“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.

Russian FRC–Compare and Contrast

We already looked at a comparison of the Russian Security Service’s counterpart of the National Security Cutter with the Coast Guard version. Thought some of you might be interested to see what their version of a Fast Response Cutter looks like.

The first of the class Svetlyak class were delivered in 1988 and they are still in production. The little ships comes in three versions. The most numerous is a patrol version for the Security Service (Project 10410–photo), there is a cruise missile equipped version for the Navy (Project 10411), and an export version (Project 10412) apparently with MTU engines in lieu of the Russian diesels. The Russians have 26 of these, the Slovenians one lightly armed version (more here), and the Vietnamese have two with at least two, possibly four, more on order, armed like the Russian Security Service vessels.


Comparing the two classes, the Webber Class, with it’s high bow, certainly looks more sea worthy, and it’s boat appears much more ready to launch quickly in heavy weather.

The Russian design is slightly larger (375 tons vice 353), slightly faster (30 vs 28), and slightly longer (163 ft vs 154). They have three engines and three shafts instead of two and about 88% more power. They also have a bit larger crew with accommodations for 28 (vs 22-24). Again the USCG vessel has the advantage in range (2,500 nmi vs 2,200–some sources say as little as 1,300). Continue reading

“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.