Homeports, 2035

 An email discussion with a reader got me to thinking about how our cutters might be homeported in the future. It started with a simple question, where would NSC #11 be homeported? Turns out it is not a simple question because first we do not yet know where nine and ten will go, but it also kicked off a lot of thought about how changes of fleet capabilities, mission, and maintenance philosophy will effect the future lay down of assets.
 This is not going to be a definitive document, but rather an exploration of considerations and possibilities.
Why 2035? If the shipbuilding plans proceed as expected, we will not see the last Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) delivered until 2034.
Fleet Capabilities:
To provide I baseline, I will look back on the fleet of WHECs, WMECs and Island class WPBs as it existed before the new generation started arriving and before we lost eight Island class to the 123 foot conversion disaster and six more to a continuing commitment to South West Asia. My reference is a 2000-2001 issue of “Combat Fleets of the World” which includes a notation of cutter homeports.
In 2035 we can expect to have 35 large patrol cutters, 36 if we get NSC#11. The fleet in 2000 had 44. The new ships are certainly far more capable, but quantity has a quality all its own. Fortunately we have another way to make up for numbers.
The FRCs are much more capable than the 110s and approach the capabilities of the 210 foot WMECs. Additionally they will be more numerous than the 110s they are replacing. Only 49 Island class 110 foot WPBs were built, but the program of record includes 58 Webber class WPCs. The Webber class should be able to do many of the fisheries enforcement missions currently done by 210s. They have the same ship’s boat as the larger cutters and they are as seaworthy as most of the fishing vessels. The Webber class are expected to be underway for 2500 hours per year compared to 1500 hours for the Island class. The Webber class are not just “fast response cutter,” which was what the Island class were, they are at least part time, patrol assets.
If we compare what we had in 2000, 49 Island class available 1500 hours/year for 73,500 hours, with what we are projected to have, 58 Webber class available 2500 hours/year for 145,000 hours, that is an increase of 71,500 hours. If we assume optimistically that a dedicated patrol ship is available 24 hours a day for 185 days/year, that is 4,440 hours/day so the additional 71,500 hours is the equivalent of 16.1 patrol cutters. If we give due consideration to when and where they can be used and provide land based air support, this more than makes up for the lower number of larger cutters.
The Offshore Patrol Cutters will be far more seaworthy than the WMECs. In fact they will be at least equal to, and probably superior to the 378 foot WHECs, in terms of seakeeping. Their cruising speeds will higher than that of the 378s and their effective range of operations will be similar. Unlike the 270 and 210 foot WMECs they will be usable for Alaska Patrol.
Mission Changes: 
I don’t expect any of our current missions to go away, but there will inevitably be a change of emphasis.
The Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort will likely continue, but the drug of choice may be changing from cocaine to synthetic opioids which enter the US by other routes. The Navy will also likely join the Coast Guard in Eastern Pacific drug interdiction, which may reduce the need for cutters.
The island nations of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia will be under stress as a result of sea level rise and the effects of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. The Coast Guard is likely to be called upon to assist them.
There will be a need to assist other coast guards and coast guard like organizations, particularly in Africa and South East Asia where they have problems with piracy, drug and human trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the Coast Guard will be increasingly asked to provide capacity building assistance.
Maintenance Philosophy:
The Coast Guard seems to have embraced the idea that there are benefits to basing ships in clusters. Clusters of at least three almost guarantees that there will be at least one vessel in port to benefit from the support facilities there. I think we may see many of  those ports that are currently expected to host two Webber class get a third when more become available. I don’t think we will see many, or perhaps any ports, with only one Bertholf, OPC, or Webber class homeported there.
In the Past:
In 2000 ships were split between the Atlantic and Pacific in ways that reflected fundamental differences in the two theaters. Looking at the WHECs, WMECs, and 110 foot WPBs as surrogates for the NSCs, OPCs’ and FRCs; LANTAREA had 63 vessels (two WHECs, 26 WMECs, and 35 WPB110s), PACAREA had 30 vessels (ten WHECs, six WMECs, and 14 WPB110s). Those 93 vessels were distributed among 38 ports, 15 in PACAREA and 23 in LANTAREA.
The Ports: 
In an earlier post, “Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell,” I identified 30 critical ports or port complexes that are likely targets for those hostile to the US (23 in LANTAREA and seven in PACAREA), including 23 military outload ports (17 in LANTAREA and six in PACAREA). Only five of these ports have a significant Navy surface ship presence. It makes sense for us to homeport vessels, particularly the Webber class, in, near, or on the approaches to those ports where there is no Navy surface ship presence. Fortunately some of these ports are in close proximity to each other. This list of ports is repeated below. I have indicated where current planning indicates NSCs and FRCs are or will be homported in bold. This accounts for eight NSCs and 43 FRCs. 
LANTAREA

