“Chinese Assessment of New U.S. Naval Strategy” –USNI

The US Naval Institute news service provides a translation of a Chinese review of the Tri-Service Naval Strategy, “Advantage at Sea.”

It is, in my view, a surprisingly even handed evaluation. Not that it does not reflect the Chinese position, but it is at least fairly accurate.

One particular paragraph references the US Coast Guard.

Third, the U.S. will also introduce a new style of struggle, namely, it will bolster competition in the “gray zone.” That is, the U.S. will take greater action in the domains of social media; supply chains, especially defense industry chains; and space and cyber. A fairly obvious early indicator of this was that the USCG—which traditionally operates in the vicinity of the U.S. coast to defend the security of U.S. territory—has recently moved forward into the South China Sea region. It is preparing to conduct military operations in the South China Sea, with the aim of striking China’s maritime forces as well as bolstering joint law enforcement with regional states in the South China Sea, in order to respond to China’s South China Sea rights protection operations.

The idea of the USCG moving into the South China Sea “with the aim of striking China’s maritime forces” is a bit far fetched, but the rest is reasonably accurate and reflects the Strategy’s recognition of the Coast Guard as uniquely qualified to counter aggression in the “Gray Zone.”

“A Blue Arctic, a Strategic Blue Print for the Arctic” –Dept. of the Navy

This map show the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) within the Arctic: Canada (purple), Greenland (orange), Iceland (green), Norway (turquoise), Russia (light blue), and USA (dark blue). As sea ice reduces there will be more opportunity for ice to drift from one EEZ to another, which has implications for the potential spread of pollutants.
Credit: DeRepentigny et al., 2020

Naval News has a short interview/critique of the new, 28 page, Navy publication, New U.S. Strategic Blueprint for a Blue Arctic is No Revolution – Naval News

 “Are the options outlined under “Build a More Capable Arctic Naval Force” enough to close the gap in your opinion?

“Timothy Choi – In short, no. No options are actually outlined. The document only serves to remind the navy that yes, Arctic conditions should be kept in mind when building future naval forces, without any indication on what kind of forces will be necessary. This is part of the problem with the “blueprint” – the Arctic is discussed in such general terms that it becomes impossible to give specific directions when it comes to force structure requirements and composition. For instance, the Russian submarine threat in northern Europe requires a very different set of capabilities than helping the coast guard monitor the EEZ off Alaska. Even worse, the USCG is only mentioned briefly even though any Arctic naval force development around North America would have to be done in close coordination with the USCG’s icebreaking capabilities. If a “blueprint” is supposed to describe in minute details the components of a completed ship design, this document is a long way from that and is closer to an initial Request for Information.”

The Naval News post includes a link or you can go directly to the document here: ARCTIC BLUEPRINT 2021 FINAL.PDF (defense.gov)

DOD Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, 1 June 2019

Winkel Tripel projection, WGS84 datum, central meridian : 150°E. Source Wikipedia Commons, Author: Eric Gaba

The DOD has issued a 64 page unclassified Indo-Pacific Strategy Report

Below is the press release quoted in full. Sorry, I have not read it yet, so no commentary. The US Coast Guard and coast guard organizations are mentioned a number of time. 

The Department of Defense’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report was publicly released the morning of June 1, 2019, and can be accessed here, under “Publications” on Defense.gov.

The first Indo-Pacific Strategy Report released by the Department, the document is a comprehensive articulation of DoD’s role within a whole-of-government strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.  As an implementation document, the report provides clarity on the U.S. National Defense Strategy as it applies to the region and highlights the role of allies and partners in implementing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The report details the Department’s enduring commitment to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific.  The execution of this vision is articulated in the context of preparedness, partnerships, and the promotion of a networked region.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan delivered key messages from the report during his plenary remarks at the 18th Asia Security Summit: the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

U.S. Coast Guard releases new Arctic Strategic Outlook

The Arctic, note the US includes the Aleutians and the Bearing Sea as part of the Arctic

The following is a Coast Guard news release quoted in full. (the full 48 page document is here)

Release Date: April 22, 2019

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard, today released its newest strategy to address its expanding role in the Polar Regions.

As the Arctic region continues to open, and strategic competition drives more actors to look to the Arctic for economic and geopolitical advantages, the demand for Coast Guard leadership and presence will continue to grow.

