Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities–House Subcommittee Hearing

 

The hearing recorded above was held 7 June. The original video was found here. That page also provides the chairman’s opening statement and links to the witnesses’ written statements that are also provided immediately below. The video does not actually start until time 4:30.

Below, you will find my outline of the highlights.

Witness List:

  • Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director, Acquisition Sourcing & Management Team, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
  • Mr. John Acton, Chairman, Coast Guard Affairs Committee, Navy League of the United States | Written Testimony

The GAO’s written testimony is particularly comprehensive. They report that new assets (NSCs and FRCs) are not meeting planned availability. There have been an unexpected number of engine replacements. In the case of the National Security cutters it appears to me the down time was predictable, a normal part of introducing new ships and availability should return to planned levels as more ships join the fleet. The known defect, that when operating in waters 74 degrees or warmer, the NSCs cannot maintain maximum speed has apparently not been corrected. Max speed must be reduced two to four knots to allow adequate cooling.

Planning Documents:  The Congressional Representatives repeatedly complained that they were not getting an unsensored statement of the Coast Guard’s needs. It appears the Coast Guard is not being allowed provide this information. Rather it appears the GAO is telling the Coast Guard how much they will be getting and told to submit a budget that fits the predetermined amounts. Reportedly the Unfunded priorities list will be provided by the end of June. They also asked for the 5 year and 20 year plan (1h04:30). Coast Guard representatives were repeatedly told the Coast Guard does not say what they really need, that information provided by the Coast Guard is inadequate for the sub-committee to make decisions (1h48m).

It appears that the GAO continues to ask the Coast Guard to plan procurements based on historically low AC&I appropriations that were adequate for a time because of the sporadic character of Coast Guard ship building. They acknowledge that the current budget is not realistic. (43:45)

The Coast Guard is now consistent in requesting $2B in the AC&I annually and a 5% annual increase in its operating budget and that we need 5,000 additional active duty billets and 1,100 addtional reservists. There was a statement from one of the Representatives to the effect, We need you to fight for yourselves (1h50:30). The representatives were informed that the 5 year, 20 year plans and unfunded will be delivered together (1:56)

My opinion: we need a regularly revised Fleet Mix Study. That in turn should feed directly into a 30 year ship and aircraft procurement plan

Webber Class WPCs: The Coast Guard is reportedly pushing WPCs operations down as far as the coast of South America. (50:00) This confirms my earlier speculation that these ships would be operated in what had been WMEC roles. Six cutters for CENTCOM The representative confirmed that they had approved procurement of six Webber class requested by CENTCOM. Apparently their approval was in the form of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which has still not been made law. Adm. Ray stated that these would be in addition to the 58 currently planned (9:30) and it is not clear how or when they would be funded. Adm Stosz indicated it was not certain six Webber class would be the Coast Guard’s choice in how to fill this requirement and the question required more study. (1h11)(1h41m).

Shore Facilities: Reportedly there is a $1.6B shore construction backlog. $700M shore facilities maintenance backlog. Some infrastructure improvements that directly support new operational platforms.are being accomplished under the platform programs (55:00) The representatives asked, why we have asked for only $10M if the total shore facilities backlog is $2.3B?(1h35)

Icebreakers: The possibility of leasing the commercial icebreaker Aiviq is still being considered. (1h27) The owners have offered a plan for Ice trials and the Coast Guard has said it would be interested in observing. (1h29:50)

Great Lakes Icebreaker: Rep. Lewis brought up icebreaker for Great Lakes.Adm Ray says for now we will address with the existing fleet. (1h00:30) Priority is still Polar Ice Breakers.

eLoran: There seems to be considerable interest in eLoran to deal with GPS vulnerabilities. (1:22) The Navy League representative supported the need. The Re-Authorization Bill directs Secretary of Transportation to initiate E-Loran testing. There was a clear anticipation that the Coast Guard would support implementation.

Coast Guard Health Care: Looks like the Coast Guard heath care records system which reverted to paper now may be able to piggy back on the VA’s conversion to the DOD system. (1h25)/(1h32:30) There is currently a major gap in funding for medical care of CG retirees

A Better Armed Coast Guard: Not that the Representatives were specific, but there was a statement, “We want to weaponize you.” (5:55) I think I heard essentially a second time as well. I’m not sure what that means.

