Coast Guard Cutter Maria Bray Crew Helps Create Underwater Reef Habitat

Something a bit unusual.

Caption from YouTube,

“Coast Guard Cutter Maria Bray crew members deploy concrete reef balls and old navigation anchors, July 18, 2018, off the coast of northeast Florida. The Maria Bray crew assisted in the deployment of reef balls, built by Mandarin High School students, and old navigation anchors for Think It, Sink It, Reef It, or TISIRI in order to create an underwater reef habitat. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson)”

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

National Defense Authorization Act, 2019 Authorizes Six Icebreakers

USCGC Polar Sea

The National Defense Authorization Act has been passed and forwarded to the President. It is too early for anyone to get too excited about this, since it is an authorization rather than an approved budget, but it does authorize up to six polar icebreakers.

SEC. 153. AUTHORITY TO PROCURE ADDITIONAL POLAR-CLASS ICEBREAKERS. Section 122 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115–91) is amended— (1) in the section heading, by striking ‘‘ICE-BREAKER VESSEL’’ and inserting ‘‘AUTHORIZA-TION TO PROCURE UP TO SIX POLAR-CLASS ICEBREAKERS’’;  (2) by striking subsections (a) and (b); (3) by inserting before subsection (c) the following new subsection: ‘‘(a) AUTHORITY TO PROCURE ICEBREAKERS.—The Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating may, in consultation with the Secretary of the Navy, enter into a contract or contracts for the procurement of up to six polar-class icebreakers, including— ‘‘(1) polar-class heavy icebreakers; and ‘‘(2) polar-class medium icebreakers.’’; (4) by redesignating subsections (c) and (d) as subsections (b) and (c), respectively; and (5) in paragraph (1) of subsection (b), as redesignated by paragraph (4) of this section, by striking ‘‘subsection (a)(1)’’ and inserting ‘‘subsection (a)’’.

The bill also provides for a Selected Reserve end strength of 7000 Coast Guard Reservists, almost $40.9M for Coast Guard weapons, $40.7M for other Electronic support, $24.1M for Mobilization Support, $165M for Coast Guard mobilization support (presumably PATFORSWA?). There may actually be more that I may have missed. The bill is huge. I just used the “Control F” function to search for Coast Guard.

Thanks to the Bryant’s Maritime Consulting Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Call for Articles: Bringing Back Sea Control–CIMSEC

Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) had issued a call for articles on the topic of bringing back sea control. Here is a copy of their post.

By Dmitry Filipoff

Articles Due: September 3, 2018
Week Dates: September 10-14, 2018

Article Length: 1000-3000 words 
Submit to: Nextwar@cimsec.org

Great power competition is back, and with it new demands for capability and deterrence. After years of focusing on power projection and low-end missions, many first rate navies have allowed high-end skillsets to erode. As security priorities shift, navies too must change.

One vital mission for winning and deterring great power conflict is sea control, the ability to secure command of the seas. Today sea control has morphed into something of enormous complexity. It can be a convoluted contest, with platforms and payloads projecting influence across multiple domains. Navies are ever more reliant on electronic effects for warfighting functions, turning cyberspace and electronic warfare into pivotal battlegrounds for sea control. Sea control is the sum of many elements of oceanic warfare, requiring diverse skills and tactics.

In spite of technological change, sea control will remain an important mission so long as the oceans remain crucial to human progress. It is the vital prerequisite for projecting power and securing access via the maritime domain. It can enable blockades and commerce raiding, allowing a navy to exert tremendous pressure on a nation’s vitality. Sea control is a mission as timeless as naval power itself, and one deserving of thorough preparation.

How can the navies of today revitalize their sea control capabilities? How can they become proficient in high-end missions and tactics? What will achieving sea control require, and how best to use it once attained? Authors are encouraged to consider these questions and more as navies around the world reconsider their development in the context of renewed great power competition.

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org

This is an opportunity for some of our readers here to express their opinions and practice their writing skills.

Does the Coast Guard have a role? I think so. Sea Control first has to be won and the USN is prepared for that fight, but it also has to be exercised. That requires a lot of low tech grunt work, not unlike boarding fishing boats. It requires separating good guys from bad guys who may try to conceal their true nature. We did this off Vietnam as part of Operation MarketTime. The Navy really has few units capable of this sort of work, but it is the sort of work the Coast Guard does every day.

I have worked with Dmitry Filipoff and he is a good guy. Time to start writing.

