“Reinvent the Fifth Armed Service, Quickly”-USNI

The August issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings is appropriately enough, the “Coast Guard Issue,” although less than a third of the content is Coast Guard related. I was disappointed but not surprised to see that there was no article about the OPC. It includes four articles that are written by Coasties, active or retired, and includes a “rouges gallery” of CG flag officers and senior enlisted as well an orgainizational chart.

There is one particular article I’d like to recommend that actually dares to be a bit controversial, and it is available on line, “Reinvent the Fifth Armed Service, Quickly”.  I think it is definitely worth a read.

They talk about

  • reorganization within the Coast Guard
  • exploitation of UAS technology
  • integration of DHS maritime aviation and vessel fleets.
  • coordination of procurement with the Navy
  • integration of the NOAA fleet into the Coast Guard

As I say it is controversial, it is going to ruffle some feathers, and hopefully it will start some thinking and some discussion.

“The Forgotten Threat,” by Captain Jim Howe, USCG (retired)

The US Naval Institute, October 2010 issue, is their “Homeland Security” Issue.  There is not as much “Homeland Security” as you might expect. (There is a Eurofighter Typhoon on the cover.) It does includes articles on dealing with the threat of cross border violence from Drug Cartels and bio-terrorism, but clearly the article with the most Coast Guard implications is “The Forgotten Threat,By Captain Jim Howe, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired), that talks about the threat presented by terrorist attacks using vessels of less than 300 tons.

It outlines the problem and raises a lot of questions, but “it’s complicated.” Basically the thrust is that we have failed to plan. He’s probably right.

“Disappointingly, the resulting “Small Vessel Security Strategy” issued in April 2008 was little more than a skeleton, listing fundamental principles, cataloging a number of existing programs, and containing almost no detail on how potential threats would be addressed. Independent oversight bodies panned the report: DHS’s own inspector general said the agency “has not provided a comprehensive strategy for addressing small vessel threats.”1 Even more troubling, the follow-on implementation plan—arguably the most important piece of the notional strategy—languishes. As this issue went to press it had yet to emerge from the federal bureaucracy. There is, then, no road map to address terrorists’ potential use of small vessels.”

Clearly the Coast Guard is the number one stake holder–should I say bag holder.

What do we do about this is? In the spirit of “completed staff work,” draft a plan and provide it to the Department (this clearly puts the ball in their court). Clearly we have already done some of this. Otherwise we could not have come up with performance criteria.

Yes, some potential targets are impossible to protect. Some responsibility should go to other military services, state and local authorities, and to the owners of shore side facilities. We need to lay out our position. No, it won’t have force until its chewed over by all the interested parties and signed, but looks like someone needs to get it started and there is no one who has more interest in getting these questions on the table than the Coast Guard. That we need to resolve these issues in order to plan our procurement and force allocation should be obvious.

If Captain Howe is wrong and we have planned this out, I hope someone will correct the mistaken impression.

I’d like the headline to read “Coast Guard Foils Terrorist Attack” instead of …

And why weren’t there more articles with a Coast Guard flavor? Maybe we need to think and write more about our role in the department.

Giving More than 100%–Part 2, Missions and Resource Hours

This is a continuation of a look at a report the Department of Homeland Security presented to Congress regarding Coast Guard mission performance begun in part one.

The report divides the Coast Guard’s 11 missions into Department of Homeland Security Missions and Non-Homeland Security missions as follows (percent of hours associated with each mission is in parenthesis):

Homeland security missions include:

  • Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (25.25%)
  • Drug Interdiction (11.22%)
  • Migrant Interdiction (10.60%)
  • Defense Readiness (7.82%)
  • Other Law Enforcement (foreign fisheries enforcement) (0.93%)

Non-Homeland Security Missions include:

  • Marine Safety (7.32%)
  • Search and Rescue (8.16%)
  • Aids-to-Navigation (14.05%)
  • Living Marine Resources (domestic fisheries enforcement) (13.12%)
  • Marine Environmental Protection (0.41%)
  • Ice Operations (1.12%)

The first thing you may notice is that the “Homeland Security Missions” were Coast Guard missions long before the creation of DHS.
This distinction is artificial. DHS seems fixated on terrorism. Once the DHS is reconciled to the fact that they are the department responsible for disaster prevention, response, and mitigation regardless of whether that disaster is natural, accidental, or a terrorist attack, then they will see that the remaining Coast Guard missions are also to some extent DHS missions.  (Notably the previous year when GAO testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,  “Drug Interdiction” and “Other Law Enforcement” were listed as non-homeland security missions.)

Marine Safety and AtoN help prevent accidental disasters. Living Marine Resources and MEP help prevent environmental disasters. Any SAR case is at least a small scale disaster for those involved. SAR can be a major part of disaster mitigation as in the case of Katrina or Haiti. The SAR organization is the frequently the basis for post disaster communications. Even Ice Operations can mitigate the possibility of flooding by preventing the accumulation of water behind Ice dams that may release catastrophically–all good DHS missions.