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #2 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ), Strategic Seaport (Elizabeth)

CCGD5–four FRCs

  • Delaware Bay–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia) –two FRCs at Cape May
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, #14 port by tonnage, #7 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#9 port by tonnage, #10 container port, #12 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport (Norfolk and Newport News)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport –two FRCs at near by Atlantic Beach
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport (Sunny Point and Wilmington, NC)

CCGD7–Two NSCs, 18 FRCs (six in Key West in addition to those indicated below)

  • Charleston, SC–#9 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport –two NSCs
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#13 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#11 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port–six FRCs
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port–six FRCs
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port

CCGD8–Five FRC

  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #12 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder –two FRCs replacing Decisive.
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–#14 container port,#10 Cruise Ship port (NOLA), #1 port by tonnage (South Louisiana), #6 port by tonnage (NOLA), #8 port by tonnage (Baton Rouge), #10 port by tonnage (Port of Plaquemines)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#11 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by –tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)–Three FRC going to Galveston when Dauntless departs.
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

PACAREA

CCGD11–Four NSCs, two (assumption) FRCs

  • San Diego–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme) –FRC(s)at San Pedro
  • San Francisco Bay complex–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord) –Four NSCs

CCGD13–Two FRCs planned for Astoria, OR

  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)

CCGD14–Two NSCs, Six FRCs, Two in Honolulu, + Four planned

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor–Major Naval base, including submarines–Two NSC, Two there now, Two FRCs + a third planned
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport–Three FRCs planned

CCGD17–Six FRCs, Two in Ketchikan, + Four more planned

  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

Next we will talk about where the remaining NSCs and FRCs, and where all the OPCs might be going.

Bertholf Class National Security Cutters:

In 2000 the twelve 378s were distributed ten to the Pacific and two to the Atlantic. Homeports in 2000 were Charleston (2), Seattle (2), Alameda (4), and Honolulu (2). The program of record was for eight National Security Cutters, but ten have been funded and it appears there may be an eleventh. Homeports for the first eight include four in Alameda, CA, two in Charleston, SC, and two in Honolulu, HI. I don’t expect that there will be any other homeports assigned. It is likely that numbers nine and ten will go to Honolulu and Charleston, bringing them to three each. This will give LANTAREA more every long range assets both to support drug interdiction and capacity building in West Africa. 

Number eleven will probably go to the Pacific. Alameda could probably accept it, but I suspect a growing recognition of responsibilities in the Western Pacific will mean, if procured, it will go to Honolulu, if not initially, at least by 2035. . 

Offshore Patrol Cutters:

I don’t think OPCs will go to the same ports as the NSCs. Based on where other WHECs or multiple WMECs were based (and an unused naval base at Corpus Christi), likely homeports for OPCs include:

  • Boston, MA
  • Portsmouth, VA
  • Key West, FL
  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Kodiak, AK

If we assume at least three ships in each, that accounts for 21. What of the remaining four? They could be added to the ports above or perhaps added to other ports.

I think a case can be made for putting a higher percentage of the large cutters in PACAREA. After all, less than 16.2% of the US Exclusive Economic Zone is in LANTAREA’s area of operation. 

