The likelihood of major combat operations at sea has diminished significantly for the next two to three decades. In its place, maritime security operations against numerous non-military, non-traditional, asymmetric threats—terrorists, criminals, pirates, smugglers, and assorted miscreants—are highly likely. These threats must be defeated, preferably at their origin, or well before they reach America’s shores. This new national security environment places much greater emphasis on maritime security or constabulary operations for the purpose of “good order and discipline” at sea.There are some things to iron out:
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard are among the federal agencies addressing these threats to America’s maritime security. The Navy will conduct increased global maritime security operations in regional coop erative agreements, primarily against the terrorist threat, while still addressing military threats from hos tile nation-states as well as warfighting and deterrence responsibilities for dissuasion, contested access, and power projection purposes. The Coast Guard will concentrate on maritime security operations against terrorist and criminal threats in America’s maritime domain while still addressing its responsibilities for maritime safety, mobility, protection of natural resources, and national defense.
Despite great commonality in how both services conduct maritime security operations, the Navy and Coast Guard are headed in different directions to provide this capability. The Navy plans to adapt its sophisticated warship, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), and the Coast Guard is building purposely designed maritime security ships. In an era that plac es great emphasis on inter-service “jointness” as dem onstrated by the Joint Strike Fighter Program, along with the very real reality of austere defense procure ment budgets, the nation can no longer afford this bifurcated approach to its maritime security...The Navy and Coast Guard are headed in differ ent directions with regard to building ships for maritime security duties. The Navy plans to adapt a future combatant for maritime security duties by altering its new, special-purpose, anti-access combatant, the Littoral Combat Ship, which is being designed in two variants—a 340-foot, 1,500-ton combatant and a 430-foot, 3,000-ton warship. Both variants will be speedy, optimally manned combatants, designed primarily to perform “focused missions” along the enemy’s coastlines— neutralizing mines and defeating submarines and fast attack craft in relatively shallow coastal waters. Optimized with stealth and command-and-control technologies for focused warfare, and possessing robust self-defense capabilities, a maximum speed of 40 to 50 knots, a 21-day endurance and a 4,500-nautical-mile range at 22 knots, and only around a 1,500-nautical-mile range at high speed, the LCS design uses modular “plug and-fight” mission pay load packages for each mission...The Coast Guard is building two new types of maritime security ships as part of its Integrated Deepwater Project—a 421-foot, 4,200-ton ship and a 350-foot, 3,200-ton ship. With its 12,000-nautical-mile range, 60-day endurance, and 29-knot sprint speed, the “high-end” maritime security ship (WMSL) can provide a security presence throughout America’s maritime domain, as well as operate overseas. The smaller maritime security ship (WMSM), with its 9,000-nautical-mile range, 45-day endurance, and top speed of 28 knots, can also provide a security presence in almost all parts of America’s maritime domain. In a pinch, the WMSM could also deploy to forward areas.Very interesting, and in the budget wars, I hope that serious turf wars don't get in the way of providing the best possible equipment for national security.
The Coast Guard is currently planning to procure around 33 of these ships: eight large maritime security ships at about $280 million each and 25 medium maritime security ships priced at $200 million each. The Coast Guard is also ensuring that these two classes of ships can operate in the post– September 11 security environment...The Navy and Coast Guard are well aware of each other’s efforts in regard to maritime security capabilities. The two services are focusing their col laborative and coordination efforts not on common hulls, or mechanical and electrical systems, but on C4ISR systems commonality and interoperability. The Navy and Coast Guard want their ships to be able to make use of each other’s onboard and off-board systems when they find their ships working together in a homeland or overseas operation. (From a security standpoint, there are no longer any “home games” or “away games.” Both services see homeland security, homeland defense, and overseas operations as key elements of their “port folios” for the 21st century.) Undoubtedly, their approach is reasonable given the different originat ing context and timelines associated with LCS and Deepwater. However, this de facto joint Coast Guard–Navy approach is not mandated or over seen by Congress...In his 2005 Guidance, Admiral Vern Clark direct ed a strong “belt-tightening” approach, calling for a faster, more agile, and smaller fleet. Admiral Clark clearly recognizes that the Navy’s present acquisition plan is unaffordable. Admiral Clark also knows that building a Navy force set that is designed only to deal with major combat opera tions, given all the other tasks that the Navy faces in the world today, “is the incorrect approach to building the force set of the future.”
Admiral Clark wants to reshape the Navy to “handle anti-terror missions as well as traditional naval operations.” One of Admiral Clark’s key lieutenants, Vice Admiral Joseph Sestak, says that “the Navy’s traditional areas of operations—over seas offensive combat operations and homeland defense—are merging.” It almost sounds as if the Navy is reinventing a portion of itself to do Coast Guard missions as it searches for more relevancy and affordability.
With a Coast Guard equipping itself with 33 maritime security ships, with a Navy headed toward placing greater emphasis on homeland and maritime security duties, and in a world plagued with a burgeoning growth in terrorist and civilian maritime threats, the nation can ill afford two sep arate solutions for its maritime security require ments. Full integration between the Navy and the Coast Guard with respect to maritime security capabilities, planning, and operations is warrant ed, especially in light of current and foreseeable budget realities. The Coast Guard and Navy must forge close bonds and blend their respective national elements of maritime power in a collaborative way to meet the nation’s maritime security requirements.
UPDATE; Of course, there is that little thing about the Chinese and Taiwan and something about sinking a US aircraft carrier:
Clearly, the X factor for China is potential U.S. intervention. But China’s strategists think they may have the key to overcoming the United States: sinking a U.S. aircraft carrier. Chinese Major General Huang Bin explained the reasoning: “Once we decide to use force against Taiwan, we definitely will consider an intervention by the United States. The United States likes vain glory; if one of its aircraft carriers should be attacked and destroyed, people in the United States would begin to complain and quarrel loudly, and the U.S. president would find the going harder and harder.” China has equipped its advanced Sovremenny-class destroyers with Sunburn supersonic anti-ship missiles -- missiles designed to sink large vessels such as aircraft carriers.Of course, here are some additional thoughts on the carrier - and who might have to decide to respond...