Hearing: Coast Guard Requirements, Priorities, and Future Acquisition Plans (FY-2018)

 

May 18, the Commandant, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, addressed the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. The recorded testimony is above. It is fairly long (1h40m). The Commandant’s initial statement, following the introductions, begins at 8m40s and ends approximately minute 14.

The administration’s FY 2018 budget request was not available, but the Commandant was there to discuss future priorities, requirements, and programs. The Department Secretary, General Kelly, is expected to address the Subcommittee on May 24 at 3PM Eastern.

I will just mention a few of the items I thought significant.

Admiral Zukunft noted that Huntington Ingalls has begun cutting steel for NSC #9. Questioned about NSC#10, he said, if it were funded, the Coast Guard would of course use it, but that the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) is the Coast Guard’s #1 priority. His response, that another NSC would have an effect on long-range operating cost, seemed to suggest anticipated significantly lower operating costs for the OPC. Significantly, there has been no mention of reducing the OPC program by one ship to offset the addition of NSC #9. (There is already a strong push to build more NSCs, a bill to authorized a multi-year buy of three more.)

He contended that the Coast Guard has taken a harder hit, due to budget restrictions, than other armed services and would need 5% annual growth and at least $2B annually for Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I). Later he stated that this annual AC&I appropriation would included about $300M annually for shore facilities. He pointed to a need to restore 1100 Reserve Billets and add 5,000 active duty military billets while retaining current levels of Civilian staff.

Apparently the FY2918 budget will begin a program to replace 35 Inland tenders at an estimated cost of approximately $25M each ($875M total). (Even if, in the unlikely event, this program were funded in only five years, that would only average $175M/year, so it is not a big program, but one that should have begun at least a decade ago.)

Cyber security for ports was discussed. The Commandant sees the Coast Guard role as decimating best practices, rather than imposing regulation. We now have a cyber program of record–still very small, two CG Academy graduates going directly into the program. The fact that two billets is worth mentioning, is probably the best indication of how really small the program is. A much smaller pre-World War II Coast Guard probably had more people working on breaking German and Japanese codes. 

Marine Inspection was addressed. The Commandant noted the increased demand for Inspections because 6,000 tugs have been added to inspection program. He noted a need for more stringent oversight of 3rd party inspectors, who in some cases have not been as meticulous as they should have been. He also noted that the US flag merchant fleet, notably the MSC’s Afloat Prepositioning Fleet, will need replacement, which will also raise demand for marine inspectors.

The Commandant also voiced his support for the Jones Act. He noted, we only have three shipyards building Jones Act ships in the US, and their loss would be short-sighted.

There was much discussion about the Arctic and the Icebreaker Fleet. Looks like follow-on funding for icebreaker program (at least after the first) will have to come from CG AC&I rather than the Navy budget. This may be difficult, but it is the way it should be. The chair of committee expressed his reservations about attempting to fund such big-ticket items through the DHS budget. The Commandant stated that the Coast Guard is still considering the acquisition of the commercial Icebreaker Aiviq (but apparently they are doing it very slowly–the chairman of the committee seemed a bit irritated about this).

The committee members seemed to latch onto the idea that the USCG, rather than the Navy, would be responsible for enforcing US sovereignty in the Arctic (which by US definition includes the Aleutians), and seemed to be asking if the Coast Guard was prepared to fight the Russians and/or Chinese in the Arctic. The Commandant suggested instead, that our role was to provide presence in the pre-conflict phase in order assert US sovereignty. He acknowledged that the National Security Cutters are only armed defensively and are not suitable for conventional naval warfare against an enemy combatant.

The Commandant acknowledged that, at some point it may be desirable to arm Polar Icebreakers, meaning they should be built with space, weight, and power reservations for additional weapons.

(I am all for keeping open the option of arming our icebreakers, so that they can defend themselves and do their part, if there is a conflict in a polar region, but there did not seem to be recognition among the Congression Representatives, that an Arctic conflict is most likely to be determined by submarines and aircraft. The icebreakers’ role is likely to be primarily logistical.)

The Commandant apparently does expect that there may be disagreements with regard to the extent of the US authority over certain areas of the Arctic.

In discussing the need for land based Unmanned Air Systems, there was a curious note at minute 40 about go-fast boats going south. Where are they going?

Alien Migrant Interdiction (AMIO). We have gone for seven weeks without a single Cuban Migrant being interdicted. This is because of the end of Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy. This has allowed reallocation of resources to drug interdiction South of Cuba and human trafficking from the Bahamas

A Congressional Representative, from Texas pointed out there is no CG presence on the Rio Grande River, in spite of it being an international waterway. There was no mention of it, but perhaps he was thinking of the Falcon Lake incident in 2010 when an American was allegedly shot in the head by Mexican drug runners. Maybe something we should reconsider.

