Tag Archives: US Coast Guard

Coast Guard Budget Battles Revisited

Post by Chuck Hill

Why does the Coast Guard seem to be losing the budget battle within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? While funding for the Department has grown, the Coast Guard budget has in fact declined in real terms. I suspect it has a lot to do with perceptions of a miss-match between DHS missions and Coast Guard missions.

Congress attempted to address this perceived mismatch in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 by requiring an annual report of resources allocated to DHS missions and non-DHS missions, to ensure non-DHS missions are not ignored. I will refer to this “Annual Review of  the  United States Coast  Guard’s  Mission  Performance” (pdf) as the Performance Report.

It is an interesting report, but it does have significant weaknesses, largely stemming from the use of undifferentiated and undefined “resource hours” as a measure of effort. I reviewed a report back in 2010 and offered my criticisms, which have not changed herehere, and here.

Unfortunately, I think this report may be part of the problem, in that it defines several Coast Guard missions as “non-DHS,” and it gives the impression, erroneously I believe, that roughly half of the Coast Guard’s budget goes for things outside the DHS charter.

Of the eleven Coast Guard missions, six were regarded as Non-Homeland Security missions: SAR, AtoN, Living Marine Resources, Marine Environmental Protection, Marine Safety, and Ice Operations.

The five Homeland Security missions are Ports, waterways, and coastal security, Drug Interdiction, Undocumented Migrant Interdiction, Defense Readiness, and Other Law Enforcement (primarily Foreign Fisheries Enforcement).

But these distinctions are fallacious.

The Department views its own missions as:

  1. Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
  2. Securing and managing our borders
  3. Enforcing and administering our Immigration laws
  4. Safeguarding and securing cyberspace
  5. Ensuring resilience to Disaster

NON-DHS MISSIONS: All these missions, at least in some respects, support DHS missions.

SAR: A robust SAR organization is clearly a necessary foundation for “Ensuring resilience to Disaster.” What were Katrina and Sandy but huge SAR cases? SAR command posts and communications are the skeletal structure upon which Disaster Response is based. After all, every SAR case is really a response to a disaster of some dimension. If the 3,000 plus people the CG saves every year had died in a single incident, it would have been a disaster on the order of 9/11.

AtoN: Most of the population lives near the coast or inland waterways. Most depend heavily on marine transportation and in many cases fishing. When there is a disaster, restoring safe navigation is a high priority both for bringing in assistance and for recovery.

Marine Environmental Protection (MEP):  The Deepwater Horizon was a disaster. MEP regulation attempts head off disasters and mitigate its effects, that is “ensuring resilience to disaster” plus offshore and port-side energy infrastructure are potential terrorists targets.

Marine Safety: Marine Safety is designed to prevent marine disasters. A sunken cruise ship could be a disaster on the order of 9/11. Marine Safety standards tends to mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack on marine targets

Living Marine Resources: Destruction of valuable marine resources can actually be as disaster for the economy of some communities.

Ice Operations: Domestic icebreakers can prevent flooding. We recently had a case where a community in Alaska would have been left without fuel, if an icebreaker had not opened a path for delivery.

THE UNLISTED COAST GUARD MISSION:

Safeguarding and securing cyberspace: It is not one of the Coast Guard’s eleven statutory missions, but this is in fact one of the Commandant’s key priorities. Still it is not addressed in the Coast Guard’s annual Performance Report.

THE NON-DHS DHS MISSIONS: Two missions listed as DHS missions in fact are of little interest to the department, and performance goals (which are themselves perhaps inadequate) in these two areas are not being met.

Defense Readiness: Apparently the Coast Guard is doing more for Defense Readiness now than it was before 9/11, but really little has been done in terms of adapting resources for wartime roles. Additionally, a potentially major Coast Guard contribution to defense readiness, the major cutters, are being replaced at such a slow rate, the fleet continues to age, making it less reliable.

Other Law Enforcement (primarily foreign fisheries): DHS probably has little interest in this. This mission also suffers from the aging of the cutter fleet, and additionally the very large US EEZ in the Western Pacific has been largely ignored.

Problems in DHS: I do think the Departments placement of priority on counter-terrorism over more general disaster response is misplaced,  and this is another source of problems.

CONCLUSION:

I will quote my closing paragraph from my 2010 post,

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” Matthew 25:14-30.

