White Hull Diplomacy, “The Coast Guard and Stability Operations” –Small Wars Journal

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) sales alongside the Indian coast guard ships Abheed and Shaurya (16) Aug. 23, 2019, while transiting in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Chennai, India. The Stratton is participating in a professional exchange with the Indian coast guard that includes operational exercises at sea and on shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Esterly)

Small Wars Journal makes the case for designating the Coast Guard to maintain expertise in and conduct maritime stability operations.

Historically, the United States military is regularly involved in some sort of stability operation despite the military preference for high intensity conflict. … The United States risks losing some of the lessons learned if it does not develop a holistic and complementary Joint Force that can both dominate a peer enemy and conduct stability operations at and below the level of armed conflict. Competition means that forces will be employed across the spectrum of operations with equal emphasis. Designating specific services to conduct stability as a primary mission is one means of ensuring a Joint Force that is equally capable across the spectrum. The Coast Guard is uniquely suited to a lead role in maritime focused stability operations. As a military force that is resident within the inter-agency, the Coast Guard provides a presence that is “instantly acceptable because of their worldwide humanitarian reputation.” This forward presence dovetails with the Department of Homeland Security mission of “safeguarding the American people” by pushing the boundaries of U.S. law enforcement into regions and countries where it can mentor and develop partner capabilities in the areas it is needed most.

It quotes the Coast Guard Strategic Plan 2018-2022.

“The Coast Guard plays a critical role in strengthening governance in areas of strategic importance. We mature other nations’ inherent capabilities to police their own waters and support cooperative enforcement of international law through dozens of robust bilateral agreements. Our leadership on global maritime governing bodies and our collaborative approach to operationalize international agreements drives stability, legitimacy and order. As global strategic competition surges, adversaries become more sophisticated and the maritime environment becomes more complex. The Coast Guard provides a full spectrum of solutions, from cooperation to armed conflict.”

The post states,

“At its heart the primary stability tasks fall into seven military missions and activities:  protecting civilians, security sector reform, support to security cooperation, peace operations, foreign humanitarian assistance, counterinsurgency, and foreign internal defense.”

It then goes on to describe how the Coast Guard has done each of these tasks in the past.

What we may be seeing here is a preview of the roles the Coast Guard may be expected to perform when the expected Tri-Service Strategy is published.

Thanks to Geoff for the “White Hull Diplomacy” portion of the title. 

“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.

Two Articles on Coast Guard/Navy Cooperation/Coordination –CIMSEC and USNI

The Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS 17), USS Germantown (LSD-42), USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752) and USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) break formation after steaming together this week in the Sulu Sea as part of Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama.

Two recently published articles suggest greater cooperation and coordination between the Navy and Coast Guard. Both were written by a Marine, Captain Walker D. Mills, USMC, an infantry officer currently serving as an exchange officer in Cartagena, Colombia.

The Proceedings article talks about ways the Coast Guard could contribute to a rules-based international order in the Western Pacific but points out that the Coast Guard is underfunded and points to this as a reason given for not assuming a greater role in the Western Pacific. I don’t think he is saying these arguments absolutely preclude a greater Coast Guard role in the Western Pacific, but he does present the argument.

The CIMSEC post, points out that the Chief of Naval Operations’ recent FRAGO (shortened form of fragmentary order. An abbreviated form of an operation order) directing increased coordination between the Navy and Marine Corps missed an opportunity to highlight the reality of continuing cooperation between the Navy and Coast Guard.

“Some observers have raised objections to including the Coast Guard in the U.S. response to Chinese belligerence and encroachment in the South China Sea – it has repeatedly been a focus of commentary without generating a consensus. Generally, these objections are based on the small size and meager funding that the Coast Guard has and how the Coast Guard would be unprepared if a shooting conflict broke out in the region. Both of these are reasons why the CNO needs to plan for and mention the inclusion of the Coast Guard in his guidance to the force and make them a part of the larger conversation. Ignoring the Coast Guard, minimizing their potential contribution, or leaving them out of the discussion entirely would only serve to exacerbate these two issues.”


Conclusion

The CNO dedicated part of his FRAGO to guidance on building “alliances and partnerships” internationally – but it is just as if not more important to build partnerships and interoperability between sister services and other U.S. agencies. The CNO’s FRAGO is a far cry from the level of Coast Guard inclusion that permeated the 2015 Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. While CNO Gilday obviously does not have the statutory authorities to direct his FRAGO at the Coast Guard – he can make it clear to his sailors that he views the Coast Guard as playing a critical role in the Navy-Marine Corps-Coast Guard team. That would be moving toward a truly integrated national maritime architecture and force structure. This direction will be critical for preserving U.S. primacy at sea and enforcing rule of law in the global commons.