Stratton Goes To 7th Fleet, Waesche Goes South, All Four Alameda NSCs Underway

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton passes underneath San Francisco’s Bay Bridge as Stratton and the crew depart on a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, June 12, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Stratton and crew are scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations in the Western Pacific and to patrol and operate as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

The following is a PACAREA press release 

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Coast Guard Cutters Stratton and Waesche set sail Wednesday for months-long deployments to opposite ends of the Pacific. With their departure, all four of the national security cutters homeported in Alameda are currently on patrol.

The crew aboard the Waesche departed for a months-long deployment to the Eastern Pacific Ocean to conduct counterdrug operations. Earlier this year, Waesche returned to Alameda following a 95-day counterdrug patrol where the crew had two at-sea interdictions, seizing more than 6,300 pounds of cocaine.

Stratton deployed to the Western Pacific Ocean where the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf has been since departing the Bay Area in January. Stratton will operate in support of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the Western Pacific.

Operating under the tactical control of U.S. 7th Fleet, Stratton is scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations and to patrol and operate as directed.

“The Coast Guard’s deployment of resources to the Indo-Pacific directly supports the United States’ goal to strengthen maritime governance, safety, and security across the region, and we do that by working with, and learning from, our many partners and partner nations in the region,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, who oversees the cutter.

“The United States is a Pacific nation, and the Coast Guard has been operating in the pacific for over 150 years. We have developed long-standing partnerships with nations in the region, and we share a strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific governed by a rules-based international system that promotes peace, security, prosperity, and the sovereignty of all nations.”

As both a federal law enforcement agency and an armed force, the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to conduct defense operations in support of combatant commanders on all seven continents. The service routinely provides forces in joint military operations worldwide, including the deployment of cutters, boats, aircraft and deployable specialized forces.

“We are a military service, we are also a law enforcement organization, a regulatory agency, a first response agency, and a member of the intelligence community,” said Fagan. “We are at all times a military force and at all times a law enforcement force. This duality of our authorities provides an incredible degree of flexibility and access and authority. The Coast Guard’s distinct authorities and missions means that we provide a mix of expertise and capabilities that no other U.S. agency can.”

Coast Guard Island in Alameda is the homeport to four Coast Guard legend class national security cutters. NSCs are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170. These multi-mission cutters and crew are capable of operating from the Bering Sea to the Eastern Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea.

National security cutters feature advanced command and control capabilities, aviation support facilities, stern cutter boat launch and increased endurance for long-range patrols enabling the crews to disrupt threats to national security further offshore.

The Coast Guard is scheduled to commission its seventh and eighth national security cutters, the Coast Guard Cutters Kimball and Midgett, in August. Both cutters will be homeported in Honolulu and enhance the Coast Guard’s presence throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

“The U.S. Navy-Coast Guard Partnership Is Heading For Trouble: Here’s How To Fix It” –Forbes

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BAHRAIN (Dec. 19, 2014) Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26, Det. 1, conducts a vertical onboard delivery with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui (WPB 1304). HSC-26 is a forward deployed naval force asset attached to Commander, Task Force 53 to provide combat logistics and search and rescue capability throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joan E. Jennings/Released)

Forbes points to growing strain in the Navy/Coast Guard relationship as defense focus shifts from counter terrorism to near peer conflict.

The author, Craig Hooper, points to limits on reimbursement of Coast Guard costs in support of DOD, limited Navy support for drug interdiction and law enforcement efforts, a push for more Coast Guard assets in the Western Pacific, a need to recapitalize the Coast Guard Yard as a national asset, and possible deployment of Navy personnel and assets, particularly rotary wing, to aid in the execution of missions.

“Reorienting the Coast Guard to address “new” state-based threats is a complex problem that will require patient investment and a lot of  preparatory work to be successful. The Coast Guard is part of America’s large National Fleet, and the tighter integration of Coast Guard forces—along with the U.S. Merchant Marine, NOAA’s research fleet and other Federal maritime assets—into the U.S. national security mission space merits thoughtful consideration…”

The topic raises a number of issues.

The Coast Guard is simply underfunded. If the Coast Guard’s defense related missions were properly recognized and funded as part of our very day missions, no reimbursement would be necessary. Certainly fisheries patrols in the US Western Pacific EEZ are a real everyday Coast Guard mission.

As cutters go increasingly into harms way, maybe they need to be better equipped for the possibility of combat.

Mobilization planning really should address how Navy Reserve Personnel and equipment, notably ASW helicopters, LCS mission modules, and ASW, EW, and Weapons operators and support personnel, could augment cutters and bring them up to a wartime compliment.