Rising Sea Levels: There was concern expressed regarding rising sea level and how they might impact shore facilities (1h12:20)

WMEC Service Life Extension: The Coast Guard was given money several years ago to plan a service life extension program for 270. The Congress has not seen or heard any result and they questioned, why delay? (1:09) See fig. 4 on page 17 of the GAO’s written testimony

Operating Expenses: Replacement ships are costing more.(26:25)(50:55). This is becoming problematic without an increase in operating budget.

Changing the way we buy ships: Included in the Reauthorization Bill are changes in the way the Coast Guard can fund its shipbuilding, putting us on par with the Navy (5:50)

Cyber: Budget includes 70 additional billets. (19:45)  What are we doing for the ports? (1h13:45)

Inland Tender Fleet: Budget includes $!M to investigate alternatives. (52:30) (1h19)

It is remarkable that there seemed to be no sentiment that the Coast Guard budget should be cut, while there was considerable evidence the Representatives believe the Coast Guard is underfunded.

Hull Vane Claims Improved Performance

“Wake behind transom on patrol boat at 11 kn without Hull Vane® (left) and with Hull Vane® (right), leading to 25% lower fuel consumption”

NavyRecognition reports on Hull Vane’s presentation at the MAST-Asia 2017 Conference.

The new NSCs and FRCs are costing more to fuel than the ships they replace. The OPCs will almost certainly cost more in fuel than the 210s and 270s, they will be replacing. This should not be surprising. These ships are larger and have much greater installed horsepower. Since our operating budget has not been growing, the greater fuel used, as more of these ships come on line, is going to become a problem. Surely we will try to get increased operating funding, but in the mean time we need to work on operating more economically.

If we have not already evaluated this design modification, we probably should.

In addition to fuel savings, addtional side benefits are claimed.

While reducing the energy consumption is usually the main goal, the Hull Vane® has additional effects which are very desirable for naval ships. When a ship sails in waves, the Hull Vane® dampens the pitching and yawing motions, making helicopter landings safer and improving the performance of onboard systems and personnel. As the Hull Vane® reduces the stern wave, the propeller loading and the engine power for a given speed, the ship will also have a reduced acoustic (and visual) signature. On newbuild naval ships, the cost savings on engine power to reach a given speed are generally much higher than the cost of the Hull Vane. Retrofitting a Hull Vane® on existing naval ships typically has a payback period of one to three years.

We did discuss this innovation earlier. I am going reproduce comments from my previous post on this topic.

First a disclaimer: I am from the Hull Vane sales team and I have presented the paper at the FAST conference. You can download a copy of this paper on our website (www.hullvane.com) from the news section. That will clarify a lot.

Then to answer some of the comments here (and the email quoted, which is not from our team as far as I know):

1. The Hull Vane is very different from a trim tab, because it’s a hydrofoil. Actually the design is not so much speed-dependent, but hull-shape dependent. When it works, it works on quite a wide speed range, as long as the speed is high enough (Froude number in general above 0.2). On the Holland-Class, we achieve a positive result over the entire speed range (from 5 knots to 22 knots), but that’s in part because the Hull Vane allowed (and actually required) a reduction of the depth of the trim wedge which is currently installed.

2. The Hull Vane is a new and patented fuel saving device. Of course hydrofoils have been used before, but never on displacement vessels with the purpose of generating forward thrust and reducing the wavemaking resistance.

3. The angle of attack is more a function of the buttock angle of the bottom plating than it is of the speed. That’s why having an adjustable Hull Vane (we looked at it) gives you a very marginal performance increase, while adding a lot of complexity (hydraulics, control mechanism, maintenance, etc.). The fixed Hull Vane works really well and is not more complex than bilge keels or a bulbous bow. The design is indeed complex and requires both know-how and accurate CFD simulations, taking into account both frictional and pressure drag. From our 12+ years of experience, we know how to get it right, but we also know that it’s very easy to get it wrong. There are ship types where we can’t achieve a positive result, but on patrol vessels and naval vessels, we have consistently achieved very good results.

