U.S. Coast Guard: Priorities for the Future–CSIS/USNI

The video above records an recent event, a “Maritime Security dialogue” presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) featuring Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, for a discussion on the “U.S. Coast Guard’s future priorities.”

Despite the title, don’t expect a recitation of Coast Guard priorities. Most of the material is familiar, but there were a few interesting comments, including some that might be surprising. A number of things the Commandant said here made news.

  • That the NSCs could be made into frigates.
  • That the Polar Icebreaker would cost less than $1B
  • His support of transgender CG personnel.

I’ll give a quick outline of what was talked about. At the end I will rant a bit about some of my pet peeves.

The Commandant’s prepared statement is relatively short beginning at time 2m45s and ending about 11m.

6m00 In our listing of missions, the Commandant said Defense Operations should be listed first. He noted that there are 20 ships chopped to Combatant Commanders including eleven  ships operating under SOUTHCOM.

Q&A begins at 11:00.

16m20s The Commandant noted there is a Chinese ship rider on a USCG cutter off Japan and that Coast Guard aircraft are flying out of Japan.

17m30s Boarder protection/drug interdiction

20m Called the OPCs “light frigates”

22m As for priorities the Commandant noted a need to invest in ISR and Cyber

23m Cyber threat.

24m Expect return to sea duty because of length of training.

26m30s “Demise of the cutterman”/Human Capital Plan–fewer moves–removed the stigma of geographic stability

29m25s Highest percentage of retention of all services–40% of enlisted and 50% of officers will still be in the service after 20 years

30m Law of the Sea. Extended continental shelf in the Arctic.

32m30s Need for presence in the Arctic.

36m ISR, 38m15s Firescout. An interesting side note was that the Commandant seemed to quash any possibility of using the MQ-8 Firescout. He noted when they deployed on a cutter 20 people came with the system.  He called it unoccupied but not unmanned.

40m Icebreakers

43m30s Comments on transgender members

45m15s Icebreakers–will drive the price down below $1B.

47m NSC as frigate–no conversations with the Navy about this. Performance of Hamilton.

49m50s Count the NSCs toward the 355 ship Navy.

50m30s Illegal migration and virulent infectious disease

53m35s CG training teams in the Philippines and Vietnam to provide competency to operate platforms to be provided by Japan. Two patrol boats going to Costa Rica. Other efforts to build capacity.

56m DHS is the right place for the CG.

The Commandant touched on a couple of my pet peeves, specifically

  • He called the OPCs “Light Frigates,” so why aren’t they designated that way? WMSM and WMSL are just wrong in too many ways.  Give our ships a designation our partners and politicians can understand. A WLB is a cutter and also a buoy tender. The OPC can be both a cutter and a light frigate. I have suggested WPF. Maybe WFF for the Bertholfs and WFL for the Offshore Patrol Cutters. If we want to be thought of as a military service, we need to start using designations that will be seen and understood as military.
  • He mentioned the possibility of including the Bertholfs in the 355 ship fleet total. Coast Guard combatants should be included when the country counts its fleet. No, the cutters are not aircraft carriers or destroyers, but the current fleet of about 275 ships includes about 70 ships that have no weapons larger than a .50 cal. These include eleven MCM ships and about 60 ships manned by civilian crews such as tugs, high speed transports, salvage ships, underway replenishment ships, and surveillance ships. Counting the Cutters as part of the National Fleet would raise  our profile as a military service. The Navy might not like it, but it does give a better idea of our actually available assets for wartime, which is the point of such a listing.

 

 

Littoral Challenges Addressed at OPTECH South 2017–DefenseMediaNetwork

littoral optech south

DefenseMediaNetwork reports on a conference organized by the Naval War College conducted in Colombia,

“With the theme of “transnational threats and cooperation in the littorals,” the objective of OPTECH South has been to develop cooperative and technologically advanced ways impede kidnappings, drug running, and prevent other transnational threats and crimes in the Western Hemisphere that are affordable and sustainable.”

Sounds like something the Coast Guard would be interested in.

There were representatives from SOUTHCOM, OPNAV, ONR, NPS, CJCS, Canada, Brazil, Australia, UK, and Mexico. Noted that I saw no mention of the USCG and inquired if there was USCG representation. Had an e-mail discussion with one of the organizers of the conference, Stephan Benson, and he confirmed that there was no US Coast Guard representation at the conference.

I know we are short of money but found this curious.

They are now looking for USCG representation at OPTECH North.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Brookings Institute–A conversation with Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft

Another video, this one almost an hour.

President-Elect Picks Retired Marine General John Kelly to Head DHS

John Francis Kelly (born May 11, 1950) is a retired United States Marine Corps general and the former commander of United States Southern Command.

John Francis Kelly (born May 11, 1950, pictured here in 2012) is a retired United States Marine Corps general and the former commander of United States Southern Command.

The New York Times has reported that President-Elect Trump has chosen retired Marine General and former SOUTHCOM commander John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security.

General Kelly served as SOUTHCOM November 19, 2012 – January 16, 2016. That experience should make him extremely familiar with the Coast Guard. He has supported the Coast Guard in the past, and here.

As I understand it, he will need to have a waiver from the Senate to serve because he retired less than seven years ago, but it appears he will have broad bi-partisan support having received the endorsement of President Obama’s former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

White Hulls Must Prepare for Gray Zone Challenges–USNI

The US Naval Institute’s 2016 Coast Guard Essay Contest winner, “White Hulls Must Prepare for Gray Zone Challenges,” by LCdr.Craig Allen, Jr., USCG is worth the read.

Much of the focus is on the PATFORSWA and LCdr Allen seems to know where of he speaks.

“Lieutenant Commander Allen is a cutterman assigned to the Office of Defense Operations at Coast Guard Headquarters. He previously commanded the Sentinel-class cutter USCGC William Flores (WPC-1103) and the USCGC Baranof (WPB-1318), an Island-class cutter forward deployed to Manama, Bahrain. He also served as the executive officer of the USCGC Tornado (WPC-14), a Cyclone-class patrol craft. Commander Allen is a 2014 graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College.”

But as he points out. These “Gray Zones” are not limited to SW Asia. We see them in South East Asia, East Africa, West Africa, and even in Central and South America.

While the post concentrates on crew preparation, I think its appropriate to point out an observation by Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, that attacks like those on the USS Mason, where a non-state actor employed cruise missiles are likely to become more common.

Maybe adding a CIWS (preferably the SeaRAM) to the OPC might not be a bad idea.

“Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource”–Midrats

HMNZS Wellington intercepts suspected toothfish poachers

HMNZS Wellington intercepts suspected toothfish poachers

CIMSEC “Midrats” blog radio show has an online interview with a State Department employee I was lucky enough to meet earlier, Scott Cheney-Peters, LCDR, USNR about international fisheries issues. You can find it here. Nominally it is an hour, but it took me a little longer than that because download was not seamless.

The discussion also touches on international networking/cooperation/enforcement, maritime domain awareness, human traffic, drug enforcement, and the ship rider program.