Magazine article National Defense

Retiring Commandant Calls Oceangoing Coast Guard Fleet 'Woefully Inadequate'

Magazine article National Defense

Retiring Commandant Calls Oceangoing Coast Guard Fleet 'Woefully Inadequate'

Article excerpt

Adm. Robert Papp, with only months left in his tenure as commandant of the Coast Guard, said his successor must push to update the service's oceangoing cutter fleet.

"The challenge that my relief will face--and hopefully I'm leaving him as well positioned as possible--is the recapitalization of our fleet," Papp said at the AFCEA West conference in San Diego. "I've been making the case as powerfully and as constantly as I can that, for the Coast Guard, we've got to recapitalize that fleet that is offshore." Though it is often starved for funding compared to the larger military services, Papp said the Coast Guard has succeeded in keeping its fleet of smaller, inshore patrol boats up to date.

"We've recapitalized almost all of our [in] shore forces," Papp said. "We're nearing 170 new response boats that went out to our stations. We've recapitalized our small boat fleet. We put more conventional Coast Guardsmen at our stations. We've created deployable specialized forces, and we're building more patrol boats. We have more patrol boats than we've ever had in our history, and we're building more."

The Coast Guard's oceangoing fleet is "woefully inadequate," Papp said. Its high-endurance cutters are on average 45 years old. The workhorse medium endurance cutters that range from 200 feet to 270 feet long are approaching 50 years of service.

"We've got to replace those ships," he said.

The Coast Guard already has funding for 30 new fast-response cutters, which is about half of a planned fleet of 58 ships, he said. But as the Defense Department, particularly the Navy, gears up to police the Asia-Pacific region, the Coast Guard's law-enforcement authorities are needed farther from the U.S. mainland shoreline.

"When you are dealing with threats in a coastal and near-shore zone, in football terms you are in the red zone.... You need maritime patrol forces that can go out beyond the exclusive economic zone that patrol on the high seas and can intercept threats before they get into that red zone."

The United States has a large exclusive economic zone that extends throughout the Pacific for which the Coast Guard and Navy are responsible. At 4.5 million square miles, it is the largest EEZ of any nation on Earth. Unlike the Navy, the Coast Guard has law enforcement authorities within the U. …

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