4. Just like the rudders, and propellers, you indeed want to avoid marine growth, which has a more detrimental effect on appendages than on the main hull. There are solutions to this (coatings), and furthermore the Hull Vane is easily accessible for cleaning without drydocking. On the vessels sailing with the Hull Vane, marine growth has not been an issue.

5. Regarding our “limited abilities to accurately predict the flow field below and aft of a bluff transom vessel”, I completely disagree on that. Our parent company Van Oossanen Naval Architects has used CFD (Fine/Marine) for many years with excellent results, confirmed both by model tests and sea trial results. This includes the results we have obtained for the Hull Vane performance. For stuff like the Hull Vane, where viscous effects (and the thickness of the boundary layer) are important, we believe CFD to be more accurate than model tests.

6. The Hull Vane is not limited to “short fat frigate territory”. We have achieved good results also on the DTMB 5415, a slender destroyer hull shape released for research purposes. The performance is better however on the fuller-bodied and wider-transomed hull shapes like the typical US Coast Guard cutters, which we would very much like to do some work on.

To sum it up briefly, the Hull Vane is very comparable with the bulbous bow, although it looks totally different. If the bulbous bow hadn’t been applied as widely as it is, people would also find it hard to believe that it can reduce the resistance. The bulbous bow also requires careful design to work well and has a speed range in which it works well. One of the main advantages of the Hull Vane is that it also improves the seakeeping (reduced pitching, heaving, yawing and rolling). There’s a video on our website explaining the working principles very clearly. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Interview: Adm. Paul Zukunft demands Coast Guard respect–Defense News

DefenseNews had an interview with the Commandant. You can read it here. I will not repeat the Commandant’s responses here, but I will repeat one of the questions and add my own thoughts.

Admiral, you have said that the Coast Guard’s identity as an armed service is forgotten. Can you tell me what you mean by that?

The Commandant talks here about budget, but I think this starts with self image. We do SAR. We rescue sea turtles. Armed services are first and foremost ARMED. We are by law a military service, but we are currently inadequately armed for even our peacetime counter terrorism, DHS mission. We are less capable of forcibly stopping a ship than we were 90 years ago.

Do our people know what their role will be if there is a major conflict with the Chinese or Russians? You can bet Navy and Marine Personnel have a pretty good idea of their roles.

We have had a quarter century hiatus in a mono-polar world where no one could challenge American seapower. That is changing rapidly and it is time for the Coast Guard to see itself in a new light. Just as the nation has benefited from having two land forces (Army and Marines), it can benefit from having two sea forces. The Coast Guard is a substantial naval force. Certainly we will not replace the Navy’s sophisticated systems, but there is a need for a high low mix and the marginal cost of adding capability to Coast Guard vessels that are going to be built anyway is very small.

We are currently in an unrecognized naval arms race with China. It is time to give the Coast Guard back the ASW and ASuW capabilities it was building before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When I reported to the academy in 1965, it had a gun lab, and we were taught ASW (badly) during swab summer. The Coast Guard had 36 ships equipped with sonar, ASW torpedoes and 5″ guns. The ships were old (not as old as now), but we were building a new fleet of 36 Hamilton Class WHECs equipped with a better sonar in addition to torpedoes and a 5″ gun. Being armed did not stop us from doing SAR, fisheries, or aids to navigation.

At that time (1965) in terms of personnel, the US Navy was about 25 times larger than the Coast Guard and had 287 cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. Now it is only eight times as large as the Coast Guard and has only 85 ASW equipped surface ships. We also had a powerful naval ally in Europe in the form of the Royal Navy. Now the Coast Guard is supplying personnel to the Royal Navy and in terms of personnel the Coast Guard is larger than the Royal Navy or the French Navy. Equipping our planned 33 to 35 large cutters as true surface combattants could make a real difference.

Even if we never go to war, preparation can make us better at our peacetime roles. Drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, and even SAR benefit from military grade ISR and C4I. Recognition of naval capabilities in the Coast Guard may justify additional resorces that have dual use for peacetime missions. Its a win-win.