 

This article can be found in its original form on Chuck Hill’s CG blog.  Chuck retired from the Coast Guard after 22 years service. Assignments included four ships, Rescue Coordination Center New Orleans, CG HQ, Fleet Training Group San Diego, Naval War College, and Maritime Defense Zone Pacific/Pacific Area Ops/Readiness/Plans. Along the way he became the first Coast Guard officer to complete the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) course and also completed the Naval Control of Shipping course. He has had a life-long interest in naval ships and history.

Sea Control 6: USCG Adventures

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USCG Mobile Training Branch member, James Daffer, has traveled the world. We talk with him about what he’s seen in the world of capacity building for maritime security abroad, soft power and relationship building, cultural challenges when working amongst different peoples, and stories about his travels. SC Episode 6 – USCG Adventures (Download)

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West Africa: An Ounce of Prevention

AMLEP in action: A joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding team talk with the crew of a cargo ship.
AMLEP in action: A joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding team talk with the crew of a cargo ship.

After a series of high-profile stand-offs with Somali pirates, the international community has directed a great deal of resources toward securing the Gulf of Aden. But with an increase in piracy and other criminal activities in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea, some of which may be linked to terrorist networks, what role can the Atlantic community play in securing the coasts of West Africa?

On the one hand, the United States and European partners are making an important contribution in terms of equipment. In particular, vessels provided through the U.S. military’s Excess Defense Articles system have bolstered the capabilities of naval forces in the region. A recent example is the acquisition by the Nigerian Navy of a former U.S. Navy survey ship and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, due to be delivered by early 2014. These donated vessels will go a long way to boosting capabilities, especially as at this time the Nigerian Navy is largely dependent on Seaward Defense Boats commissioned from the Indian shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers. The Indian Navy itself has decommissioned its own complement of Seaward Defense Boats because these vessels generate a disproportionately large maintenance overhead – the materials and method of construction leave the patrol craft with very low corrosion tolerance.

More than vessels and equipment, however, the naval forces of West African countries require training assistance. In this area, some training and joint exercises are being conducted by NATO and EU member states, but much of this is carried out on a bilateral, case-by-case basis. In April 2013, French and American military advisors provided training to Liberian Coast Guard personnel, including such topics as non-compliant vessel boarding, search and seizure tactics, weapons familiarization, and hull sweeps for mines and smuggling compartments. All of this mentorship and training was limited to a four-day port visit by a French frigate to Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Other training opportunities take place intermittently. U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) has introduced the Africa Partnership Station (APS) program, through which U.S. Navy and Coast Guard crews carry out mentoring initiatives similar to the Monrovia visit described above. The Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) sees personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard and relevant African institutions operating alongside one another for a slightly more sustained duration. Under this latter program, a U.S. Navy or Coast Guard vessel patrols the territorial waters of the African host country, carrying both an American boarding party and a boarding party from the host country, enhancing that country’s counter-piracy capabilities while also exposing the partner country’s personnel to U.S. Coast Guard best practices.

Although AMLEP benefits from a greater duration and depth of interaction, the exchanges are still too brief to develop naval forces that can operate independently in West Africa. More must be done in this area in order to avoid a scenario in which piracy interferes with shipping in the Gulf of Guinea to such an extent that NATO and its partners must field an intervention of the same scale and extent as Operation Ocean Shield, which continues to this day in the Gulf of Aden. To reduce reliance on Ocean Shield, the European Union has since 2012 mounted an ambitious training assistance mission, known as EUCAP NESTOR, with the objective of providing consistent and intensive training assistance to the maritime forces of such countries as Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. The mission has 45 full-time staff members working in the countries – primarily Djibouti – and a planned capacity of 137. Begun with a mandate of two years, EUCAP NESTOR could be renewed until these East African states are able to take charge of policing the Gulf of Aden, replacing Ocean Shield.

Whereas EUCAP NESTOR was introduced in East Africa as a response to a full-blown crisis of pirate activity, a similar mission could be launched in West Africa as a preventative measure. The lessons that could be provided and the connections that could be forged in a two-year mandate would likely surpass what can be achieved in a four-day port visit. Whether such a training mission would be better carried out under the auspices of the EU or NATO is a matter of political debate. From a practical standpoint, however, committing resources to the sustained development of the Nigerian Navy, the Liberian Coast Guard, and other regional partners would be more cost-effective than the eventual alternative: the deployment of an Ocean Shield-style mission to the Gulf of Guinea.

Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. Having previously worked with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, he has an active interest in both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ security issues.

