The Coast Guard renews its plea: More ships!

The Coast Guard renews its plea: More ships!

In the finest tradition of his service, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp is begging anyone who’ll listen to help him with his aging fleet.

Just as with the Navy, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Coast Guard once envisioned a gleaming new fleet that relied on a “system of systems” — this was before it had to be a “family” — and three new large classes of cutters to replace its Nixon-era ships. Slowly, ever slowly, that vision is becoming reality, but as we’ve seen, Papp seems fearful it could fall short.

He planned to use his state of the Coast Guard address Thursday to repeat the call for help we heard at the Surface Navy Association — that Coast Guardsmen can’t maintain their trusty but worn-out old cutters for much longer. Expect another renewal of the service’s yearly cavalcade of woe, when it details the rust holes, main engine fires and lost propellers plaguing its existing ships.


Still, its new fleet is slowly growing. In fact, Papp planned to use his three new national security cutters as a backdrop for his speech on Coast Guard Island in San Francisco Bay on Thursday, wrote the AP’s Paul Elias:

The Coast Guard’s commandant said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that he wants many more new ships and he wants them as soon as possible.

“We have grown the Coast Guard since Sept. 11, 2001,” noting that the service has added 6,000 military personnel in the last decade.

As he speaks Thursday on Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Calif., the service’s three newest ships will serve as a $2 billion backdrop. His aide, commander Glynn Smith, said the presence of the Bertholf, Stratton and Waesche is not coincidental.

Papp said he will fight to maintain the Coast Guard’s annual budget of a little more than $10 billion.

“We have taken on a lot more responsibility since Sept. 11,” he said.

“You have this vast middle area of the oceans where you have to keep a persistent presence,” Papp said. “The problem is that most of the ships we have doing this now are more than 40 years old.”

Papp said the U.S. Navy generally mothballs its ships after 25 years.

“You cannot patrol without having substantial ships,” Papp said. “We need new ships.”

Papp is out there — talking to the trade shows, talking to the wires, giving the speeches. The question is whether anyone in Congress is listening.

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Decom the LCS and transfer to the USCG. The thing is so under armed that it can not be classified as a real warship on the order of a DDG51. It would be admirably suited for environmental protection, drug interdiction, and EEZ enforcement.

The US Navy should buy into the NSC cutter program with the Coast Guard but modify it to make it a frigate by adding some Navy “options” such as; 5in gun, Harpoon, ESSM, SeaRam, 25mm guns, better electronics, etc.

With both the Navy and Coast Guard in on the buy the economies of scale will go up and the cost will drop per vessel will drop and both services will get some badly needed ships.

For the Navy these would replace the useless and de-fanged Perry class frigates. A Warship without weapons is like a golf bag without clubs.

Mr. Ewing– May I ask if you have ever been stationed on an old ship? Your phrasing makes me wonder: “service’s yearly cavalcade of woe, when it details the rust holes, main engine fires and lost propellers plaguing its existing ships.” We have not always made the best decisions, but our people work hard to keep these ships going for good purpose. Too many times our crewmembers get up early and stay up late working to fix the water and sewage systems, maintaining old equipment, or standing watch over a hull rupture due to rust behind insulation while we made our way to port– all while standing other watches, training, and participating in boardings. Without a US Law Enforcement presence in the Bering Sea, our fishing grounds would be used by other countries and the potential for depletion would be greater. Migrants would perish as their overloaded, non-seaworthy boats sink. More drugs would get through than do. It is not a “cavalcade of woe”, it is a statement of fact that we need new vessels to keep our Coast Guard personnel safe as they work to guard our Coasts.

I’ll second Kat’s comments, and add a few of my own.

I served on one of those old cutters—a 210′ RELIANCE class—out of Miami Beach from 1996–1999. At that time the ship was already 30 years old (laid down in 1966, finished and accepted in 1967), and had been through a service life extension program once (MMA, or Major Maintenance Availability). During the time I was aboard, we had a running pool going about what would fail first after we left port—the radar, or the water evaporator. (It was usually the evap, but sometimes the radar would fail before we even left port.) We spent an entire week in San Juan PR once because the ancient radar on board failed catastrophically, and there were no available parts to fix it. The lowest point that I can remember is returning from patrol once in 1998; we came limping home with a split fuel line, a blown turbocharger, one of the two ship’s generators siezed up, and the evaporator completely dead (AGAIN). President Clinton came to visit us the next week.

This is not a new situation, and this reporter apparently doesn’t get it and—worse still—doesn’t care. Coasties these days are facing more dangerous conditions than ever, apparently from the very ships that are supposed to carry them. Meanwhile the Navy is trying to force their way into littoral work—the very work the CG is doing—and stealing all the funding from the Coasties.

Give us a break already! We’re trying but it’s impossible to keep flogging old and tired equipment along indefinitely.

The postscript to the story of the abovementioned ship? It’s still in the water, still on duty with the USCG. Two of it’s sister ships—DURABLE and COURAGEOUS—have already been decommissioned and farmed out to third world navies, because they were so badly dilapidated that no amount of money or maintenance could fix them. DURABLE was such a hazard to its crew that it could not even get away from the pier under its own power, and would catch fire at the drop of a hat. Nobody was sorry to see it go.

