"The Coast Guard We Deserve"

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by LineInTheSand, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    David Helvarg, author of a book I enjoyed called "Rescue Warriors" (if you like or are interested in the Coast Guard, Rescue Warriors is a must-read), wrote this article for the National Geographic.

    I know we've touched on some of the points he made, but it lends some credibility to the overall issues the Coast Guard faces. As the Air Force determines how to replace the F-22 and F-35, the Coast Guard still operates ships that existed before the aircraft that aircraft that was replaced by the aircraft that was replaced be the F-22 was flown (yes, I mean to say "was replaced by" twice).

    A breaking point is coming.

    By David Helvarg
    Every day the U.S. Coast Guard goes in harm’s way to assure the safety, security and environmental stewardship of our public seas. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price as did 34-year-old Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne, killed December 2nd when his rigid inflatable boarding boat was run over by a suspected drug smuggling boat off of southern California. Despite its daily pursuit of smugglers, poachers and suspected terrorists, the Coast Guard is best known for its search and rescue work including its outstanding response during Hurricane Sandy where it saved the lives of 14 out of 16 people aboard the tall ship HMS Bounty that went down off the coast of North Carolina. On average they save ten people a day, every day of the year (Chief Horne won a commendation for his leadership in operations that saved 38 lives when he was based in North Carolina). Along with maritime rescues and law-enforcement actions, the Coast Guard also responds to oil spills and other environmental disasters, runs the nation’s icebreakers, inspects fishing boats, ships and bridges, maintains navigational buoys and does just about anything else needed on our waters. But perhaps not for much longer.

    Unlike the Pentagon whose gargantuan budget, facing a 10 percent cut over the next decade, became an issue during the Presidential campaign and continues to divide congress, the Coast Guard, now part of the Department of Homeland Security, has been hit with a four percent cut to its 2013 budget including a 25 percent reduction in its long-term acquisition funding for new vessels and aircraft, and that’s before any fiscal cliff. I’ve seen the wear, rust and broken weapons systems on their maritime-museum-quality 378-foot high-endurance cutters (oceangoing ships) some dating back to the Vietnam War. A dozen of these ships were supposed to be replaced by eight new National Security Cutters but that number has now been reduced to six by the Obama administration. Only three have been delivered to date. Coast Guard 210- and 270-foot medium-endurance cutters (high-seas patrol craft), some almost 50 years old are also reaching their maximum safe lifespan and despite repeated mechanical breakdowns, the call for a design proposals for 25 new ships to replace the 28 existing ones is just now expected to be finished in January with the first eleven cutters not expected to be operational before 2025.

    Ongoing funding cuts could cripple the effectiveness of this smallest of our armed services (with 42,000 active duty personnel) but this threat to our public seas has yet to generate significant resistance from either republican or democratic politicians on our coasts, Great Lakes and major rivers where the service operates. Two notable exceptions have been Rep. Frank LaBiondo (R NJ) who’s held house hearings on the funding cuts and Senator Maria Cantwell (D WA) who added language to the service’s reauthorization bill to keep one of the Coast Guard’s three sea-going icebreakers (two of which are now out of operation) from being scrapped.

    Rep. LoBiondo warns the service faces a “death spiral” if its aging fleet of cutters and aircraft cannot be replaced quickly enough to meet its expanding missions.

    During years of reporting on the Coast Guard from Hurricane Katrina where they saved over 33,000 lives to Alaska, Florida, New York, New Jersey and the Persian Gulf I came to appreciate they are proof that government can work for the public good. They even take an inordinate pride in their ability to operate on the water cost-effectively with limited resources, relying on enlisted members to take leadership initiatives, a civilian volunteer “auxiliary” to promote boating safety and a well honed command structure able to surge resources where they’re needed. Unfortunately every time the U.S. Coast Guard has bragged about its ability, “to do more with less,” Congress and the White House have proven willing to give them less. It’s now reached a crisis point that, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, “will likely result in more cocaine and illegal migrants reaching U.S. shores and a decreased capability to protect U.S. waters.” And while the Coast Guard fleet is in decline, ocean and coastal threats are on the increase including in the Arctic, where melting sea ice has led to a new ‘cold rush’ for oil, minerals and trade routes as well as off California where a tightening of the U.S. Mexican land border has increased maritime smuggling of drugs and people leading to this month’s tragedy. This is why every citizen who likes what they see on ‘Coast Guard Alaska,’ or ‘Coast Guard Florida’ on cable TV or news reports of the sacrifice of Coast Guard heroes like Chief Horne or who have gotten some direct help from ‘the Coasties’ as they call themselves, ought to call, write and email their elected representatives and demand we fully fund and maintain the Coast Guard we deserve.



    David Helvarg is executive director of the Blue Frontier Campaign and author of “Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes.” His next book, ‘The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea,’ will be out in February.


    http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/11/the-coast-guard-we-deserve-2/
     
  2. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I saw an interesting piece on replacing cutters with the Navy's new LCS, in a modified USCG form. Perhaps there's an opportunity there, though the budgetary machinations involved are beyond my knowledge.
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I've been on the LCS and while impressive, I don't think it's what the Coast Guard's looking for (or can afford). Of course, the LCS program had as bad, if not worse, progress than the Coast Guard's "Deepwater" program.

    The LCS and NSC even use the same 57mm gun.

    I never fully understood the Navy's need to sink billions of dollars into an LCS fleet unless it was having an identity crisis regarding the future of a true blue water fleet. It's replicating a capacity already achieved by the Coast Guard, and not with a small price tag.
     
  4. USCGA2017hopeful

    USCGA2017hopeful Member

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    I did a little research on legislation in Congress on the Coast Guard and appropriations for the upcoming years. It looks like the CG approp. bill (H.R. 2838) for the next 2 years (2013 and 2014) has been passed by both chambers and sent to the President. From what I've read, it seems that Rep. LoBiondo and Rep. Mica have kept the 20% cuts in acquisitions that the President suggested from happening and instituted a 8.6 Billion dollar budget for 2013 and 8.7 Billion for 2014. This is still lower than the USCG requested budget for FY2013 at $9.97 billion, but it may help to slowly maintain the current progress in the reacquisition efforts.

    Calling your local Congressman/Senator will definitely help, but as someone with former hill experience, unless there are a large amount of calls, the issue largely gets ignored by more pressing issues(ex. fiscal cliff).

    http://www.uscg.mil/posturestatement/docs/FY_2013_Budget_Fact_Sheet.pdf

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d112:1:./temp/~bdSz3R::|/home/LegislativeData.php|
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
  5. PupNSuds

    PupNSuds Member

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    Reminds me of one part of Helvarg's book: "In 1994, the Clinton administration called for a "streamlining" of the federal government and asked agencies to propose ways they could operate with a 10 percent reduction in force. While other agencies in the Department of Transportation and across the government used bureaucratic delay and obfuscation to avoid the cuts, the Coast Guard voluntarily reduced its personnel by 12 percent, laying off four thousand people. This inspired some service wags to suggest that if they could do more with less, they should be able to do everything with nothing."

    Its a shame really.
     

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