Coast Guard’s National Security Role

The Coast Guard leadership has been hitting the Coast Guard’s National Security role pretty hard since the change of administration and the “skinny budget” scare.

Here is the Commandant’s latest pitch to “a roundtable of the Defense Writers Group, a nonprofit association of defense reporters.”

Like other service chiefs he is messaging that a continuing resolution would be a disaster.

“The good news is we are modernizing the fleet, but it’s that annual operating and maintenance account that you have to get very creative,” Zukunft said. “Where we’re seeing the most pain is we defer a lot of our shore maintenance; that backlog continues to grow.”
Zukunft said his greatest concern right now is to have budget certainty and not temporary funding measures; the current continuing resolution that funds the government runs through April 28.
“Maybe we’ll see a short extension of that, but if we don’t have an appropriation in 2017, I will have to shut down operations,” he said, adding that will affect readiness. “This is not the time to sideline any military service, including the Coast Guard, but that’s what a [continuing resolution] would do.”

 

To say we are in good shape in terms of modernization is at least optimistic, but perhaps the Commandant has some favorable indications from Congress. They do like things that add jobs. Still even if we start getting icebreakers the OPC is long overdue and I suspect that we may see the WMECs start failing at an ever increasing rate since we don’t expect full replacement of the fleet until about 2034. Building two a year is going to take too long.

Breaking Defense Interviews the Commandant

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) meets with then-Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly, now Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) meets with then-Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly, now Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Breaking Defense’s Robbin Laird has an Interview with the Commandant and speculates on the prospects for the Coast Guard under the new administration and DHS selectee General John Kelly.

Trump, Kelly, & The Coast Guard: Exclusive Interview With Adm. Zukunft

Its a good one, and even the comments are worth reading. There is much of the same we have heard before. The Commandant has a clear and consistant message and agenda, but there is more detail about a possible role in the far Western Pacific.

“I have discussed with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the senior officer in the Navy) the concept that we would create a permanent USCG presence in the South China Sea and related areas,” Zukunft said. “This would allow us to expand our working relationship with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. We can spearhead work with allies on freedom of navigation exercises as well.”

This is the first time I have seen the phrase “permanent USCG presence in the South China Sea and related areas.” Does that mean we will have a CG patrol squadron working out of Sinagpore or Okinawa (or Cam Ranh Bay), like the one in Bahrain? Or are we just looking at the Webber class WPCs we already know are going to Guam? (Must be more to it than that.) I do think we should put some OPCs in Guam, if only to patrol the EEZ in the Western Pacific.

Until recently we might have considered the possibility of basing in the Philippines, but that no longer looks like a possibility.

What ever you may think of the incoming administration, for the Coast Guard at least, it looks promising.

Thanks to Luke for bringing this to my attention. 

Webber Class WPC Endurance?

USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109)

USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109)

A question, what is the real endurance of the Webber Class WPCs? The figure I see quoted is five days. This was the contract minimum. This is the same as listed for the 87 foot WPBs. Is this correct? This becomes important when the vessel has to make a long transit to and from its patrol area, and if we are understating the endurance, we are selling the class short.

The Webber class vessels are 353 tons full load. Similar sized ships seem to have greater endurance. The Navy’s 387 ton full load Cyclone class PCs have a nominal ten day endurance. The 300 ton Australian Armidale class patrol vessels claim a normal endurance of 21 days and 42 days maximum.

The Webber class’s endurance is not constrained to five days by fuel. The 87 ft WPBs have a nominal endurance of five days but a range of only 900 miles. The Webber class have a range of 2950 nautical miles. Obviously you don’t want to run the ship down to zero fuel, but at ten knots, it would take 295 hours or over 12 days to go 2950 miles. Even at 14 knots, it would take almost nine days to go 2950 miles. Additionally, it is the nature of Coast Guard missions that cutters frequently loiter as low speed which potentially adds patrol time.

A recent news release caught my eye. It reported the results of a 19 day patrol by USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109). She almost certainly refueled at least once, but did she replenish three times?

We have had these little ships long enough that we should have a revised opinion of their endurance based on experience. Any feedback?

 

Brookings Institute–A conversation with Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft

Another video, this one almost an hour.

President-Elect Picks Retired Marine General John Kelly to Head DHS

John Francis Kelly (born May 11, 1950) is a retired United States Marine Corps general and the former commander of United States Southern Command.

John Francis Kelly (born May 11, 1950, pictured here in 2012) is a retired United States Marine Corps general and the former commander of United States Southern Command.

The New York Times has reported that President-Elect Trump has chosen retired Marine General and former SOUTHCOM commander John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security.

