“Not Your Mother’s Coast Guard: How the Service Can Come into Its Own Against 21st Century Threats”–Modern War Institute at West Point

MSRT anti-terrorism training

The Modern War Institute at West Point has an excellent exploration of what the new National Security Strategy could mean to the Coast Guard, written by Cdr. Kevin Duffy, USCG. It says everything I had hoped to say about this new direction and more.

“With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, however, the Coast Guard has been presented with an opportunity to maximize its value to a government that appears to be taking a different view on which activities and capabilities should be emphasized in the national security realm.

“…As the NSS indicates that such activities in support of its homeland and border security goals will receive “advanced technology [and] the employment of additional personnel,” smart adjustments by the Coast Guard could well bolster the case for force expansion and increased interagency support in order to continue and expand its efforts.

“…Under this same homeland umbrella, the NSS likewise stresses the importance of transportation security and domestic resilience—both areas in which the Coast Guard can embrace leadership roles.”

“…In terms of domestic resilience, the Coast Guard has expansive disaster response and incident command capabilities and responsibilities for maritime incidents, and would be a natural leader in working with industry and state and local partners to enhance capabilities in the NSS’s identified areas of risk management, planning, preparedness, and information sharing.

“… The fact that this NSS explicitly acknowledges the links between terrorist networks and criminal, drug, and “other irregular threats” should not go unnoticed: it gives the Coast Guard the opportunity to emphasize its unique capabilities, partnerships, and successes in this realm. References to threats and operations “below the level of conventional military conflict” or “below the threshold of military conflict” appear four times in this strategy. If that’s a niche that the government now wants to emphasize, the Coast Guard needs to be in the vanguard of associated efforts.

“…Specifically, the idea of a squadron of Coast Guard patrol boats dedicated to operations in Central America has been favored by Coast Guard leadership in recent years. Perhaps the initiatives that this NSS envisions as being necessary to disrupt criminal networks (and, by extension, illicit actors including terrorists) will provide the needed justification to make it a reality.

“…There has perhaps never been a better opportunity for the Coast Guard to assert itself in terms of its national security roles, whether in protecting the nation’s borders or operating in the cyber realm, in protecting maritime infrastructure or safeguarding the domestic energy sector, in leading the effort to make ports resilient or disrupting criminal and terrorist networks throughout the Western Hemisphere. With this in mind, the service should intelligently respond to the 2017 NSS by reforming and articulating the impact of current efforts and refocusing or innovating in areas that it did not previously emphasize. In this way, the Coast Guard can usher in an era of more robust and effective operations in the national security sphere, making the most of its unique nature in order to protect the country on a host of important fronts.

I have picked out on a small part of this post. Please take a look.

It seems, after a rocky start, the Coast Guard has gotten the President’s attention, and I don’t think he will listen blindly to GAO’s preconceptions of the Coast Guard’s place in the National Security apparatus. It truly may be time to take the Homeland Security missions seriously. 

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.
Europe

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.

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.