The Navy and Coast Guard Team: Working Together to Forge a Strong National Fleet

By Rear Adm. William C. McQuilkin, Director Navy Strategy and Policy Division (OPNAV N51) and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, Assistant Commandant for Response Policy (CG-5R)

Throughout the course of our country’s history, the Navy and Coast Guard have worked together.  From our own shorelines, to the Arabian Gulf, to the waters surrounding Pacific island nations, to the Arctic, your Navy and Coast Guard are operating as one team to safeguard our nation’s security, citizens, interests and allies. Our commonality is the sea, and together we have forged a strong National Fleet in support of our nation’s interests.

The Mexican navy patrol ship ARM Independencia (PO-163) is underway in formation with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Escanaba (WMEC-907) during a drone exercise for UNITAS Atlantic 2012.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Frank J. Pikul/Released)

The Mexican navy patrol ship ARM Independencia (PO-163) is underway in formation USS Gravely (DDG 107) and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Escanaba (WMEC-907) during a drone exercise for UNITAS Atlantic 2012.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Frank J. Pikul/Released)

 

In this constrained fiscal environment, we must be good stewards of our resources while continuing to adapt to the changing maritime domain. During the Navy-Coast Guard Staff Talks in June 2013, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert and the Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr. signed the National Fleet Policy (hereafter the Policy), which provides direction and guidance for our services to achieve interoperability for 21st century maritime and naval operations. To support this policy, we stood up the National Fleet Board, which we co-chair, to investigate ways in which we can better support one another. Our efforts over the past 10 months have culminated in the first-ever National Fleet Plan (hereafter the Plan).

The Plan translates the strategic direction of the Policy into a comprehensive plan of action and milestones. We’ve identified eight focus areas where we can become more efficient and effective. These areas and some specific actions are as follows:

Capt. Brian Thompson, U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), discusses conventional and special operations equipment with Lt. Daniel Kenyon, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 2, during a visit to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lauren Booher/Released)

Capt. Brian Thompson, U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), discusses conventional and special operations equipment with Lt. Daniel Kenyon, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 2, during a visit to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lauren Booher/Released)

  • Current and evolving operations: We are establishing a USN-USCG Arctic working group to collaboratively implement action items within our service strategies and generate initiatives for further cooperation.
  • Integrated logistics: We will identify commonality of ship/aircraft parts, geographic logistics points, and coordinate maintenance and readiness sustainment work.
  • Training: We will identify interoperable maritime skill-sets like pilot training, information dominance, EOD, diving, electronic warfare, intelligence, and tactical operations.
  • Command, control, communications systems: The Permanent Joint Working Group (PJWG) will plan and coordinate USN and USCG acquisition of C3 systems.
  • Sensors: We will pursue common sensors such as fire control radars, electronic warfare systems, and electro-optical sights integrated into gun  weapons systems.
  • Engineering systems: We will improve agreements between NAVSEA and USCG to expand and leverage research and development efforts applicable to advancing science and technology.
  • Weapons systems: We will explore interagency commonality for stabilized small arms mounts, maintenance and sparing of weapon systems, and joint weapons certification.
  • Platforms: We will explore interagency commonality in items such as propulsion systems, unmanned aircraft systems, and readiness training courses.

So what does this mean for Sailors and Coast Guardsmen on the deckplate? It is important to remember that this is a long-term plan and we are still in the beginning phases of development. Since June, we’ve made substantial progress to determine areas in which we can heighten our interoperability. The National Fleet Board has already convened once and provided detailed guidance on the development and submission requirements for the focus areas mentioned above. Eight working groups have been developing these focus areas and will produce tangible results.

Moving forward, our Fleet Board will meet semi-annually and the Plan will be updated annually. As we take a hard look at our future individual service operations, you may see that systems of operations, equipment, and procedures for a Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) are the same regardless of service. You’ll see counterparts from each service training together as our Special Mission Training Centers examine innovative and partnered approaches to provide shared classroom instruction. Additionally, there will likely be more cross-decking of personnel to glean experience and lessons learned from each other. We will look to streamline our parts acquisition process as we institutionalize Naval Logistics Initiatives in Navy and Coast Guard logistics training and education venues.  We will examine and develop Arctic lessons learned and incorporate them into training and education throughout our services.

Two Coast Guard Dolphin HH-65C Helicopter's land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Terah L. Mollise/Released)

Two Coast Guard Dolphin HH-65C Helicopter’s land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Terah L. Mollise/Released)

 

The value of a strong National Fleet has proven to be vital to our country, whether in peacetime or in war. The Navy and Coast Guard best serve our nation when we deliberately prepare our force to work together and make our National Fleet end state complementary and non-redundant. The current and future threats in the maritime domain are complex and our national security and global economy have never been more dependent upon stable and free seas. Our Plan will ensure that our future force is flexible, adaptable, and capable to meet emerging security challenges as a united sea-service force.

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