As the Nation’s primary maritime presence in the Polar Regions, the Coast Guard advances national interests through a unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority, and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance. The Coast Guard will continue to work with our allies and partners on the mutual goal of ensuring a safe, secure, and cooperative Arctic, even as our aspiring near-peer competitors maneuver for strategic advantage in the area.

“The Arctic Strategic Outlook reaffirms the Coast Guard’s commitment to American leadership in the region through partnership, unity of effort, and continuous innovation.

We understand the significant investment required to secure the Arctic, and we appreciate and embrace the trust the American people have placed in the U.S. Coast Guard. We will remain vigilant in protecting our national interests in the Polar Regions,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Since the release of the Coast Guard Arctic Strategy in 2013, the resurgence of nation-state competition has coincided with dramatic changes in the physical environment of the Arctic, which has elevated the region’s prominence as a strategically competitive space. The United States is an Arctic Nation, and the U.S. Coast Guard has served as the lead federal agency for homeland security, safety, and environmental stewardship in the Arctic region for more than 150 years.

Click here to see the full strategic outlook.

Below is the ALCOAST on the same subject. 

R 221114 APR 19
UNCLAS //N16000//
ALCOAST 128/19
1. Today the Commandant announced the promulgation of the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategic
Outlook, which emphasizes the region’s integral role in U.S. National Security. Since the
release of the Coast Guard Arctic Strategy in 2013, the resurgence of nation-state competition
has coincided with dramatic changes in the physical environment of the Arctic, which has
elevated the region’s prominence as a strategically competitive space. In recognition of
the U.S. Coast Guard’s long history as America’s leader in the region, the strategic outlook
updates the Service’s vision to ensure safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime
activity with the following Lines of Effort:
   a. LOE 1 Enhance Capability to Operate Effectively in a Dynamic Arctic: The Service has
ample authorities and a robust network of strong and resilient partnerships, but there are
critical gaps in capability and capacity that must be filled in order to uphold American
sovereignty and deliver mission excellence.
   b. LOE 2 Strengthen the Rules-Based Order: The Coast Guard will lead institutions and
cooperate with partners to promote rule of law and prevent malign influence in the Arctic.
   c. LOE 3 Innovate and Adapt to Promote Resilience and Prosperity: The Service will
collaborate with partners and stakeholders to develop innovative ways to deliver
mission-critical services, including search and rescue, incident management, law enforcement,
and marine safety, to this remote region.
2. Each line of effort depends on Partnership, Unity of Effort, and a Culture of Innovation
to succeed.
3. The Coast Guard’s mission in the Arctic is enduring, but the strategic context has changed.
The Nation needs a modern, flexible, innovative service to meet the challenge of providing
holistic security in the novel and dynamic Arctic maritime domain. Since 1867, the Coast Guard
has played a major role in protecting our Nation’s interest in this region, and will continue
to do so as the Arctic changes, adapting and innovating to be Always Ready for the missions
today and of the future.
4. More information and copies of the strategy can be found at: www.uscg.mil/arctic/.
5. POCs: Shannon Jenkins at (202) 372-1564 or Shannon.R.Jenkins@uscg.mil.
6. VADM Daniel B. Abel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

Including the Coast Guard in Navy Planning

There is a lot going on in Navy Department planning now, prompted by the rise of a real near peer competitor in the form of the Chinese Navy. In fact the Chinese Navy is currently building ships faster than the US Navy. The trend line is not favorable so, its time to think.

Defining a Coast Guard role in a major naval conflict could have major impact on our shipbuilding, our equipment, and our budget.

Force Structure Assessment:

There will be a new “Force Structure Assessment.” It seems we already have an answer for the total number, since 355 some time in the future, has become a law, but this one is expected to better detail the types of ships needed.

The Coast Guard fleet is a significant portion of the “National Fleet” and it needs to be included in the calculus of what will be available and how it will be used.

Surface Forces, the Sea Control Mission:

The Commander Naval Surface Forces has published a new document, “Surface Force Strategy, Return to Sea Control.”

The strategy describes the return to sea control and implementation of Distributed Lethality as an operational and organizational principle for achieving and sustaining sea control at will.

Reading it over, you might notice it says nothing about the Coast Guard. Despite the admission of Cuttermen to the Surface Navy Association, we are still largely invisible to the Navy.

Don’t expect to see a war winning strategy here. This is really an administrative strategy in an attempt to find out what that strategy should be. It is laced with buzz words and power-pointese. It does nothing to tell us how we will find, fix, and kill the other guy before he finds, fixes, and kills us. Still there are some indications.

