirements being pushed progressively further into the future.

“When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

I have to think GAO has a point here.

We still have not provided a 20 year acquisition plan that the Coast Guard said they would provide in 2014, much less the 30 year plan I have suggested that would parallel the Navy’s planning process.

We have only done one fleet mix study. It was completed in 2007 and included the apparent assumption of applying the now rejected Crew Rotation Concept to both the NSCs and OPCs. Even so, it is still being used as a basis for critiquing the program of record that was last re-baselined in 2005. Things change, we now have better information about how our assets actually function. It is long past time for updated planning.

The Video: 

Witnesses were:

  • Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony

Here is a brief outline of the topic discussed. Video actually begins 19:55.

23:00 Administration and CG leadership priorities do not demonstrate a commitment to rebuild infrastructure.

42:00 Appropriation deleted $1.4B including $750M for the Heavy Polar Icebreaker and the rest from an account to repair of replace hurricane damaged infrastructure.

46:00 Icebreaker schedule is overly optimistic.

47:00 WMEC gap.

49:00 No service life extension program for 210s. Some, but not all 270s, will have 10 year life extension.

51:00 Capabilities vs hours.

55:30 WMECs are operating at higher than anticipated tempo. Anticipate catastrophic failures within in the WMEC fleet. 5 out or 14 WMEC 210s are at high risk.

59:30 Maintenance backlog.

1:08:00 Still no 20 year plan has been provided since it was requested in 2014.

1:10:00 accelerate OPC procurement?

1:12:30 OPC homeports, of the first four, two will go to Kodiak and two to LA

1:14:00 Great Lakes icebreaking,  Mackinaw replacement? SLEP of 140′

1:15:45 Will be doing a fleet mix study for the Great Lakes.

1:17:00 Inland fleet. Doing alternatives analysis.

1:20:00 Homeport for icebreakers has not been decided. Working on homeport decisions for the entire fleet.

1:23:00 UAS

1:24:00 Counter UAS capability. The six WPBs in CENTCOM have some capability.

1:25:00 Manpower analysis

—-

Opening Statement of the Sub-Committee Chair:

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review how the Coast Guard is integrating their acquisition, manpower, and maintenance plans to align to their mission needs and assure the Service has the assets, personnel, and expertise needed to carry out its missions.

On June 1, 2018, Admiral Karl Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard.  His guiding principles for the Service are: Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.  He said, “These guiding principles frame my direction and will support the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders, and other national and global maritime interests.”  Admiral Schultz and his senior leadership team are in the midst of reviewing the status of the Coast Guard and making changes to align the Service with those guiding principles.  Today, we will hear from two members of that team, and look forward to better understanding their perspectives on the status of the Coast Guard.

The ongoing recapitalization of the Service’s cutters was planned two decades ago to address mission demands at that time.  The world and the demands on the Coast Guard have since changed and it is critical that the Service be ready to respond to the demands of today, as well as those that will exist in decades to come. It is also important that the Coast Guard is prepared to manage capability gaps that are occurring and likely to continue to occur as recapitalization continues.

The decisions being made today will shape the Coast Guard of the future.  The cutters being built today have a planned 30-year service life and will probably serve longer, and the final OPC is projected to be patrolling the seas until 2064. Like Admiral Schultz, Congress wants to ensure the Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive for years to come.  In order to do so, we need accurate information from the Service to determine whether current plans will provide the capabilities to meet future demands.

Even more important than Coast Guard ships and aircraft are the people who operate them.  The Coast Guard’s active duty workforce is only slightly larger than that of the New York City police department and less than ¼ the size of the next smallest U.S. Armed Force.  Congress has encouraged the Coast Guard to better understand and articulate its workforce needs to meet current and emerging needs. Looking forward, it is likely that the Service will need to make tough, strategic decisions regarding how Coast Guard personnel are allocated.  Even before the advent of a new cybersecurity operating domain, the Coast Guard was struggling to meet mission demands; creating a cybersecurity workforce while also conducting legacy operations poses an additional challenge that must be addressed immediately.

In addition to our focus on Coast Guard assets and personnel, this Subcommittee has continually pushed the Service to improve its shore infrastructure made up of approximately 43,400 assets nationwide.  Unfortunately, even after several years of us stressing the need for action, much of that property is in dire need of rebuilding or repair.  While Coast Guard leaders consistently stress the importance of investing in shore infrastructure, the budgetary trade-offs being made within the Coast Guard and the Administration do not reflect a genuine commitment to address this need.  For example, despite a shore infrastructure backlog of more than $1.5 billion, the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request only includes $30 million to address those projects.