Currently there are only four medium endurance cutters in the Pacific and 24 in the Atlantic. There are only 25 OPCs in the program of record. Obviously this will not be a one for one replacement 

In the year 2000 PACAREA had 16 large patrol cutters (10 WHECs and six WMECs), currently they have 13 (five NSCs, four WHECs, and four WMECs). Considering the apparent growing responsibilities of PACAREA, the projected maximum of no more eight NSCs, and the ability of the Webber class to assume some of the fisheries protection duties of the WMECs in the Atlantic, it is likely PACAREA WMECs will be replaced with OPCs on a better than one to one basis that would have left PACAREA with only 12 large patrol ships. I suspect PACAREA will be assigned at least six OPCs, and that it should have at least nine (17 of the total of 36 large ships (8 NSCs and 9 OPCs), if we get 11 NSCs homeported as above).

It is extremely likely at least two OPC will go to Kodiak to replace 378 foot WHEC Douglas Munro and 283 foot WMEC Alex Haley. It seems likely that this could ultimately grow to three OPCs. Locating them close to ALPAT areas.

San Diego was homeport to two 378s. It is closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones than other Pacific ports, and it has both excellent training facilities and shipyards.

Seattle seemed a likely location for OPCs but since it is the likely homeport for three new Heavy Polar Icebreakers as well as USCGC Healy (and/or other medium icebreakers) it appears they may not have the room.

Assuming three OPCs in Kodiak and three in San Diego, if additional OPCs go to the Pacific where would they go? Additional ships in San Diego or nearby Terminal Island in San Pedro (Long Beach) appear likely.

This leaves 16 to 19 OPCs to be assigned to LANTAREA. Three each in Boston, MA, Portsmouth, VA, Key West, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX would account for 15, leaving only one to four to find a home. One more port, perhaps Miami, or just add ships to the ports above. Certainly there is space in Portsmouth and Little Creek, VA.

I will assume six in San Diego and/or San Pedro (Long Beach), four in Portsmouth, VA and three each in Boston, Key West, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, and Kodiak, AK.

Webber class WPCs:
The program of record includes 58 Webber class. As noted above homeports for 39 have been identified, of the remaining 19 four will go to Alaska. Lets look at each in turn.
CGD1
In 2000 there were seven Island class in the First district, two in Portand, ME, two in Woods Hole, MA, one at Glouchester, MA, and two in Sandy Hook, NJ. I would presume there will be Six Webber class in the First District.
In order to cover all the Critical port in the First District, we will probably put two in Sandy Hook, NJ to protect the Hudson River port complex, two in S. Portland, ME that would cover Bath ME and two at the East end of Long Island Sound that would protect the Sub base at Groton. Woods Hole might work, but I would hope they would be based closer either at Newport, RI or in New London.
CGD5
In 2000 there were only thee Island class in the Fifth district, one in Portsmouth, VA and two in Atlantic Beach, NC. We already have four Webber class going to the District, two in Cape May, NJ, and two in Atlantic Beach, NC.
CCGD7
In 2000 there were 23 Island class based in the Seventh district, six in Miami, seven in Key West, six in San Juan, one in Port Canaveral, and three in St. Petersburg. We already have 18 Webber class assigned to the Seventh District, six in Miami, six in Key West, and six in San Juan. Notably there are no Webber class on the Seventh District’s Gulf coast, so I would anticipate we will see three more homeported in St. Petersburg. 
CGD8
In 2000 there were only two Island class WPBs homeported in the Eighth district, one in Mobile, AL and one in Corpus Christi, TX. We already know two will go to Pascagoula, MS, and three will go to Galveston, TX.  We probably want at least two more in Corpus Christi, TX to cover that Strategic Port and the Western Gulf of Mexico.
CGD11
In 2000 there were three Island class in the Eleventh District. All three were homeported in San Diego. We already know one or more Webber class will go to San Pedro. I anticipate there will ultimately be two in San Pedro, CA. It seems likely there will also be two based in the San Francisco Bay complex to cover this strategic port and the Northern California coast.
CGD13
 In 2000 there were two Island class in the Thirteenth district, one in Port Angeles, WA and one in Coos Bay, OR. We already know two will go to Astoria, OR. I think we also need two in Port Angeles, WA to cover the Puget Sound port complex and the Washington coast.
CGD14
IN 2000 there were four Island class WPBs in the Fourteenth district, two in Honolulu, HI, one in Hilo, HI, and one in Guam. We already know there will be three Webber class in Honolulu and three in Guam. I don’t anticipate any more.
CGD17
In 2000 there were five Island class WPBs in the Seventeenth district, one each in Seward, Ketchikan, Auke Bay, Petersburg, and Homer. We already have two Webber class in Ketchikan, and we know the district will get four more. I anticipate we will see at least two somewhere in Cook Inlet to cover the strategic port of Anchorage, either in Homer or in Anchorage itself. The last two will probably go to Auke Bay, Juneau or add one more to Ketchikan and Cook Inlet. 
The Overview:
I think this is fairly close to the way we will end up in 2035.
CGD1…three OPCs…six Webber class
  • S. Portland, ME: …two Webber class
  • Boston, MA: …Three OPCs
  • East end of Long Island Sound (Woods Hole, MA, Newport, RI , or New London)…two Webber class
  • Sandy Hook, NJ:…two Webber class