Reviewing the Status of Cutter Procurement

Belatedly, I have taken a look at the July 6, 2018 edition of the Congressional Research Service’s Naval Expert, Ronald O’Rourke’s Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. It was published less than seven weeks after the previous edition.

Thought perhaps a short review of the status of the three programs addressed might be welcome.

NSC: The program of record was eight ships, but eleven ships have been funded through FY2018. Six have been commissioned. One additional delivery is expected each year, 2018, 2019, 2020 and presumably 2021 and 2022. The Senate sub-committee has expressed its intention to procure a twelfth NSC, but the FY2019 budget request did not include funding for an addition NSC. FY2020 would not be too late to fund NSC#12 and keep the delivery schedule at one per year.

OPCstarboardbow

OPC: The program of record is for 25 ships. The First ship was funded in FY2018. The Second ship is in the FY2019 budget request along with long lead time items for OPC#3. If all contract options are exercised, we should see one ship delivered each year 2021, 2022, and 2023. Beginning in 2024 the program anticipates delivery of two ships per year. If they hold to that modest rate, as planned, the last OPC will not be delivered until at least 2033 at which time the newest 270 will be 42 years old. Also at that rate, the newest 210 will be 60 years old when presumably, the last of the class is replaced in 2029. (If you think keeping 40 and 50 year old cutters operational is challenging, wait until you try a 60 year old. Particularly since the Coast Guard plans no major life extension work on the 210s.) 

FRC: The program of record is for 58 vessels. There is also a requirement for six more to replace the six Island class 110 foot cutters currently homeport in Bahrain as part of PATFORSWA, that are not included in the program of record. 50 Webber class have been funded through FY2018, with 28 currently in commission. Funding for four additional vessels was included in the FY2019 budget request. The Coast Guard is commissioning Webber class at the rate five vessels annually. The remaining 28 vessel will presumably be commissioned by 2024. Six additional for PATFORSWA would extend that through 2025. Apparently the Congress intends the DOD to fund the six that would go to FATFORSWA so presumably the last Coast Guard funding would be in the FY2020 budget.

If my understanding is correct, it is likely that major funding for the NSC and FRC programs will be complete in FY2020, the same year the third OPC should be funded. At some point, in the not too distant future, we will need to start the process of replacing the 87 foot WPBs, but hopefully we will find a way to accelerate the OPC procurement to something more than two a year.

Photo Journal: RDC Arctic Technology Evaluation 2018

USV&drone

RDC researchers test the effectiveness of pairing the USV and the Splash Drone on a mission. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Alexandra Swan.

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) web site is running a series to show the R&D Centers activities in the Arctic.

The Coast Guard Research and Development Center is conducting its annual operation in the Arctic, Arctic Technology Evaluation 2018, in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, July 21 to Aug. 3. This year’s research will focus on evaluating how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and an aerostat balloon can work together as a network, and includes search and rescue and environmental mission scenarios.

“New Coast Guard Leader Focusing on Readiness”–National Defense

File:Adm. Karl L. Schultz.jpg

National Defense Magazine reports and interview with the new Commandant, Admiral Karl L. Schultz.

These two paragraphs pretty much sum up his stance.

““My intention would be to not deviate too much,” he said. “Obviously, every change brings some different thinking, different ideas, but at our core it’s … steady as you go with trying to pick up speed a little bit.”

“As part of his guiding principles over the next four years, Schultz — who took over in June — said he is focusing on making the Coast Guard a ready, relevant and responsive service.”

He intends to push readiness in terms of operating budget.

“While the service is replacing many of its aging assets, it still has 50-year-old cutters in operation, he noted. Those vessels are expensive to maintain and the newer ships coming down the pipeline will be costly as well, he added.”

Of the new cutters, only National Security Cutters look like they might actually cost less to run than the vessels they replace, based on their smaller crew, but even that is questionable. The Webber class and the Offshore Patrol Cutters are much larger, more powerful, and have larger crews than the 110s and WMECs they will replace. While we may end up with fewer NSCs than 378s (10 v 12) and fewer OPCs than WMEC (25 v 28) it looks like we will have substantially more FRCs than 110s (only 41 WPB 110s were operational when the FRC program began and it looks like we will get at least 58).

The piece goes on to discuss icebreakers and the “waterways commerce cutter” (inland tenders). Additionally, don’t expect any change in the Coast Guard’s commitment to drug interdiction, “…we’re all in.”