The big change is that the Navy’s surface forces are saying they will no longer circle the wagons around the carrier and play defense while the aviators provide all the offense. They have begun to see themselves as offensive players. There are even those that now suggest that the carriers should be protecting the surface forces rather than the other way around.

The strategy talks about being Forward, Visible, and Ready.

It talks about the concept of Distributed Lethality:

  • Increase the offensive lethality of each warship
  • Distribute offensive capability geographically
  • Give ships the right mix of resources to persist in a fight

Then they talk about “four Ts”

  • Tactics
  • Talent
  • Tools
  • Training

Hopefully there really is a strategy somewhere in the classified material spaces, but this administrative strategy mostly says we are going to do a lot of good things that we all recognize as good things, and we will do them better than we did in the past. It says nothing about what they will stop doing in order to make time to do these additional things.

What is clear, is that, if the Coast Guard is going to play in the Sea Control game, we are going to need to be part of the network, otherwise, at best we may just get in the way, at worst, we might be road kill in a blue on blue engagement.

Really I think we have a lot to contribute to “sea control.” The Navy has the resources to contend for the opportunity to have control of the seas, but they don’t actually have the platforms to exercise control of the sea. That requires not only excluding enemy combatants–always a hard thing, particularly when those combatants are submarines, but also checking merchant ships to make sure they are not carrying out tasks for the enemy. You also have to protect your own logistics, resupply, and merchant ships and frequently those of your allies. The Chinese have figured out that attacking our logistics is a useful strategy.

Sea Control is many faceted and I have seen few explanations that deal with all aspects. Like a blind man describing an elephant we authors tend to see only certain aspects or elements of the problem.

Cutters will be needed for escort logistics vessels, for open ocean rescue, and for boarding vessels to determine their nature and intent. These are not things you want DDG and cruisers doing.

Even dominant naval powers face the possibility of submarine or unconventional attacks and will want to shutdown the enemies covert as well as overt use of the sea.

Gray Zone Conflicts: 

The Chief of Naval Operations has said that the Navy needs to be able to compete and prevail in ‘Gray Zone” Conflicts.

But is not really just the Navy, the Coast Guard is part of the National Fleet and a potentially important element in any response violations of norms of international conduct, and it can do so without raising tensions to extent use of Navy assets frequently engender

Additional Reading:

If you are interested in an insight into some of the issues shaping the strategy debate, US Naval Institute has published a pair of fictional future history scenarios that highlight some of the issues.

The first, and probably most important of these, is “How We Lost the Great Pacific War.” Like the author, I question the wisdom of having single carrier task groups forward deployed, where they may serve more as bait than deterrent.

The second which takes a different view and looks primarily at the Marine’s role is “How We Won the Great Pacific War.”

CIMSEC just completed a series of eight post on “Bringing Back Sea Control Week.” that was mostly interesting, but still short of comprehensive.

If you really want to get into it, there is a reading list here.

To me the best source is still Julian Corbett’s “Some Principles of Maritime Strategy.” You have to rethink the distribution of roles in light of new technology, but that is itself a useful exercise.

Rep. Courtney: U.S. Needs Comprehensive National Maritime Strategy Soon–USNI

A sailor explains the layout and functionality of Ford’s flight deck to Rep. Joe Courtney in 2016. US Navy Photo

The US Naval Institute news service reports the comments of Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn) regarding the Nations lack of a comprehensive Maritime Strategy. He is apparently mostly talking about building more submarines in his home district.

There are a couple of points I think might be worth discussing that were brought up at the end of the post.

Asked if there were plans to build new icebreakers to compete with Russia and others who are moving into the Arctic, Courtney said the Seapower panel does not deal with the Transportation Department programs (emphasis applied–Chuck), which include the Coast Guard and its icebreakers. But he said they have encouraged the Navy to cooperate to help the Coast Guard get the icebreakers it needs.

However, he added, they just heard that in the 2019 appropriations bill, the Transportation Department “gets no money for icebreakers. Some of us will want to work on that.”

First, the fact that there is no money in the 2019 budget for icebreakers.

Second, that the Seapower Sub-Committee does not deal with Coast Guard programs, seems to be part of the problem. The Coast Guard has become an increasingly important part of American Sea power. The Coast Guard is the defacto low mix in American naval power’s high-low mix. We have virtually all the patrol boats. The Coast Guard now has about one eighth the number of personnel of the US Navy. It has more personnel than either the British or French Navies. That the Seapower subcommittee does not have the opportunity to consider relative low marginal cost add-ons that could significantly increase the military value of cutters (and perhaps aircraft) is a lost opportunity.