Shore infrastructure is critical to every Coast Guard mission – cutters need piers, aircraft need runways, inspectors need buildings, etc. – and if the Service truly desires to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive, it needs to find ways to address these critical needs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a number of reports since 2012 reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and providing recommendations to improve those programs.  Over the years, the Coast Guard has agreed with many of those recommendations and agreed to take action on them.  However, the new GAO report released today notes that the Coast Guard has not fully implemented those prior recommendations.  Hopefully, today’s hearing will help us understand why that is.

A new senior leadership team brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new priorities.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how they see the Coast Guard and how we can best position the Service for success going forward.

“Distribute Lethality to the Cutters”–USNI Proceedings

The US Naval Institute Proceedings’ September 2018 issue has an article recommending installation of Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) on the Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) and the Argus class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), “Distribute Lethality to the Cutters,” by LCdr. Daniel M. Wilshire, USCG. Its outside the paywall; you can just click on the link.

He makes some good points.

  • The Navy does not have enough ships.
  • The Coast Guard is building 36 likely candidates.
  • Using deck mounted canister launchers it should not be too difficult to mount NSM on cutters.
  • The systems would be Navy owned and we could use Navy training.
  • Arming cutters for combat, including missiles is not new.
  • If there is a major conflict, cutters may find themselves in combat, whether they are prepared for it or not.
  • These are not a replacement for Navy construction.
  • We should not wait for the outbreak of war before arming cutters

In conclusion he says.

“The prospect of great power conflict once again looms. Though the time and nature of that conflict is not clear, one thing is certain: when the next war breaks out, Coast Guard cutters will go into harm’s way as they have done in nearly every major conflict since 1790, not only because every ship will be needed, but because doing so is part of the Coast Guard’s history and culture. Procurement and training decisions made today will dictate whether the Coast Guard enters that conflict with the weapons needed to best help deter or defeat a peer competitor. Failing to put antiship cruise missiles on the 36 cutters of the NSC and OPC classes, cutters that will serve for the next 50-plus years, is an omission that the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the nation can ill-afford.”

My only comment would be:

  • First, I would prefer to see the longer ranged, heavier Long Range Anti-Ship Missile used instead of NSM, as I believe it is better suited for our peacetime anti-terrorism mission as well as being a more effective weapon in wartime.
  • Second, while it is probably a more complex change, reviving the Coast Guard’s Wartime Anti-Submarine Warfare Mission would probably be an even more important addition to the “National Fleet” than an expanded anti-surface capability. While it probably would contribute nothing to our peacetime anti-terrorism mission, long range acoustic sensors might help our counter-drug effort.

 

A Conversation with Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard–CSIS

CSIS and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) conduct an interview with Admiral Karl L. Schultz, the 26th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, conducted 1 August, 2018.

Below I will attempt to outline the conversation, noting the topics and in some cases providing a comment.

The first question is about immigration. Coast Guard is the “away game.” minimizing the factors that push immigration to the US.

The Commandant does not expect a substantial increase in help from the Navy, because they are already heavily tasked, but would welcome any additional help.

06:30 Talk about Inland fleet. Congressional support is evident. $25M provided so far.

9:20 House Appropriations Committee decision to divert $750M from the icebreaker program to fund “the Wall” in their markup of the FY2019 budget bill. The Commandant is “guardedly optimistic”

11:30 Human capital readiness? Operating account has been flat and effectively we have lost 10% in purchasing power. Want to increase leadership training.

16:30 Support for combatant commanders.

18:00 Capacity building and partnering. Detachments working on host nation platforms.

21:00 Defense Force planning–Not going back to the MARDEZ model.

22:30 Situation in Venezuela/Preparation for dealing with mass migration.

24:30 Arctic forums–Need to project our sovereignty

29:00 UNCLOS

30:00 Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)

32:30 Tracking cargo as an element of MDA

34:00 Cyber

36:15 High Latitude engagement/partnerships.

39:30 Perhaps the icebreaker should be the “Polar Security Cutter?”

40:00 International ice patrol, still an important mission.

41:00 CG role in response to Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea. In discussion with Indo-Pacific Command. Will see more CG presence there.

44:00 Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC)–on track

46:30 Border issue — passed on that

48:00 Small satellites–we are looking at them

49:00 African Capacity building/cooperation. May send an MEC.

51:30 Tech modernization. Looking at it more holistically.

Other Coverage:

This interview prompted a couple of notable posts.

SeaPower’s coverage of the discussion is here. They focused on the growth of demands on the Coast Guard.

Military.com reported on the possibility of a greater Coast Guard role in South East Asia and capacity building in Africa. It probably should be noted that the title, “Coast Guard Could Send Ship to Pacific to ‘Temper Chinese Influence’,”is a bit deceptive in that the Commandant’s remark about tempering Chinese Influence was in regard to Oceania, the islands of the Central and Western Pacific. The Commandant was quoted in the Seapower post, “In the Oceania region, there are places where helping them protect their interests, tempering that Chinese influence, is absolutely essential.”