“Cutting Coast Guard funds threatens our security, at home and in the Pacific” –The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Hill argues for increased Coast Guard presence in the Pacific including greater interaction with the nations of the Western Pacific.

After explaining why China is a greater threat than Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union ever were, the author, Seth Cropsey, explains:

“The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is uniquely situated to act as a bridge between U.S. combat forces and their allied counterparts precisely because of its dual political-legal role. Its engagement in answering grey zone challenges is also a helpful encouragement to the maritime services’ cooperation that allows each service to perfect its unique skills.”

He argues for the 12th NSC.

“As it stands, the Coast Guard’s long-range cutters have been cut from ten in the Pacific to only six (actually we still have six NSCs and two WHECs–Chuck). If Congress does not fund the 12th National Security Cutter, it will undermine the Coast Guard’s mission in the Western Pacific and weaken U.S. security.”

Most importantly, as we have done several times here, he calls for a reevaluation of the services needs and recurrent long term planning.

Even more broadly, U.S. policymakers – within the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces, and the Pentagon – must consider the Coast Guard’s strategic role. The USCG has not produced a fleet plan, termed the “Fleet Mix Analysis,” since 2004. Even in 2008 and 2012, when it revisited the document, it concluded that its fleet could only meet three-fifths of its missions. In 2004, Chinese fighter aircraft seldom conducted night operations, North Korea had not yet tested a nuclear weapon, and the U.S. had toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein just a year before; Hamas was a small but noted Palestinian terrorist organization, while al-Qaeda in Iraq was still consolidating power.

After 16 years, any service’s missions and equipment must change as it adapts to new threats; the same is true for the Coast Guard. A robust force review is in order, potentially modeled off the Navy’s 30-year plan which will generate a new fleet capable of meeting the demands of great-power competition, especially in the Asia-Pacific.

What Frustrates Me? –an Apparent Lack of Transparent Long Term Planning

A reader recently asked me, “What frustrates you, Chuck? … what is the one or two key areas that you think the USCG needs?  A new ship design, up-arming, or missiles?”
My answer, actually it is the apparent failure to plan.

Rant to Follow

Maybe there is a plan, but if there is, it has not been shared with the Congress or the public. Consequently there has been no opportunity to build support for the plan.

Despite direction from Congress to provide a 25 year shipbuilding plan, none has been provided. Is the hold up in the Coast Guard or the Department? Who knows.

Our shipbuilding “Program of Record” (POR) was last baselined in 2005, as part of the defuncted “Deepwater” program. It was based not on need, but on expected funding.

An examination of need was made, in the form of an “Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Study.” A report was completed in 2009. It was reevaluated in 2011, resulting in lower requirements that still indicated that we needed assets far in excess of the program of record. Results were not made public until 2012.
There has been no reexamination of our needs since then, in spite of the fact that the Fleet Mix Study was based on an assumption of the use of the “Crew Rotation Concept” on the National Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Cutter. It also anticipated deployment of shore based Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), large vertical take off ship based UAS, and networking that would provide a common tactical picture. So far, no land based UAS, only a much smaller less capable ship based UAS, and no real common tactical picture. The only pleasant surprise has been the utility of the Webber class cutters.
I have a half assed Operations Research background. It pains me to see that we are apparently not using the planning tools that are available.
When we present a well considered and fact based plan, the Congress has been responsive. They have supported the program of record, and are funding icebreakers in response to the High Latitude Study.
  • We sorely need an updated Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Plan.
  • From this and consideration of other needs we need to develop a 30 year Shipbuilding and Aviation Procurement Plan.
  • We need to update these planning tools on a regular basis. We can expect that they will get better with each iteration.
Normally the leadership changes every four years. It is reasonable that we have a planning cycle that follows this pattern. We can give the new Commandant and his staff a year to work with his predecessor’s planning products before initiating a new cycle. A year in he should initiate a new Fleet Mix Plan. Using it and other inputs, a new 30 year Shipbuilding and Aviation Procurement Plan should be completed well before the new Commandant is selected. 
Only tangentially related, but a budget document we seldom see, is the Coast Guard’s unfunded priority list. Almost three years ago, I did one of my own. Not much has changed.
Thanks to Peter for kicking off this line of thought.