Sure would be nice for the service to actually get some funding for once…

Is it me or does the Coast Guard just have the worst PR people. 10 minutes listening to their sad sack routine and you just want to go to sleep.

Having worked for the Coast guard for a few year I feel for them they are constantly cut out of money and are worthy since they do a good job in making due with what they have. With the Army and Navy fighting over this budget and when sequestration hits I doubt the USCG will much of anything new. I do say give the USCG some Kidd Class Destroyers and some moth balled DD-51s, for river ops even some old PBRs would be nice to replace old er river boats needing to be upgraded.

Chose that phrase deliberately — every year, Coast Guard leaders take full-color photos to Capitol Hill documenting the poor material condition of their ships. It’s a dramatic way to make the argument that they really need the funding they’re requesting. The examples are all from real budget documents. The Coast Guard has shown rust on 210-foot cutters so bad that daylight comes through the hull; described how it had to fly a new gas turbine out to a 378-foot cutter on deployment in the Middle East; and how the old Acushnet, while it was “Queen of the Fleet,” dropped its screw while it was underway. It’s not a reflection of the ships’ crews, but it is a deliberate attempt by the leadership to put the worst face forward.

Lance, we’ll gladly hand over ALL of the LCS to you!

They seemed to be perfectly suited for the Coast Guard, not the Navy

The LCS would burn through the entire CG yearly cutter fuel budget in one month underway. The Navy can keep them. There was a good reason the CG decoupled from the Navy’s efforts on the LCS at the beginning of the program.

Bosun you hit the nail on the head on several points especially with regard to the Navy trying to get into litoral work. I was in the gulf during Desert Storm when some Navy EOD officer came in trying to explain how much he could do for us in the literals MIO. While I admire our Navy and understand the need to show capabilities across a broad range of missions, I think the CG needs to stand its ground on the littoral mission the same way the Marine Corp stood its ground when the Army tried to muscle in on the amphibious mission in the 1950s. It just takes fortitude and a sense of purpose. Its what we do operationally everyday, we just need to learn how to do it politically.

Good idea. I thought that was considered once but, every service wants its own special toys.

Its only a “sad sack routine” if you’ve never lived it. The army had a “sad sack routine” in Vietnam, until someone figured out that their M-16s really were jamming alot and soldiers were dying because of it. But your right about the PR, the CG doesn’t do PR and the political game well enough.

The USCG’s fuel budget for the year would be wiped out on one patrol, if they took the LCS. The only way the USCG would ever take the LCS is if they redo the Engines and bring them to more economical standards of the NSC. That means swapping out the LCS engines for a more economical NSC CODAG engine. That would lower the top speed of the LCS to where the Burkes and NSC’s are running at.

They deserve a 1000 new ships and boats, They protect our sea borders.

The Coast Guard’s role has changed dramatically since 9/11. They need a more energy efficient class of cutter than can still be versatile enough for open ocean cruises and still able to function close to shorelines. The littoral
design of the Navy’s latest generation should be used as a guideline, but perhaps made smaller and more cost effective with a propulsion system that doesn’t soak up as much fuel as the Navy’s larger designs.
The need for a flight deck large enough to land 2 helicopters simultaneously should be part of the conversation in the development of a 21st Century cutter worthy of the USCG’s mission.

The Commandant is exactly correct along with every Boats and Snipe that has ever served in the USCG. Nobody and I mean nobody can do what we have done with the equipment we are given to maintain. First 99% of the funding decision makers do not know of the the total USCG missions as the Commandant recently reviewed in the remarks about the overseas presence of the USCG. Here is the problem, if you keep doing what you do with what you are given, you never get anything new that is needed. Our own efficiency and effectiveness with current inventory, whether weapons or vessels has caused this duty cycle.
The best Recon platoon always gets the job! So, who you gonna call? Second, the whole framework of the USCG needs to brought up the the USMC budget standard, and not a cent less! We are in a new global threatcon and nobody does jointness like we do and have done for a long time now. Arctic OPS with one Icebreaker is a joke, even with the recently added vessel in the budget. Ask China how aggressive they plan to be in the cold zone. It is time to ROBOCOP the USCG. We need a budget at least 300% of the current one and that is just to get us to ICU. Rehab, prosthetics, computer interfacing and power supply are next at another 100% after surgery. Do you want to be a Bad*** before the fight or after you get your tail blown off? Congress better quit playing budget deficit games and fund the USCG at this level or face the consequences of the existing ” benign neglect ” , I hate minority games toward the USCG.

Now this all interesting information. The last good cutters the Coast Guard had where ships given to them from the Navy. The Coast Guard bright ideas for ships were to have multi-mission use. Which really meant that the ships did none of its mission well or effectively? I served on 255’s, 378’s 270’s and 210’s. The best of them was the old Andy, a 255 class vessel built by the Navy in the mid 40’s. Not only is the Coast Guard leadership inapt, they built the 210’s as academy class project. I was a plank owner of one of the 270’s that was originally suppose to be longer but due to cost over runs they decided that the cost of the vessel was so much per foot and that they could afford only 270 feet. Now they should have asked for additional funds or cancelled some of the vessels. But no, we told congress we would build 13 ships and we would build 13 ships no matter how messed up they turned out. I served on two of those slow pieces of sh$t and wondered how anyone would dare to build something so messed up.

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