A Post-Chavez Maritime Order

U.S. and Venezuelan Sailors work together during counter-drug operations in 2009.
U.S. and Venezuelan Sailors work together during counter-drug operations in 2009.

In the next few days there will undoubtedly be a glut of post-mortems on the Chávez era and predictions for the future (not least because much of Washington’s “blogging class” is home for a snowstorm)1. Much of it will be by experts on the region or those armed with interesting facts. I’m not aiming to compete or replicate their work; what I want to look at is the implications for defense cooperation, specifically naval and maritime matters.

Danse Macabre Venezuelan
America’s tumultuous relationship with Venezuela under Chávez is well documented – from coups to theatrical UN speeches to declaiming Halloween’s frights as acts of “imperialist terror” – but it wasn’t always this way. Prior to Chávez’s inauguration in 1999, the U.S. enjoyed many fruitful defense ties with Venezuela including intelligence-sharing, counter-narcotics, military training, and defense exports.

Most of these ties continued during Chávez’s first term in office, although an initial indication of Chávez’s wariness of the American military may have arisen during floods and mudslides in December 1999-January 2000. After allowing in roughly 100 U.S. troops, he cancelled plans for additional U.S. military construction corps members to assist in the recovery efforts.

On the other hand, as late as 2002 Chávez still enjoyed interacting with the crews of visiting naval vessels, as this post by Chris Cavas, detailing a port call by the USS Yorktown (CG 48), and a declassified U.S. State Dept. Memo highlight. However, a mere 5 weeks later, the April 2002 coup would irreparably alter relations.

The U.S. military came under particular criticism from Chávez, both for allegedly – and without proof – directly aiding the coup attempt and subsequent espionage and coup-plotting efforts. Venezuela expelled a string of military attachés on these grounds, a tradition continuing to this day (see below). Chávez also followed up his words by severing most of the existing military ties between 2003-2005, including ending training-support missions and participation in the annual UNITAS naval exercise. It may have been his calculation that there was greater value in showcasing an external “imperialist” threat to shore up support, in the tradition of Vladimir Putin, than to maintain ties with the U.S. But whatever the reason, military relations after the coup were quickly curtailed.

In 2006, due to a lack of cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts, the U.S. followed suit by sanctioning arms exports to Venezuela. Despite these impediments, informal ties between the two militaries continued as the Venezuelan military backers of Chávez have reputedly been of a more pragmatic strain than their leftist civilian government counterparts.

One area of considerable focus has been counter-drug (CD) efforts. Despite the appearance of Chávez’s personal enmity, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have still managed in recent years to work with their counterparts, although this has reportedly been on a case-by-case rather than formalized basis. According to the GAO:

DOD allotted about $3 million for counternarcotics and related security assistance in Venezuela in fiscal years 2006 through 2011. Through 2009, this assistance was used in part to provide tactically actionable intelligence to both US and select Venezuelan law enforcement agencies.

CD efforts will continue to loom large as avenues for cooperation and potential sticking points if the next election returns a “Bolivarian” government. The Wall Street Journal reported this January that attempts to improve ties between the U.S. and Venezuela are hampered by

…allegations of high-level involvement by the Chávez government in drug trafficking. The U.S. has put seven top current and former Venezuelan officials on a Treasury blacklist for their alleged drug and arms dealing links to Colombian guerrillas based in Venezuela. Those links were exposed in 2008 after the Colombian military captured computers used by a guerrilla leader killed on a cross border raid in Ecuador.

 

Among the officials put on the Treasury list are Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the former minister of defense who was recently elected governor of the state of Trujillo. Mr. Rangel Silva and the others say they are innocent.

Venezuela’s immediate future looks to be tumultuous and relations could in fact worsen. Vice President Nicholás Maduro moved to expel two American diplomats and claimed that Chávez had been poisoned with cancer by Venezuela’s “historical enemies.” This may have been mere posturing to aid power-consolidation for the immediate transition and new the elections that are constitutionally required to be held in 30 days – but it is a sign that things are far from certain to improve.

Despite today’s focus on Chávez’s death, however, the more meaningful impact on U.S.-Venezuelan naval and maritime efforts may have come from last week’s enactment of Sequestration. As Sam Lagrone describes, the forced budget cuts have dealt a blow to Operation Martillo’s CD efforts, suspending deployments to SOUTHCOM of U.S. Navy frigates USS Rentz (FFG-46) and USS Thach (FFG-43). Just as an opening may occur for increased cooperation in the next few months or years, the U.S. may not be able to take full advantage of it.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.