General Kelly served as SOUTHCOM November 19, 2012 – January 16, 2016. That experience should make him extremely familiar with the Coast Guard. He has supported the Coast Guard in the past, and here.

As I understand it, he will need to have a waiver from the Senate to serve because he retired less than seven years ago, but it appears he will have broad bi-partisan support having received the endorsement of President Obama’s former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Coast Guard Overview

If you haven’t seen it already, the Coast Guard has a web site that provides a lot of information about the status of the service. The Coast Guard Overview includes sections on Missions, Workforce, Force Laydown, Assets, Authorities, Strategy, Budget, Leadership, Partnerships, and a Resource Library. (You do have to scroll down from the intro.)

I had not seen this before. It seems to be connected to the preparation for the Presidential Transition Team.

Added a link to the web site to the top of my Reference page, so it will be easy to find. I have to say I have not kept my Reference page up to date. I’ll be pay more attention to it.

Commandant’s Strategic Intent, Mid-Term Report

Coast Guard Capt. Douglas Nash, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Sation Sacramento, salutes a Coast Guard C-27J pilot during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Sacramento's hanger in McClellan Park, Thursday, July 1, 2016. The ceremony marked the final day that an HC-130 Hercules crew stood the watch at Air Station Sacramento and introduced the newest aircraft. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

Procurement of 14 C-27J aircraft was one of the achievements sited. C-27Js replace C-130s at CGAS Sacramento. 

The Commandant has issued a mid-term update on his earlier published “Strategic Intent, 2015-2019” (pdf). The new document is available in pdf format. You can find it here: “United States Coast Guard Commandant’s Strategic Intent, 2015-2019, Mid-Term Report.”

It is relatively short and readable at 21 pages. The recurring themes of the Commandant’s administration are all there, starting with TOC (transnational organized crime) and its deleterious effect on Western Hemisphere governance and prosperity. It does read a little like an Officer Evaluation Report input.

There is nothing particularly surprising here, but even for me, the enumeration of the scope the Coast Guard’s authorities, responsibilities, and international contacts is still mind boggling.

I am not going to try to summarize the report, but there were a few things that struck me.

The Commandant mentions service life extension programs for the seagoing buoy tenders (already begun), the 47 foot MLBs, and the 87 foot WPBs (in the future), but there is no mention of what we will do about the inland tender fleet. There will also be a life extension program for helicopters before they are finally replaced.

“Extend the service life of our rotary wing assets and align with DOD’s Future Vertical Lift initiative.”

There is mention of a program I was not aware of, the “Defense Threat Reduction Agency National Coast Watch System project.” The Defense Threat Reduction Agency attempts to track and reduce the WMD threat. It is not really clear what our role is here. We know about the container inspection programs in foreign ports. Is that it, or is there more to this? (that can be discussed at an unclassified level.)

Britain–Maybe They Need a Coast Guard

There is concern that the kind of people smuggling seen in the Mediterranean may soon come to the English Channel, and according to Chief Inspector of Immigration and Borders David Bolt,

“’It isn’t just a question of people-smuggling. This is also a question of firearms, a question of drugs, we have been woefully unprepared.’

According to the post,

“Many European nations have significant coast guards with dozens, or even hundreds of craft working to protect human life at sea and the integrity of borders. Britain instead has a variety of agencies including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which has a small number of craft, the Border agency, which presently has two of their five customs cutters deployed to the Mediterranean rather than in home waters, and charities including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution which has no border defence role.

“Of the United Kingdom’s approximately 1,000 ports and harbours, only 500 are large enough to warrant the security features such as fences and restricted areas as mandated by the International Ship and Port Facility Security code, leaving half totally open to smugglers. At many UK ports, police and border force visits can be rare.”

I have no idea how serious this problem really is, or how serious it may become, but it does remind me of one advantage of having a relatively large, agile, multi-mission force as opposed to several smaller, narrowly focused organizations. When the US is suddenly faced with a crisis, be it a humanitarian crisis like the Mariel Boat Lift, weather related like Hurricane Katrina, a man made pollution incident like the Deepwater Horizon, or a natural disaster like the Earthquake in Haiti, the Coast Guard has the organization, the authority, the resources, and the culture that allows it to refocus and respond.

Thanks to Mike for bringing this to my attention.

Live From an Ongoing Boarding–CIMSEC

121203-G-XX000-001_CPO Terrell Horne

CIMSEC has a post that suggests the Coast Guard should use live streaming video of on-going boardings, as a way to keep the chain of command informed in real time.

It does seem inevitable we will be going in that direction. The hope is that it will make it possible to provide the guys on scene with greater support. My fear is that it will facilitate micro-management. There is also the possibility this could become a huge time sink for the upper echelons.