CGD5…four OPCs…four Webber class

  • Cape May, NJ…two Webber class
  • Portsmouth, VA…Four OPCs
  • Atlantic Beach, NC…two Webber class

CGD7…three NSCs…three OPCs…21 Webber class

  • Charleston, SC…three NSCs
  • Miami, FL…six Webber class
  • Key West, FL…Three OPCs…six Webber class
  • San Juan, PR…six Webber class
  • St. Petersburg, FL…Three OPCs…three Webber class

CGD8

  • Pascagoula, MS…two Webber class
  • Galveston, TX…three Webber class
  • Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX…Three OPCs…two Webber class

CGD11

  • San Diego and/or San Pedro (Long Beach),… six OPCs…two Webber class
  • San Francisco Bay/Alameda Complex…four NSCs…two Webber class

CGD13

  • Astoria, OR…two Webber class
  • Port Angeles, WA…two Webber class

CGD14

  • Honolulu…four NSCs…three Webber class
  • Apra, Guam…three Webber class

CGD17

  • Ketchikan…two Webber class
  • Auke Bay (Juneau)…two Webber class
  • Kodiak, AK…Three OPCs
  • Cook Inlet (Homer or Juneau)…two Webber class

How does this square with the list of critical ports? It is a good start, but there are too many ports between Pascagoula and Galveston. and between Charleston and Miami. Either we need more Webber class or we need the smaller WPBs that will replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs to also be able to also protect these ports.

Having ships in the right place is not enough. As I’ve noted several times, I don’t think any of our ships are adequately armed to perform the Maritime Security role, meaning they need to be able to counter both small, fast, highly maneuverable craft and larger vessels. I don’t really think the guns we have now are capable of reliably doing either. Hopefully sometime before 2035 our vessels will be properly equipped for the Homeland Security mission.

 

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress–Nov. 30, 2017

OPC “Placemat”

The Congressional Research Service has issued an updated report on Coast Guard Cutter procurement by Specialist in Naval Affair, Ronald O’Rourke. It is available in pdf format here or you can read it on the US Naval Institute site here.

Quoting from the Report,

Summary

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard cutters and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests a total of $794 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $695 million per ship. The first six are now in service (the sixth was commissioned into service on April 1, 2017). The seventh, eighth, and ninth are under construction; the seventh and eighth are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As part of its action on the Coast Guard’s FY2017 budget, Congress provided $95 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 10th NSC. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $54 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 10th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $421 million per ship. The first OPC is to be funded in FY2018 and delivered in 2021. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $500 million in acquisition funding for the OCP program for the construction of the first OPC, procurement of LLTM for the second OPC, and certain other program costs.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 44 have been funded through FY2017. The 24 th was commissioned into service on October 31, 2017. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following:

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 10th NSC in FY2018;

  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2018, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;

  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring FRCs;

  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;

  • the procurement rate for the OPC program;

  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCS, and FRCs;

  • the cost, design, and acquisition strategy for the OPC; and

  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.

Where in the World are the WHECs?

The Former USCGC Morgenthau, now in Vvietnamese service

The Philippines has a continuing interest in the 378 foot WHECs, after all they already have three, and it appears they may want another. Certainly they and other operators (Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Vietnam) will want to cooperate in finding ways to keep them operational.

