The bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is asking the Coast Guard to consider a number of new demands the service has been responding to the past few years as part of its requirement to update its fleet analysis.
“We are concerned that past Fleet Mix Analyses conducted by the United States Coast Guard…are outdated,” the congressmen wrote in a Feb. 24 letter to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz. “As such, those analyses no longer reflect the current global threat environment, the growing mission requirements facing the Coast Guard (particularly those related to the current global threat environment), or the Coast Guard’s hard-won operating experience with Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) and National Security Cutters (NSCs).”
Congress in the 2020 Coast Guard Authorization Act directed the service to update the Fleet Mix Analysis given that the current version is outdated and doesn’t reflect more recent mission demands, threats or some of the lessons learned with newer surface assets, in particular the 154-foot FRCs and 418-foot NSCs. The report is due to Congress by early April.
The letter is signed by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively of the committee, and Salud Carbahal (D-Calif.) and Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
The congressmen cited a Congressional Research Service report from last year that said that the 91 cutters included in the original program of record in 2004, which also includes the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) that is now in production, was only expected to meet 61 percent of mission needs. The committee leaders want an update on the percentage of mission needs that will be met with current force projections and what it will take to meet 100 percent of offshore missions.
Some of the more recent operational demands the congressmen want considered in the updated fleet analysis include the use of NSCs in the Defense Department’s Indo-Pacific Command deployments, the need for homeporting three FRCs in Guam, Russian Navy exercises that disrupted legal U.S. fishing in the Bering Sea, increased deployments on behalf of U.S. Southern Command for drug interdiction operations, and the use of the an NSC to conduct an enforcement patrol against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by Chinese fishermen around the Galapagos Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.
The committee also wants a number of questions to be answered by Schultz, including additional resources the service needs to support DoD Combatant Commanders and how support so far has impacted the Coast Guard’s domestic missions. They also asked “Which USCG assets are best equipped to deal with peer competition at sea, including organic self-defense capability and interoperability with the U.S. Navy.”
The Coast Guard is buying more than 60 FRCs, 11 NSCs and plans to acquire 25 OPCs. The first OPC is scheduled to be delivered in fiscal year 2022.