It seems the Navy does not want to look to the Coast Guard for any significant role in a major conflict, even though the need for additional ASW assets is abundantly clear. Maybe they think a stronger, more militarily competent Coast Guard would divert money from Navy programs. Maybe they are just deferring to the Coast Guard, “Well what do you want to do?” The Coast Guard does not seem to have much of a clue what they will do in the next major, war because their platforms are not equipped to do much in the way of military missions. Hopefully there is really more coordination and planning than is evident looking in from the outside, but given our history, I doubt it.

Note, we do have A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready,” but it is a strategy for maintaining the peace, not a strategy for maintaining Maritime dominance, which requires a healthy shipbuilding industry and merchant marine.

Having a healthy shipbuilding industry and a healthy merchant marine seem to be at odds. The merchant marine needs cheaper ships and cheaper crew costs, both likely to happen only if we allow some foreign shipbuilding and some foreign crewmen. A healthy shipbuilding industry seems to require buying ships made in America at costs above the going international rate. Some Western Countries seem to have cracked to code on how to have both high wages and healthy shipbuilding and merchant marines. Some of that is due to subsidies. I wish our leadership luck in coming up with a good maritime strategy. We did it once, during the run-up to WWII, and it may have saved the world from tyranny.  

(Sorry about the rant, is my frustration showing?)


Maritime Transportation in the Arctic: The U.S. Role–House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Above you will find a video of a hearing held on June 7, 2018 regarding “Transportation in the Arctic”. You will find the subcommittee web page here. It includes the video, the list of witnesses which I have reproduced below, and the Chairman’s opening remarks.

The video does not actually start until time 21:45.


  • Admiral Charles W. Ray, Vice Commandant United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Mr. David Kennedy, Senior Arctic Advisor, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, Center for Strategic and International Studies | Written Testimony
  • Dr. Lawson Brigham, Faculty and Distinguished Fellow, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Molly McCammon, Executive Director, Alaska Ocean Observing System | Written Testimony
  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Ret.), Professor of Practice, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University | Written Testimony


As you may see, the new Vice Commandant, Adm. Ray is the first witness. He completes his prepared remarks at time 32:30.

Incidentally one of the Witnesses Lawson Brigham (prepared testimony begins at time 44:00 to 48:25) is a retired Coast Guard captain with extensive polar icebreaker experience.

Questioning begins at time 1:00:00 with the “trick question” explored further by the Washington Examiner Magazine, “The Next ‘Cold’ War: America May Be Missing the Boat in the Arctic.”

There are few surprises here. There is almost no infrastructure in the Arctic. Apparently there is a slow effort to provide better domain awareness. Only about 5% of the American Arctic waters are charted to international standards.

The most significant thing to come out in the hearing was that there is no National or Naval strategy for the Arctic Ocean. (This might be because NORTHCOM, which is air and ground oriented, has responsibility for the Arctic Ocean area.) Congress has added a requirement for development of an Arctic Strategy in the FY2019 DOD budget, and they certainly expect the Coast Guard to have a large role in the strategy.

If you don’t listen to anything else, particularly listen to John Garamendi’s remarks 1:41:30 to 1:43:30.



The National Strategy

The Administration has published a new “National Security Strategy of the United States.” You can see it here. Much has been made of the fact that it identifies China and Russia as adversaries. Not surprisingly it also calls out Iran, North Korea, and Jihadist Terrorist, but also transnational criminal organizations. (No mention of domestic terrorists.)

China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence. At the same time, the dictatorships of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalize their own people. Transnational threat groups, from jihadist terrorists to transnational criminal organizations, are actively trying to harm Americans. While these challenges differ in nature and magnitude, they are fundamentally contests between those who value human dignity and freedom and those who oppress individuals and enforce uniformity.

I did an electronic search (control f) for “Coast Guard” and there was no mention. None of the other armed services were mentioned either. An electronic search for “homeland security” found the following: 

DISRUPT TERROR PLOTS: We will enhance intelligence sharing domestically and with foreign partners. We will give our frontline defenders— including homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals—the tools, authorities, and resources to stop terrorist acts before they take place.

COMBAT RADICALIZATION AND RECRUITMENT IN COMMUNITIES: The United States rejects bigotry and oppression and seeks a future built on our values as one American people. We will deny violent ideologies the space to take root by improving trust among law enforcement, the private sector, and American citizens. U.S. intelligence and homeland security experts will work with law enforcement and civic leaders on terrorism prevention and provide accurate and actionable information about radicalization in their communities.