An online discussion group called “Defense of the Republic of the Philippines” has a page entitled “Where in the World are the WHECs?” devoted to the topic. It includes both the old and new names and hull numbers. It also looks at the future disposition of 378s still in US Coast Guard service (Sherman, Midgett, Mellon, and Douglas Munro). (Yes we currently have both a USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) and a USCGC Munro (WMSL-755).

Sherman is expected to be decommissioned in 2018, Midgett in 2019, Mellon in 2020. Douglas Munro’s decommissioning is not currently scheduled but will probably happen in 2021.

The decommissioning information is based on Annex J of a MARAD report, “OFFICE OF SHIP DISPOSAL PROGRAMS ANNUAL REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2016.”

 

WHEC Disposals

The Morgenthau has just been transferred to Vietnam’s Coast Guard.

This leaves us four remaining 378 foot WHECs. According to a MARAD report, “Office of Ship Disposal Programs Annual Report for FY2016” dated December 2016, page 43, Annex J, USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) will be decommissioned in FY2018, Midgett (WHEC-726) in FY2019, Mellon (WHEC-717) in FY2020.

Decommissioning for USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) (note the full name–the Coast Guard has two USCGC Munros now, both in the Pacific, hope there is no confusion) was listed as, to be determined (TBD). FY2021 seems likely, but they may be holding off until they get an Offshore Patrol Cutter to take her place in Kodiak.

Thanks to Edrick Masangkay for bringing this to my attention.

FY2018 Budget Request

The Homeland Security “FY2018 Budget in Brief” has been published. You can see it in pdf form here.

The Coast Guard portion is on pages 44-48. The breakdown of the elements of the Coast Guard budget request are on page 47.

The total DHS budget request is $70,692,491,000. Of that, the Coast Guard portion is 15.1%. The DHS request is 7.1% greater than the FY2017 annualized continuing resolution. By comparison, the Coast Guard request is down 2.4%.

Highlights of the Coast Guard budget request noted include:

(“FTE refers to personnel changes. They are “Full Time Equivilents”)

  • Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) ……………………………………. $500.0M, 0 FTE Provides funding to begin construction of the first OPC, which is scheduled for delivery in 2021. The OPC will replace the Medium Endurance Cutter classes that conduct missions on the high seas and coastal approaches;
  • Fast Response Cutter (FRC)……………………………………….$240.0M, 0 FTE Funds procurement of four FRCs. These assets replace the less capable 110-foot patrol boats, enhancing the Coast Guard’s coastal capability to conduct Search and Rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws, prevent terrorism, and enhance resiliency to disasters;
  • Polar Icebreaker ……………………………………………………. $19.0M, 0 FTE Continues efforts toward awarding a contract for detail design and construction in 2019. This acquisition is recapitalizing the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker fleet;
  • Inland River and Western Rivers Tender ……………………….. $1.1M, 0 FTE Supports exploratory activities to analyze potential options to replace the capabilities provided by an obsolete fleet of inland tenders and barges commissioned between 1944 and 1990;
  • C-27J ………………………………………………………………… $52.0M, 0 FTE Funds support continued activities of the C-27J Asset Project Office (APO), which organizes logistics, training development, maintenance support, and ensures that these newly acquired aircraft are ready for induction into the operational fleet. Continues funding for initial spares and logistics, training, and mission system development;
  • Pay and Allowances……………………………………………….$109.8M, 0 FTE Maintains parity with DOD for military pay, allowances, and health care, and for civilian pay raise and retirement contributions, including providing a 2.1 percent military and 1.9 percent civilian pay raise in FY 2018. As a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, the Coast Guard is subject to the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which include pay and personnel benefits for the military workforce;
  • Operating and Maintenance of New Assets……………………$98.6M, 233 FTE Increases funding for operations and maintenance of shore facilities and provides sustainment funding for new cutters, boats, aircraft, and associated C4ISR subsystems delivered through acquisition efforts;
  • Mission Essential Systems and Cyber Security …………… ……$26.2M, 2 FTE Funds sustainment of critical Coast Guard network infrastructure and pays DOD working capital fund increases necessary to comply with DOD information network and cybersecurity requirements; and
  • Workforce Support Improvements ………………………………….$9.1M, 34 FTE Provides funding and personnel to manage the new Blended Retirement System, increase the frequency of Personnel Security suitability background investigations, and enhance capabilities to handle sexual assault allegations.

