What Might Coast Guard Cutters do in Wartime? Part 2, Coast Guard Roles

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This is the second of two parts. The first part focusing on what I believe are the current shortfalls in the US Navy force structure is here.

Since part one, additional cuts to the Navy’s plans have been announce. Attack submarines which have an important ASW role are now expected to decline from a current 55 to 40 in 2030 and all SSGNs will be removed from service. Additionally the Navy will prematurely retire seven cruisers and two amphibious warfare ships. The planned five year building program is going from 57 ships to 41.

Now we will look more closely at what Coast Guard Cutters may be called upon to do in future conflicts, what changes to our existing force might be prudent, and desirable characteristics for future cutters. Continue reading

Defense Roles and Missions

Wednesday, April 13, the President asked for a new roles and missions analysis, with the intention of saving $400B from “security spending,” over the next twelve years.  Reportedly this will include the departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Energy, as well as DOD.

A little surprising to me this will include DHS and by extension the Coast Guard. The first thing that comes to mind of course is cuts, but that isn’t the only way things could go. There could also be some reassignment of responsibility, that result in over all savings, but leave one or more service or agency stronger than before. Of course it could also mean moving the Coast Guard into the Navy Department could be looked at again.

Will The Coast Guard stop operating larger ships and simply put boarding teams on Navy ships? or will the Coast Coast Guard be seen as a Naval asset that with a little augmentation could take over some of the Navy’s roles? Or will the CG simply be ignored?

What should the Coast Guard’s “security” roles be? For counter terrorism? For wartime? What “core competencies” does the Coast Guard need to maintain? Could this effect other missions as well?

“Navy at a Tipping Point,” What Does It Mean to the Coast Guard?

The Navy is shrinking and will have to make some hard choices. How will this effect the Coast Guard?

March 1, 2010 the Center for Naval Analysis published a now widely read and quoted treatise, discussing how the Navy can best reorder its priorities to deal with the new realities of a shrinking fleet and the rise of new potential competitors, particularly China, ” The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake?” It is available as a pdf and can be downloaded here.

It accepts that the Navy will shrink to approximately 230 ship from its current level of approximately 285 and outlines five alternative futures.

  • 2 Hub–continuously maintaining forward deployed Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean (IO) at the expense of engagement (nation building/maritime policing) and forcible entry (amphib) capability.
  • 1+ Hub–maintaining a forward deployed CSG in the Western Pacific and a tailored task group based on amphibs in the IO
  • Shaping–emphasizing maritime policing, Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HS/DR), and engagement with friendly navies/coast guards at the expense of combat capability (trying to create a more peaceful world but compromising warfighting ability)
  • Surge–Emphasizing strong combat capability but with much reduced forward deployment/engagement
  • Shrinking Status Quo–trying to continue doing all the same things with less

In the sparest terms their impact on the fleet are outlined below (ref. p 43):

  • 2 Hub–fewer amphibs and low end assets, more Aegis and SSNs
  • 1+ Hub–fewer CSG, more low end assets
  • Shaping–fewer CSG, Aegis, and SSNs, more amphibs and low end
  • Surge–fewer amphibs, low-end, and logistics, more Aegis and SSNs
  • Shrinking Status Quo–less of everything

Relative to their emphasis on the high end to low end spectrum the resulting fleet looks like this:

High End–2 Hub, Surge, Shrinking Status Quo, 1+ Hub, Shaping–Low End

Observations:

The study doesn’t explicitly address some missions.

  • ASW protection for merchant shipping (and the attendant need for frigates), once a core mission of the Navy, wasn’t considered at all.
  • ASW operations against SSBNs wasn’t explicitly addressed
  • Nor were changes to our nuclear deterrents (SSBNs)
  • Possible future requirements to impose a blockade, if considered at all, were only addressed in nebulous terms of establishing “Sea Control” and the large number of low end units required was not addressed.

The USN doesn’t seem to regard coastal defense of the US as a mission that it needs to concern itself with. (I suppose that’s why we have a Coast Guard.) It is mentioned in the study only as a “wild card” that might constrain future options (page 22).

The Coast Guard performs many of the missions that Navies do in most countries. This has relieved the Navy of the requirement to maintain large numbers of low end assets. Unlike most countries, the US essentially has two Navies–the High End Navy and the low end Coast Guard. Since the USN has abdicated the low end tasks, expecting the Navy to mentor low end Navies around the world may be unrealistic anyway.

What I think will happen:

The Navy will make every effort to keep their high end assets–Carriers, Aegis equipped Guided Missile Cruisers and Destroyers and Submarines–exemplified in the  “2 Hub”  option, perhaps with deployments pulled back from the Asian mainland in recognition of the dangers of a Chinese first strike.