As noted in part 1, the report seems to miss a signifiant part of the Coast Guard’s operation, but for now lets look at what it does show. We will look at Measures of effectiveness later.


The report actually covers the entire period from 2001 to the present and compares current operations with a baseline established on the basis of eight quarters prior to 9/11. One important item is that although total resource hours declined since 2005, hours are still up considerably compared to pre-9/11 levels, up from a little less than 500,000 hours to 717,992 hours, so a decline in percentage doesn’t necessarily reflect a decline in activity.

Homeland Security Resource Hours:

Hours increased significantly as might be expected, 115%, from a baseline of a bit less than 200,000  to 400,742.

Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security: By far the greatest percentage of hours (181,264 hours/25.25%) was taken by ports, waterways and coastal security missions. Resource utilization is up ten fold from the baseline after peaking in 2003/4/5.

  • So what are these Cutters and aircraft doing? Mostly patrolling.
  • Did we do patrolling before? Yes.
  • So if they saw an oil spill, a SAR case, or a suspected drug smuggler, would they ignore it? No.

So maybe we ought to add another 25.25% to MEP, another 25.25% to SAR, and another 25.25% to Drug interdiction. Still do we patrol enough? The vessel and aircraft related measures of effectiveness targets are being exceeded. But the targets are abominably low, considering we are dealing with events with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Drug Interdiction: Hours are down 34% from the pre-9/11 baseline from a little over 120,000 down to 80,564. Here we are getting substantial help from DOD but that doesn’t show up in the hours, and the efforts of our LEDETS, like those of the small boats, are also not reflected by the resource hour measure.

Undocumented Migrant Interdiction: Up more than 150%  to 76,100 hours. Reportedly we are achieving record high interdiction rates.

Defense Readiness: Hours are up considerably, to 56,128 hours or 7.82% but the baseline was ridiculously low at what looks like less than 7,000 hours or less than 300 unit days. The results have been poor with little improvement expected until the National Security Cutters and Fast Response Cutters replace the 378s and 110s.

Other Law Enforcement: (6,686 hours 0.93%) The number of hours has bounced around quite a bit by percentage (now 19.2% below the baseline). The entire effort is less than 280 unit days, but the service is exceeding its performance goal by a wide margin.

Non-homeland security

Non-Homeland Security hours (317,250 hours or 44.18%) dropped below the baseline in 2002/2003/2004 but are currently slightly above the baseline.

Search and Rescue: SAR Hours are down more than a quarter, from over 80,000 to 58,607 hours or 8.16%. Even so, we are meeting our performance objectives. SAR hours are demand driven. In 2005, hours were still below baseline, but bumped up 14.8% from 2004 as a result of Katrina. Hopefully we will be able to do more rescuing and less searching as a result of innovations like Rescue 21. The depressed economy may have a role here too.  If we were a SAR only organization we would have to fly or get underway just to train and maintain proficiency. As it is, much of the proficiency training is done working on other missions, so perhaps we should credit a few more percentage points to the hours we spend on SAR.

Marine Safety (52,579 hours 7.2%): The Coast Guard did not even report commitment of resource hours to Marine Safety before 2005. I’m still not sure what we are doing with this much cutter and aircraft time that effects the number of commercial mariner and commercials passenger deaths or injuries (two of the three measures of effectiveness) Most of these hours must go to Recreational Boating Safety (the third measure of effectiveness). This may be another way to count patrol hours.

Aids to Navigation: AtoN hours show a drop from the baseline of about 10% to 1000,904 hours, but it is still 14.05% of the current total. Improved reliability of aids appears to have made this possible without a drop in service.

Ice Ops (8,033 hours/1.12%): This category is primarily a reflection of ice conditions on the Great Lakes and navigable waterways that can fluctuate substantially year to year. It says very little about our Arctic capabilities, long in decline.

Living Marine Resources (94,178 hours/13.12%): Hours declined after 9/11 but now slightly exceed pre-9/11 baseline.

Marine Environmental Protection (MEP) (2,949 hours/0.41%): Like Marine Safety, MEP recorded no resource hours committed before 2005. Hours are down over 40% since 2005, but in FY2009 we exceeded our goals for prevention of chemicals and oil discharges per units shipped. There were no performance measures specifically related to safety of or pollution from offshore wells. I suspect most MEP work is not done by the cutters and aircraft included in this report, but that we will see a big increase in MEP hours when figures come out for FY2010. In the minds of most people, fisheries enforcement, both “Living Marine Resources” (domestic fisheries) and “Other Law Enforcement” (foreign fisheries) is a form of “Marine Environmental Protection.” Perhaps we need to group them with regulation of the chemical and petroleum industries and pollution clean-up under an expanded Marine Environmental Protection Program, so that there will be a better appreciation of what the service does.


Traditional Coast Guard missions continue within the Department of Homeland Security. They have not been neglected.

For the Coast Guard to have gone from less than 500,000 resource hours to consistently over 700,000 hours, a more than 40% increase, when there has been no substantial increase in assets and as the average age of the assets increased has got to be a strain.

Coming in Part 3: Performance Measures and Where the Problems are.