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.”

News Conference–San Diego, 25 Jan.

Following is a news release quoted in its entirety. 

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Media Advisory: U.S., Canadian officials to address emerging threat from drug traffickers (photos available)

united states coast guard

News Release

January 23, 2018

U.S. Coast Guard 11th District PA Detachment San Diego
Contact: Coast Guard PA Detachment San Diego
Office: (619) 278-7025
After Hours: (619) 252-1304
PA Detachment San Diego online newsroom

Media Advisory: U.S., Canadian officials to address emerging threat from drug traffickers (photos available) 

Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast boarding team members intercept a suspected Low Profile Vessel with approximately 3,203 pounds of cocaine onboard in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Nov. 30, 2017. LPVs are designed to be low profile and colored to blend in with the ocean, making them difficult for law enforcement to detect. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast boarding team members intercept a suspected Low Profile Vessel with approximately 3,203 pounds of cocaine onboard in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Nov. 30, 2017. Steadfast was patrolling the waterways supporting the Joint Interagency Task Force –South with the primary mission of detecting and interdicting illegal drug traffickers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

To view and download photos, please click the above thumbnails

WHAT: U.S. forces and international partners continue to see new smuggling tactics by transnational organized crime networks in the eastern Pacific Ocean including vessels specifically constructed for purposes of smuggling narcotics and other illicit contraband.

WHO: Senior officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Southern Command and the Canadian Armed Forces will be available to discuss the tactics of transnational crime networks and international efforts to combat the threat posed by these criminal organizations. These senior officials include:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, Pacific Area
  • Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Art McDonald, commander, Maritime Forces Pacific 
  • Mr. Adam Braverman, U.S. Attorney, Southern District California
  • U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Daniel B. Hendrickson, director, Network Engagement Team, U.S. Southern Command

WHEN: Jan. 25, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. Attending media is requested to arrive by 8:30 a.m. to gain access to the facility. Government-Issued ID and media credentials are required. To RSVP, please contact Public Affairs Detachment San Diego at 619-252-1304.

WHERE: B-Street Pier (Cruise Ship Terminal) in San Diego, 1140 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.

WHY: On the heels of a record year of drug interdiction, the U.S. Coast Guard and its international partners are seeing historic drug flow from cocaine producing countries in South America coupled with new tactics and varying smuggling routes. Gangs vying over drug smuggling routes and influence have led to epidemic murder rates in Central America. The Centers for Disease Control reported another rise in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. with more than 64,000 people reportedly killed by drug overdose in 2017. Of those, over 10,000 were killed by cocaine overdose, an approximately 35 percent rise from 2016.

HOW: Transnational organized crime networks smuggle more than 97 percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. and Canada via some kind of illicit maritime conveyance in the first stage of movement from the source zone. The drugs are smuggled in large quantities from source countries in South America to transshipment points in Central America and southern Mexico. The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for secondary and tertiary transits to smuggle across the U.S. Southern Border.

U.S. and international forces have seen the emergence of a variety smuggling vessels specially designed and constructed by transnational organized crime groups like self-propelled semisubmersibles and, more recently, low profile go fast vessels, which are a variant design from traditional go fast vessels. These smuggling vessels are designed to elude authorities using a low profile radar signature, camouflage and, in the case of low profile go fast vessels, speed. These vessels also carry massive quantities of illicit cargo. For example, an SPSS can carry up to 16,000 pounds of cocaine. A network of international and interagency partners constantly patrol the approximately six million square mile drug transit zone used by smugglers using aircraft and vessels.