FY 2018 Major Decreases:

  • Decommissioning of Legacy Assets…………………………. ($14.1M) (129 FTE) Decommissions one 378-foot high endurance cutter, three 110-foot patrol boats, and one HC-130H aircraft in line with the Coast Guard decommissioning plan; and
  • Management and Support Efficiencies ………………………. ($13.9M) (13 FTE) Reflects savings generated from an enterprisewide efficiency review that can be taken with no direct operational impacts and a minimal loss of current service delivery

This is neither the disastrous cuts that were talked about earlier, nor is it a substantial boost. While less than the FY2017 budget as ultimately funded, it compares favorably to the initial FY2017 request. If the Congress does what it has done in the past, and adds some to the AC&I budget, we may feel this is a better than workable budget.

Compared to the enacted FY2017 budget, Operating Expenses are up $333,772,000 while AC&I is down $720,382,000. Hopefully the Congress will bump this up to nearer what we need annually, about $2B. I would be very surprised if the Congress does not increase the Fast Response Cutter buy from four to six, and NSC#10 and another C-130J are possibilities.

How Does the Program of Record Compare to Historic Fleets

 The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

A question from a reader prompted me to look at how the “Program of Record” (POR) compares with Coast Guard patrol fleets of the past.

The program of record is
8 NSCs
25 OPCs
58 FRCs
—————

91 vessels total

1990: Looking back at the “Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991” the Fleet was:
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMECs (16×210′, 10×270′ (three building), Storis, 3×213′, 3×205′)
34 WPB 110′ (plus 15 building)
3 WSES 110′ surface effects ships
4 WPB 95′
——————-
85 vessels total
(There were also five Aerostat Radar Balloon tenders.)
 –
2000: “The Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001” showed
 –
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMEC (13×270′, 16×210′, Alex Haley, Storis, Acushnet)
49 WPB 110′
——————-
93 vessels total.
 –
2013: “The Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition,” copyright 2013 listed:
 –
3 NSCs
8 WHEC 378′
28 WMEC (13×270′, 14×210′, Alex Haley)
4 FRCs
41 WPB 110′
——————–
84 vessels total
 –
Comparing the Program of Record (plus NSC #9) to the fleet of 2000: You can look at it this way,
  • 9 NSCs and 3 OPCs is more than adequate replacement for the 12 WHEC 378s
  • 49 of the FRCs is more than adequate replacement for 49 WPB 110s (and we have only had 41 anyway since the WPB 123 screw up)
  • That leaves 22 OPCs and 9 FRCs to cover for the 32 WMECs.
Conclusion: 
I think we would all be pretty happy, if we had the Program of Record fleet in place right now. It really would be a substantial improvement, but while the NSCs and the FRCs are well on the way, the first of the long-delayed OPCs will not be delivered until 2021, and, if everything goes according to plan, the last probably not before 2034, at which time even the newest 270 will be 44 years old. A lot can happen between now and then.
The 2000 fleet was, I believe, the benchmark against which the program of record was measured in the Fleet Mix Study. By 2013 we were already down nine vessels. By my estimate, by the time the last 210 is replaced it will probably be 60 years old. That is expecting a lot. Can we possibly expect that none of these ships will become unserviceable before they are replaced? Building no more than two OPCs a year is really too slow. Once the first ship is built, tested, and approved for full rate production, we should accelerate construction to the maximum. That can’t happen until at least FY2022, probably FY 2023.
By the end of FY2022 we should have already funded 7 ships. The remaining 18 would take nine years, if we buy them at the currently projected schedule. Instead we could fund the entire remaining program from FY2023-2027 by doing a single Multi-Year Procurement of 18 ships. If Eastern alone could not do it, Marinette, which like the designer VARD, is also a Fincantieri company, would probably be more than willing to build an additional couple a year, particularly if the Navy stops building Freedom class LCS/frigates.
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We could have the program complete by FY2030, four years early.
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Thanks to Peter for initiating this line of thought. 
uscgc_citrus_1984

USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), USCG photo

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USCGC Storis WMEC-38)

USCGC Acushnet

USCGC Acushnet (WMEC-167), USCG photo

 

How About a Coast Guard Sink-Ex?