The Commandant promised the CG would have an unfunded priority list for FY2018.

Will There be Surplus MQ-1 Predators?

Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flies on a simulated Navy aerial reconnaissance flight near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) off the coast of southern California on Dec. 5, 1995. The Predator provides near, real-time infrared and color video to intelligence analysts and controllers on the ground and the ship. This is the Predator's first maritime mission with a carrier battle group. The UAV was launched from San Nicholas Island off the coast of southern California. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey S. Viano, U.S. Navy.

Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flies on a simulated Navy aerial reconnaissance flight near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) off the coast of southern California on Dec. 5, 1995. The Predator provides near, real-time infrared and color video to intelligence analysts and controllers on the ground and the ship. This is the Predator’s first maritime mission with a carrier battle group. The UAV was launched from San Nicholas Island off the coast of southern California. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey S. Viano, U.S. Navy.

DefenseNews appears to be telling us that the AirForce is replacing the MQ-1 Predator with the more capable MQ-9 Reaper.

Does that mean there will be surplus MQ-1s?

We have a need for shore based Unmanned Aircraft to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness. Perhaps surplus Air Force Predators could be an interim step.

My Unfunded Priority List

An earlier post reported a plea by Representative Duncan Hunter, Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, for the Coast Guard to provide an unfunded priority list to include six icebreakers and unmanned Air System.

Thought perhaps I would list my own “unfunded priorities.” These are not in any particular order.

PLATFORM SHORTFALLS

Icebreakers: We have a documented requirement for three heavy and three medium icebreakers, certainly they should be on the list. Additionally they should be designed with the ability to be upgraded to wartime role. Specifically they should have provision for adding defensive systems similar to those on the LPD–a pair of SeaRAM and a pair of gun systems, either Mk46 mounts or Mk38 mod 2/3s. We might want the guns permanently installed on at least on the medium icebreakers for the law enforcement mission. Additionally they should have provision for supporting containerized mission modules like those developed for the LCS and lab/storage space identified that might be converted to magazine space to support armed helicopters.

110225-N-RC734-011 PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

110225-N-RC734-011
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS): We seem to be making progress on deploying UAS for the Bertholf class NSCs which will logically be extended to the Offshore Patrol Cutters. So far we see very little progress on land based UAS. This may be because use of the Navy’s BAMS system is anticipated. At any rate, we will need a land based UAS or access to the information from one to provide Maritime Domain Awareness. We also need to start looking at putting UAS on the Webber class. They should be capable of handling ScanEagle sized UAS.

File:USCGC Bluebell - 2015 Rose Festival Portland, OR.jpg

Photo: The Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell sits moored along the Willamette River waterfront in Portland, Ore., June 4, 2015. The Bluebell, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, is one of many ships participating in the 100th year of the Portland Rose Festival. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.)

Recapitalize the Inland Tender Fleet: This is long overdue. The program was supposed to begin in 2009, but so far, no tangible results. It seems to have been hanging fire for way too long.

Expand the Program of Record to the FMA-1 level: The Fleet Mix Study identified additional assets required to meet the Coast Guard’s statutory obligations identifying four asset levels above those planned in the program of record. Lets move at least to first increment.

Alternative Fleet Mix Asset Quantities

————–POR       FMA-1      FMA-2      FMA-3       FMA-4
NSC                8             9                 9                 9                  9
OPC              25           32               43                50               57
FRC              58           63               75                80               91
HC-130         22            32               35                44               44
HC-144A       36            37               38                40               65
H-60              42            80               86                99             106
H-65             102         140             159              188            223
UAS-LB           4            19                21                21              22
UAS-CB        42            15                19               19               19

At the very least, looks like we need to add some medium range search aircraft (C-27J or HC-144).

Increase Endurance of Webber Class Cutters: The Webber class could be more useful if the endurance were extended beyond five days (currently the same as the 87 cutters, which have only one-third the range). We needed to look into changes that would allow an endurance of ten days to two weeks. They already have the fuel for it.

MISSION EQUIPMENT SHORTFALLS

Seagull_torpedo_trial_1

Ship Stopper (Light Weight Homing Torpedo): Develop a system to forcibly stop even the largest merchant ships by disabling their propulsion, that can be mounted on our patrol boats. A torpedo seems the most likely solution. Without such a system, there is a huge hole in our Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission.