Amphibs and low end forces will be cut back further. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will be truncated far short of the originally planned 55 units.

Navy support for drug enforcement will be reduced, as will “engagement” in terms of interaction with small navies and coast guards. The Coast Guard will be asked to fill in, in the engagement role.

In wartime, the need for small vessels to do inspections for contraband, either as a quarantine or blockade or off the shores of friendly countries, as we did in Vietnam in Operation Market Time, or to protect offshore assets, as we are doing now off Iraq, will fall increasingly on the Coast Guard.

What I think we should do:

That the Coast Guard has a defense role needs to be more widely recognized, planned for, equipped, and appropriately funded, meaning a marginally larger force.

While I personally doubt its effectiveness, it can be argued that reduced Navy commitments in support of drug enforcement will need to be replaced by less expensive Coast Guard assets.

The Coast Guard can do engagement missions cheaper and possibly better, but they need to be properly funded, because they do effect our force structure. The same may be true of counter piracy.

To make it happen, we really need the Navy to strongly support the Coast Guard, and if they choose the high end option, they have an incentive to do so, as a way of explaining why they can reasonably walk away from some of the things they have done in the past and “let the Coast Guard do it.”

Giving More than 100%–Part 3, The Results and Recommendations

This is the third part of a detailed look at the “Annual Review of the United States Coast Guard’s Mission Performance (FY 2009)” from the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.  The report is available in Acrobat PDF format from DHS. (I’ll refer to it as the DHS IG report.)

Here, we are going to look at what I consider the informative and important part of the report, that was buried in Appendices C and D. My earlier commentary, parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

Much of Appendices C and D is lifted from the United States Coast Guard Fiscal Year 2009 Performance Report which is also available as a pdf (couldn’t get a link to work, but it’s on google). (I’ll refer to it as the CG report.) This document does a much better job of explaining the categories and the performance measures than the DHS IG report but only goes back to 2004. It does, however, also include the targets for FY 2010. It would probably be better if the IG had just put a cover sheet on the CG report and forwarded it.

Both reports provide the essential same results but their are some differences, which I will note.

24 measured are applied to the eleven Coast Guard missions. For FY 2009, the Coast Guard met 8 of 11 performance measures for its 6 non-DHS missions, and 6 of 13 performance measures for its 5 homeland security missions.

—THE GOOD NEWS—

“Non-Homeland Security” missions did well. Standards were high and even when targets were not met, we came close.

SAR: Percentage of people in imminent danger saved in the maritime environment. Target 76% Actual 77.3%
(I find the math used in this section hard to follow and somewhat questionable–there was a reported improvement over FY 2008, but deaths went up 20%, while total number in danger changed very little (see CG report p15,16))

Aids to Navigation:

  • Federal short-range aids to navigation availability. Target 97.5% Actual 98.0%
  • Five-year average number of collisions, allisions, and groundings. Target 1871 Actual 1878. This was very close to the target and the target is 390 fewer incidents than the target in 2001. I have no idea where they come up with this target, because it moves around getting lower from 2001 to 2007 and then going back up again.

Ice Operations: Number of days critical waterways are closed due to ice. Target 2 avg. and 8 severe. Actual 0. (Note there is no criteria for Polar Operations.) Success in this criteria is strongly influenced by weather.

Living Marine Resources: Percentage of Coast Guard boardings at sea in which no violations are detected when domestic fisheries regulations apply. Target 97% Actual 96.7%, a miss, but close enough to be insignificant.

Marine Safety: (None of these standards were in place until FY2008)

  • Five-year average number of commercial mariner deaths and injuries. Target <529 Actual 475.
  • Five-year average number of commercial passenger deaths and injuries. Target <251 Actual 228.
  • Five-year average number of recreational boating deaths and injuries. Target <4,248 Actual 4,038

Marine Environmental Protection: (Here too, these standards did not apply until FY2008)

  • Five Year average number of chemical discharge incidents per 100 million short tons shipped. Target <25.9 Actual 17.8.
  • Five year average number of oil spills per 100 million short tons shipped. Target <13.5 Actual. 11.8.
  • Percentage of oil removed otherwise mitigated as compared to the amount of oil released for reported spills of 100 gallons or more. Target 16%. Actual No data. this measure is to be replaced because it was found to be impractical.

—THE BAD NEWS—

Homeland Security missions did not fare so well. In general, even when targets were met, the targets were low.

Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security:

  • Critical infrastructure required visit rate. Target 100% Actual 74% (CG report says Actual 100%)
  • Percentage of risk reduction of maritime security risk resulting from Coast Guard efforts to prevent a weapon of mass destruction from entering the United States via maritime means. Target 3% Actual 17%.
  • Percent of reduction of all maritime security risk subject to Coast Guard influence. Target  21% Actual 31% (Why is the target being lowered to 19% for 2010?)
  • Percentage of reduction of maritime security risk resulting from Coast Guard efforts to prevent a terrorist entering the United States vial maritime means. Target 21% Actual 42%.
  • Number of Transportation  Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) spot checks. Target 94,500 Actual 39,100
  • Risk reduction due to consequence management. Target 6% Actual 9%
  • High Capacity passenger vessel required escort rate. Target 100% Actual 53%.

Drug Interdiction (This standard was not applied until FY2009): Removal rate for cocaine from noncommercial vessels in a maritime transit zone. Target 15.7% Actual 15%. (Probably reasonably accurate and probably about as good as we can hope for, but not good enough to truly discourage the smugglers.)

Undocumented Migrant Interdiction:

  • Percentage of undocumented migrants who attempt to enter the US via maritime routes “that are interdicted” Target 69.9% Actual 84.4%
  • (In the CG report there was a second measure: Percent of Undocumented Migrants who attempt to enter the US via maritime routes interdicted by the Coast Guard. Target 50% Actual 37.5%. Could it be the first isn’t really a CG performance measure. And why does this standard go down in 2010?)

Defense Readiness: These three measures are to be replaced next year.

  • Defense readiness of patrol boats. Target 100% Actual 94%
  • Defense Readiness of Port Security Units. Target 100% Actual 19.8%
  • Percentage of time that Coast Guard assets included in the Combatant Commander Operational Plans are ready at a Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) rating of 2 or better. Target 100% Actual 44%
  • (CG report has an additional measure. Defense Readiness of High Endurance Cutters Target 100% Actual 20.7 This shows a consistent decline from 98.5% on FY2004)

Other Law Enforcement (Foreign Fisheries Enforcement):

  • Number of incursions into the U. S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Target <195 Actual 112
  • The CG report has a second performance measure, Interdiction rate of foreign vessels detected violating the U. S. EEZ. Target 9% Actual 14.3%

—OTHER MEASURES—

Some of the things we did not see measured, that we might want to get a handle on:

  • Safety Inspections and Training for crews of foreign flag oil rigs operating in our EEZ. (Why do we let foreign flag rigs drill in our EEZ anyway?)
  • Ice Operations: We need to have separate out Polar operations. Right now it is getting lost in measures of domestic icebreaking.
  • Percent sorties and return to port by major USN units such as CVNs, SSBNs, big deck amphibs escorted
  • Percent of ships carrying “Certain Dangerous Cargoes (CDCs) escorted
  • Percent of high interest vessels boarded
  • Percent maritime container traffic checked
  • Effectiveness of the Maritime Domain Awareness systems.

—OTHER THOUGHTS—

We really need to consider Domain Awareness for vessels under 300 tons too. Even sailboats can bring in some nasty weapons.

The Department needs to see that their future is in disaster preparedness from whatever cause. Hopefully the terror threat will fade. They need to see, that the “non-DHS missions” complementary DHS missions. When we have a disaster, we need to do SAR and restore Aids to Navigation. Icebreaking may be necessary to get access to a disaster or to prevent one, and environmental disasters are still disasters.

The Coast Guard needs to embrace the DHS missions and recognize that the greater capability, that we really do need to do these missions, also means greater capability to do traditional missions. That Long Rang Identification and Tracking (LRIT) will help SAR is just one example. More boats, more aircraft, more command, control, communications, information, and reconnaissance systems translate to doing all our missions better. To get those assets, we need to make our case, and it can only be made on the basis of DHS missions.

Congress needs to recognize that we are an Armed Service. They don’t expect to see a product out of the Air Force every year. It’s buying insurance. Most of the time, there is no product. Counter terrorism missions are dealing with statistically unlikely, but high impact events. Congress and DHS have a hard time dealing with a multi-purpose organization. From year to year they don’t know what we will be doing because we don’t know either. Mariel Boatlift, Katrina, Haiti, Deepwater Horizon, what’s next? We don’t know!

When it comes time to decide the Coast Guard budget, I would suggest Congress take a different approach. Consider return on investment. If you like the return you are getting from the Coast Guard now, invest more.  Don’t say, “Agency ‘X’ isn’t working, we need to put more money into that.” “The Coast Guard, is doing a good job with their current budget so we don’t need to give them any more.” I don’t quote scripture very often. I’m not religious, but there is some wisdom there. Check out the story of the “good and faithful servant” Mathew 25:14-30.