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Are our weapons adequate for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Mission? Let’s find out.

The Navy Times is reporting that the Navy will have an unusually large number of ships available for “Sink-Ex” exercises in 2017.

The SINKEX fleet grew from five ships last year to seven ships available in 2017, including four frigates, the landing ship tank Racine and two attack cargo ships.

According to the source document, the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan (pp 13/14), one of the stated purposes of a Sink-EX is weapons effectiveness evaluation. I think this might be a good opportunity for us to test out our weapons for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission. This mission implies we must have the ability to forcibly stop a ship, regardless of its size. A Sink-Ex could be an opportunity to answer once and for all the question “Is the Coast Guard adequately armed for the mission?”  Personally I don’t think so, and what little evidence we have seems to indicate that is the case.

The two attack cargo ships are Charleston class LKAs, the ex-Durham (LKA-114) and ex-St. Louis (LKA-116), built in the late ’60s. These are medium sized auxiliary ships, 9,000 tons light and 18,500 tons fully loaded, 576 feet (176 meters) in length. Structurally they are not much different from merchant ships of the period. Unfortunately they don’t have the big diesel engines found on modern merchant ships, and the are far smaller than many current merchant ships but they are still, in most respects, representative of the target set the Coast Guard should be interested in.

USS_Charleston_(LKA-113)

Photo: USS Charleston (LKA-113)

We have four gun systems that might be tested. .50 cal., 25 mm, 57 mm, and 76 mm. The 25 mm and 57 mm are particularly important as the .50 cal is probably too small and short ranged and the 76 mm is going out of service. Still, we should still attempt to include the 76 mm because if the 57 mm proves inadequate, our next question should be, “Would the 76 mm have been successful?” Testing the 25, 57, and 76 mm guns would require use of at least two ships, a 378 for both the 76 and 25 mm, and a Bertholf class for the 57 mm. (Alternately an LCS might provide the 57 mm, a Bear class the 76 mm, and a 110 or Webber class the 25 mm.)

1280px-USCG_Gallatin_Mk_75_firing

This could be a CG R&D project, but of course it would require Navy assistance, perhaps a joint project. Because our objective is to at least stop the target, rather than sink it, loss of power or steering would constitute a success. To determine if this is the case, we need information about what is happening inside the hull when the we get a hit. Will the round penetrate not only the hull but also critical systems, the loss of which would result in loss of power or control of the ship? Because it would probably be dangerous to go back on board the target after it has been shelled, the target would need to be instrumented with sensors and the results broadcast back. Aside from putting cameras inside the spaces, a technique might be to seal up and pressurize equipment like boilers, turbines, and steering gear and have them instrumented to detect any loss of pressure that would indicate a breach.

We would also want to conduct the exercise at a reasonable ranges. Since the real targets might be equipped with weapons that might be typically available to terrorist organizations, including anti-tank missiles and Soviet era antitank and anti-aircraft guns,that might target critical systems on the cutter, I believe the cutter should stand off at least 4000 yards, but for the 25 mm, we would probably need to close to 3,000 yards. A logical sequence might be,

  1. 378 closes to 3000 yards engages with 25 mm then withdraws
  2. NSC closes to 4,000 yards and engages, then withdraws
  3. 378 closes to 4,000 yards and engages.

We would also want to fire a reasonable number of rounds, probably about 150 rounds of 25 mm, about 100 rounds of 57 mm, and about 80 rounds of 76 mm, basically shoot enough to exhaust the ammunition normally carried on the mount.

Realistically this would have to be part of a larger Sink-Ex with more than one target, but it might be reasonable to allow the Coast Guard a day to try their systems against one of the targets before the other firing units come on scene.

Should our current systems prove not up to the task, we would also want to know the results for possible candidate systems, so we might ask that these candidate systems be used against the target as well. These might include, APKWS, Griffin, Hellfire, the 5″ gun, and the light weight torpedo. I don’t think it has ever been tried, but with the right depth settings, is it possible to hit a deep draft surface target with our current light weight torpedoes?

Let’s at least find out if we have a chance of succeeding in this mission.