 

Webber Class WPC Bailey Barco Tour

I recently had the opportunity to board the yet to be commissioned Webber Class cutter Bailey Barco (WPC-1122), during a stop, as she made her way from the Gulf coast to her new home port in Ketchikan, Alaska. The Captain, Frank Reed, generously took the time to show me around. She was transporting a lot of spares and other gear to her new homeport, so may appear a bit more cluttered than normal, but everything was securely stowed.

I took some photos. I’m providing the diagram below for reference. Click on it to enlarge.

Mast and call sign

Bridge looking forward and a proud CO.

The bridge is large and spacious. Underway it becomes a secure space combining the functions of the CIC, Engineering Control Booth, Radio Room, and Firecontrol Shack in addition to the normal bridge functions. A secure space below passes information up to the bridge.  Normal underway manning is a three person watch.

Bridge displays and controls

Bridge looking aft.

Looking aft from the bridge, the watch can look back at the embarked over the horizon boat and observe as it is launched and recovered.

Ship’s boat.

Why a water tight door? As an XO who spent a lot of time making sure we could properly set Material Condition Zebra, these things are really important and can be a pain in the ass. The CO said earlier cutters of this class had had problems with their doors, but these were an improved version. The action was very positive and quick, requiring only a quarter turn instead of a three quarter turn for full actuation like the Quick Acting Water Tight Doors I was accustomed to.

Quick Acting Water Tight Door

Engine Room amidships looking aft

Engineroom port side looking aft.

Mess deck

The mess deck (above) is on the main deck and benefitted from natural light. The panels they use to cover the ports are apparently leatherette mounted using velcro. The crew probably thinks of these a way to cut annoying glare, but I see it as a much improved way to darken ship, compared with the way it was done on 378s and 210s. 
I was told the anchor and ground tackle is an improvement over that used on the earlier cutters. It was beautifully chromed.

Weapons Testing: During my visit the gunners mate told me that Bailey Barco had been used as a test platform for a stabilized .50 caliber mount. A number of Navy and Marine in addition to Coast Guard Personnel observed test firing. Apparently it got a bit crowed. I did not confirm this while there, but I suspect this was a stabilized gun platform rather than a remotely controlled weapon. I did an earlier post on one of these. Good to see the Coast Guard doing some weapons testing. If we have to use weapons in a US port we really need a high degree of precision.

Stress Monitoring: The Captain pointed out a device that he said monitored hull stress and that it automatically submitted a report monthly. It is permanently installed. Made me wonder if perhaps some day this might be used real-time as a decision aid in determining how hard the ship can be pushed.

WHEC Disposals

The Morgenthau has just been transferred to Vietnam’s Coast Guard.

This leaves us four remaining 378 foot WHECs. According to a MARAD report, “Office of Ship Disposal Programs Annual Report for FY2016” dated December 2016, page 43, Annex J, USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) will be decommissioned in FY2018, Midgett (WHEC-726) in FY2019, Mellon (WHEC-717) in FY2020.

Decommissioning for USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) (note the full name–the Coast Guard has two USCGC Munros now, both in the Pacific, hope there is no confusion) was listed as, to be determined (TBD). FY2021 seems likely, but they may be holding off until they get an Offshore Patrol Cutter to take her place in Kodiak.

Thanks to Edrick Masangkay for bringing this to my attention.

“Breaking Ice: The Next Icebreaker Will Be a Navy-Coast Guard Partnership”–Office of Naval Research

US Coast Guard photo by PO Patrick Kelley

The Office of Naval Research’s online magazine, “Future Force,” has some insights into how they are approaching the task of helping to design the Coast Guard’s new heavy icebreakers.

It also seems to indicate the Navy is increasingly thinking about operating surface ships in the Polar regions and that they are realizing, its very hard.

They are looking at the capabilities of non-ice-strengthened ships in polar regions and at the effects of ice loading. Considering we have been sending National Security Cutters into the Arctic their findings should also be of some interest to us.

“Too Small to Answer the Call”–USNI Proceedings

The May issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings is the Naval Review issue. It includes updates on the Coast Guard as well as the Navy and Marine corps that are behind the membership pay wall, but it also has an article, “Too Small to Answer the Call,” by Capt. David Ramassini, future CO of USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756) that is accessible to all, and I think is worth a read.