121211-N-HW977-692

Photo: SeaGriffin Launcher

Counter to Small High Speed Craft (Small Guided Weapon): Identify and fit weapons to WPB and larger vessels that are capable of reliably stopping or destroying small fast boats that may be used as fast inshore attack craft and suicide or remote-controlled unmanned explosive motor boats. These weapons must also limit the possibility of collateral damage. Small missiles like SeaGriffin or Hellfire appear likely solutions.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

Improved Gun–Penetration, Range, and Accuracy: The .50 cal. and 25mm guns we have on our WPBs and WPCs have serious limitations in their ability to reach their targets from outside the range of weapons terrorist adversaries might improvise for use against the cutters. They have limited ability to reach the vitals of medium to large merchant vessels, and their accuracy increases the possibility of collateral damage and decreases their probability of success. 30, 35, and 40 mm replacements for the 25 mm in our Mk38 mod2 mounts are readily available.

Laser Designator: Provide each station, WPB, and WPC with a hand-held laser designator to allow them to designate targets for our DOD partners.

CONTINGENCY PLANNING SHORTFALLS

Vessel Wartime Upgrades: Develop plans for a range of options to upgrade Coast Guard assets for an extended conflict against a near peer.

 

Malaysia Builds 6 WPC w/sUAS, 3 Cutter X, and Gets 2 JCG cutters

Malaysia‘s counterpart of the USCG, the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), or APMM in Malay, was formed in 2005 and has approximately 7,000 members.

Malaysia has an EEZ of 334,671 sq km, or about 3% of that of the US. In addition they have a substantial continental shelf of about the same size. The country itself is in two main parts, one on the Malay Peninsula and one part on the island of Barneo. It borders the busiest waterway in the world, the Straits of Malacca.

They have recently begun to replace the vessels incorporated in the service when the agency was formed.

The first new class is the “New Generation Patrol Craft.”

Malaysia's New Generation Patrol Craft.

Malaysia’s New Generation Patrol Craft (NGPC)

It is in many ways similar to the Webber class in size and function. It is a FASSMER design. It is a little smaller (44.5 meters or 146 feet) and a little slower at 24 knots, but it is a bit better armed, having a 30mm gun and it has one trick we do not. It will have a small Unmanned Air System and associated launch and recovery system.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has selected to the Fulmar UAV to equip their NGPC. The Fulmar is similar in most respects to the ScanEagle.

Aerovision Fulmar UAV, 5 May 2008, by Txema1

Aerovision Fulmar UAV, 5 May 2008, by Txema1

MalaysianDefence reports they expect to build three Offshore Patrol Vessels, at least 80 meters in length.  The RM740 Million reported allocated equates to about $167M each .

Reportedly the new OPVs will be a version of the Damen 1800 (ton) design (similar to those being built for South Africa, but with a conventional bow) 83 meters (272 feet) in length and 22 knots from 4×2350 kW diesels providing 12,600 HP.

Damen 1800 OPV, from the rear.

Damen OPV 1800 Concept Illustration

As part of their effort to build capacity among their neighbors, the Japanese are transfering two Japan Coast Guard cutters to the MMEA. The first of these, Erimo (PL-02) is, by USCG standards, still young, having entered service in 1991. She is 91.4 meters in length over all, 2,006 tons full load and capable of 20 knots with a crew of 38. The second ship wll be of the same class.

Japan CG Cutter Erimo (PL-02)

Japan CG Cutter Erimo (PL-02)

References:

 

Navy Bases MQ-4C in Mayport–LE Role?


NavyRecognition reports that high flying, fast, long endurance Triton MQ-4C Navy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data collection drones are being based at Mayport, FL.

Detachments will rotate to distant theaters, but they will of course fly missions out of Mayport if only to maintain proficiency. Hopefully we will see these used to support Coast Guard interdiction missions.

Changes Ahead, Acquisition, Organization? and Again, Where is the Damn Unfunded Priority List?

Two new posts regarding the Coast Guard’s future, both from Defense News.

The first, “Commentary: US Coast Guard deserves military level funding,” by Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) is a plea for better funding of the Coast Guard. Its significance is less what it says, than who is saying it.

The second, “US Coast Guard urged to step up requirements,” by Christopher P. Cavas, quotes Representative Hunter and his chief of staff, Joe Kasper. It primarily encourages the Coast Guard to provide a comprehensive unfunded priority list, primarily with regard to icebreakers, Unmanned Air Systems, and, some what obliquely, the inland tender fleet, but it goes further, indicating Hunter will attempt to have the Coast Guard moved into the DOD and have our larger cutters better armed.

So who is Representative Hunter?  He is the son of long serving representative Duncan L. Hunter. He serves on the Armed Services, Education and the Workforce and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, and most importantly for us, he chairs the Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. He is a Marine Reserve Major. The day after the September 11 attacks, Hunter quit his job and joined the Corps. He served two tours in Iraq as an artillary officer and was recalled to duty for a tour in Afghanistan.