A search for “maritime” found the following:

Adversaries target sources of American strength, including our democratic system and our economy. They steal and exploit our intellectual property and personal data, interfere in our political processes, target our aviation and maritime sectors, and hold our critical infrastructure at risk. All of these actions threaten the foundations of the American way of life. Reestablishing lawful control of our borders is a first step toward protecting the American homeland and strengthening American sovereignty.

Secure U.S. Borders and Territory…State and non-state actors place the safety of the American people and the Nation’s economic vitality at risk by exploiting vulnerabilities across the land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. Adversaries constantly evolve their methods to threaten the United States and our citizens. We must be agile and adaptable.

BOLSTER TRANSPORTATION SECURITY: We will improve information sharing across our government and with foreign partners to enhance the security of the pathways through which people and goods enter the country. We will invest in technology to counter emerging threats to our aviation, surface, and maritime transportation sectors. We will also work with international and industry partners to raise security standards.

Keep America Safe in the Cyber Era…America’s response to the challenges and opportunities of the cyber era will determine our future prosperity and security . For most of our history, the United States has been able to protect the homeland by controlling its land, air, space, and maritime domains. Today, cyberspace offers state and non-state actors the ability to wage campaigns against American political, economic, and security interests without ever physically crossing our borders. Cyberattacks offer adversaries lowcost and deniable opportunities to seriously damage or disrupt critical infrastructure, cripple American businesses, weaken our Federal networks, and attack the tools and devices that Americans use every day to communicate and conduct business.

Moreover, deterrence today is significantly more complex to achieve than during the Cold War. Adversaries studied the American way of war and began investing in capabilities that targeted our strengths and sought to exploit perceived weaknesses. The spread of accurate and inexpensive weapons and the use of cyber tools have allowed state and non-state competitors to harm the United States across various domains. Such capabilities contest what was until recently U.S. dominance across the land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. They also enable adversaries to attempt strategic attacks against the United States—without resorting to nuclear weapons—in ways that could cripple our economy and our ability to deploy our military forces. Deterrence must be extended across all of these domains and must address all possible strategic attacks.

RETAIN A FULL-SPECTRUM FORCE: The Joint Force must remain capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats to the United States. The Department of Defense must develop new operational concepts and capabilities to win without assured dominance in air, maritime, land, space, and cyberspace domains, including against those operating below the level of conventional military conflict. We must sustain our competence in irregular warfare, which requires planning for a longterm, rather than ad hoc, fight against terrorist networks and other irregular threats.

Priority Actions POLITICAL: Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. We will redouble our commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law. We will reinforce our commitment to freedom of the seas and the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes in accordance with international law. We will work with allies and partners to achieve complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and preserve the non-proliferation regime in Northeast Asia.

MILITARY AND SECURITY: We will maintain a forward military presence capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating any adversary. We will strengthen our long-standing military relationships and encourage the development of a strong defense network with our allies and partners. For example, we will cooperate on missile defense with Japan and South Korea to move toward an area defense capability . We remain ready to respond with overwhelming force to North Korean aggression and will improve options to compel denuclearization of the peninsula. We will improve law enforcement, defense, and intelligence cooperation with Southeast Asian partners to address the growing terrorist threat. We will maintain our strong ties with Taiwan in accordance with our “One China” policy, including our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide for Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs and deter coercion. We will expand our defense and security cooperation with India, a Major Defense Partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships throughout the region. We will re-energize our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand and strengthen our partnerships with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others to help them become cooperative maritime partners.

A search for Arctic found:

A range of international institutions establishes the rules for how states, businesses, and individuals interact with each other, across land and sea, the Arctic, outer space, and the digital realm. It is vital to U.S. prosperity and security that these institutions uphold the rules that help keep these common domains open and free. Free access to the seas remains a central principle of national security and economic prosperity, and exploration of sea and space provides opportunities for commercial gain and scientific breakthroughs. The flow of data and an open, interoperable Internet are inseparable from the success of the U.S. economy. and an open, interoperable Internet are inseparable from the success of the U.S. economy.

There was no mention of Antarctica, polar, or climate change.

Traffic and derivatives of it, e.g. trafficking or trafficers, are mentioned six times.

Cyber and its derivatives are mentioned 46 times.

Terror and its derivatives are mentioned 82 times.