Basically he is advocating using the Coast Guard internationally to build capacity and counter threats of lawlessness and poor governance in trouble spots all around the world. Below is his recommended building program.

Build a New Great White Fleet

Enhancing regional security in partnership with willing nations requires a 21st-century Great White Fleet of forward deployable (or stationed) national security cutters (NSCs), offshore patrol cutters (OPCs), and fast response cutters (FRC). The mix of platforms and duration of presence would be tailored to the distinct geographies and vary based on the receptiveness of the host nation(s), problem sets to be addressed, and mutual goals of the combatant commands and partner nations. Building on a proven bilateral approach for counterdrug operations and EEZ enforcement, the Great White Fleet would leverage existing agreements—based on the extent to which partner governments are willing—to strengthen CTOC (counter transnational organized crime–chuck) and CT (counter terrorism–Chuck) across the JIME (Joint Interagency Multinational Environment–Chuck).

From an acquisition perspective, doubling the size of both the OPC (from 25 to 50) and FRC (from approximately 50 to 100) programs equates to the projected cost of one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)-class aircraft carrier (approximately $13 billion). Furthermore, procuring an additional seven NSCs over the nine planned would cost the equivalent of one Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class guided-missile destroyer (approximately $4.2 billion). The NSC and OPC both offer more than three times the on-station time between provisioning than is afforded by a littoral combat ship (LCS).

Building more OPCs also could rapidly grow the National Fleet by leveraging commercial shipyards outside the mainstream industrial complex. These shipyards may be able to provide better value to the government during an economic downturn in the oil and offshore supply industry. Further leveraging this acquisition would continue to drive down the cost of the OPCs and provide an additional industrial base to build a 400-ship National Fleet of ships with far lower operating and maintenance costs than the LCS.

Redirecting proposed future LCS/frigate dollars (approximately $14 billion) to a Great White Fleet to modernize the U.S. National Fleet mix would provide a greater return on investment and more staying power abroad. For instance, building international security cutters—NSCs with Navy-typed/Navy-owned enhancements such as the SeaRAM antiship cruise missile—could offer combatant commanders a truly useful “frigate,” leveraging mature production lines that now operate at only 70 percent capacity. These estimates are for relative comparison and do not include the associated aviation, infrastructure, basing support agreements, and personnel plus-ups that are needed to provide a more credible and persistent presence across the JIME. But investing in a larger Coast Guard and the supporting infrastructure would return high dividends.

I’m not sure I agree, but it is worth considering. We should, however, keep in mind a sentiment expressed by friend Bill Wells that white paint is not bullet proof. We should not perpetuate the idea that only white painted ships can enforce laws, that is a uniquiely American concept and perpetuating it plays into the hands of the Chinese, who have more coast guard ships than any other country in the world.

Still I think there is merit to this concept. It seems to be working for PATFORSWA (Patrol Forces South West Asia). There has already been talk about a similar deployment to SE Asia. We might consider similar detachments of various sizes for West Africa, the Eastern Pacific, and the Marshall Islands.

The additional ships, 7 NSCs, and “doubling the size of both the OPC (from 25 to 50) and FRC (from approximately 50 to 100)” Is clearly arbitrary. There is very little the NSCs can do that the OPCs will not also be able to do cheaper, so I don’t see a need for more NSCs.

If we take on additional international roles it probably will not be done in one fell swoop. It will probably be done incrementally. Captain Ramassini is clearly looking at this as a near term possibility. Some movement in this direction is clearly possible, but it will take a radical change in the Administration, the Navy, and the Coast Guard for this to happen on the scale he envisions.

Meanwhile, if you look at the “Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Study,” the Coast Guard actually needs 9 NSCs, 57 OPCs, and 91 FRCs just to meet all of our statutory obligations. That is not far from his 16 NSCs, 50 OPCs, and 100 FRCs. The study and the “Great White Fleet” would both probide 66 large ships (NSCs and OPCs).

Actually the only way I see this happening is if there is a realization that keeping the USN constantly cycling through distant deployments may not be the best way to maintain readiness. That it wears out very expensive ships and drives people from the service, and that perhaps cutters can perform at least some of the presence missions.