Perhaps significantly he and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) were the first members of Congress to endorse Trump.

I first became aware of him watching the video you can see here, “Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Hearing on Coast Guard Arctic Implementation Capabilities 7/12/16.” I should have been paying more attention earlier when I included another video of a subcommittee hearing here, “Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation: Examining Cutter, Aircraft, and Communications Needs.”

If you look, particularly at the first video from 2016, you will see his frustration with the Coast Guard leadership. This call for an “expansive” unfunded priority list seems to be an effort to teach the Coast Guard leadership how to “play the game.”

“We’re trying to instill some courage in the Coast Guard,” he added. “They’re taking on a bigger role, doing more things. We’re talking about the Arctic, about inland waterways. Until you ask for it, it is going to be increasingly difficult for us on the Hill to sound the need. There is no confusion around the Navy’s fleet size, there’s good awareness on where the Navy needs to be. The Navy knows how to play this game, to advocate for its needs.  Until you start getting out in front and making the case for where you need to be and not worrying about the effect on your budget, you’re never going to get what you need.”

I have expressed my own inability to understand why the Coast Guard will not provide an unfunded priorities list even when it is requested by Congress. Here in 2013, and again in 2014.

Hopefully we will see one this year.

Thanks to Luke for bringing these to my attention.

 

“Congress Must Re-Set Department of Homeland Security Priorities: American Lives Depend on It”–Heritage Foundation

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

The influencial Conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, has issued a report on the Department of Homeland Security that will likely strongly influence the incoming administration and Congress.

It does not call for any radical increase in the Coast Guard budget for FY2017 ($10.85B). In fact it calls of less funding than was enacted in 2016 ($11.112B), but more than the current administration has requested ($10.322B).

It does support the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and Polar Icebreaker (PIB) programs and continued procurement of six Webber class (FRC) rather than the four currently requested.

For the future, it appears they support a more stable AC&I budget of at least $1.5B. To me it appears likely the AC&I budget will go higher as both the OPC and PIB enter the construction phase, and they spoke against imposition of a defacto ceiling.

The most significant new direction, seemed to be strong support for Unmanned Air Systems.

Unmanned Aerial Systems. The Coast Guard would also benefit greatly from procuring UASs to support NSC operations. According to the GAO, “Coast Guard officials acknowledged that the lack of [cutter-based] unmanned aircraft would create a gap between the NSC’s actual and planned capabilities.” Dr. William Posage, program manager for the Coast Guard Research and Development Center, explained that the lack of cutter-based UAS technologies “left the NSC with an enormous surveillance gap in her ability to perform her mission.” Notably, the operational effectiveness of the NSC without a UAS component would “be comparable to that of the 378-foot Hamilton class high-endurance cutter,” the very program it was designed to replace with capability enhancements.

The Coast Guard has successfully tested the FireScout and ScanEagle UAS platforms, both of which would significantly amplify the NSC’s surveillance, detection, classification, and prosecution capabilities. Widely used for similar naval operations, they have successfully contributed to a handful of at-sea Coast Guard demonstrations. According to an assessment by the Coast Guard Office of Aviation Forces, the presence of two vertical take-off FireScout UASs aboard an NSC would enable the cutter to cover three times the presence radius of an NSC without them. Similarly, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee report, “[t]he Coast Guard has reported…that its long standing plan to add vertical take-off unmanned aircraft systems to the National Security Cutters would result in an estimated 95- to 225-percent increase in surveillance coverage within an 800 nautical mile radius of the cutter and an estimated 95-percent increase in the number of prosecutions achieved by the cutter.”

The Coast Guard’s FY 2017 budget justification states that funding for the NSC program will in part “establish sUAS [small UAS] capability aboard one NSC, to include engineering analysis, non-recurring engineering, procurement and installation of sUAS components, and system testing and certification.” Admiral Zukunft testified before the House Transportation Committee in March 2016 that this activity would involve a “down select” for a sUAS capability “that will go on board” the NSC. The NSC will amplify its aerial ISR capabilities dramatically with the longer-term integration of sUAS, while the sea service should continue to evaluate the vertical unmanned aerial vehicle (VUAV) platform.

This seems to indicate a two pronged approach, first a small UAS (Scan Eagle or something similar) in the near future and a continued interest in evaluating a vertical takeoff unmanned system like Firescout or potentially DARPA’s TERN.

All the UAS discussion centers on the National Security Cutters. There is no discussion of the possibility of using UAS on any other classes.