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January 2013 Issue

US Coast Guard Works To Improve Operations

By Adm. Bob Papp
Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard protects people on the sea, the nation against threats from the sea and the sea itself. In contrast to our broad authorities and responsibilities, we are a relatively small service, and units often carry out all three of our maritime functions: safety, security and stewardship.

The Coast Guard and its cutters, boats and aircraft perform multiple roles, including humanitarian operations, maritime drug interdiction, pollution response and cleanup, and enforcing legislation such as the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act.

As I look forward to 2013, the Coast Guard is focused on strengthening the ability of Coast Guardsmen to perform our missions.

Operational Improvements
The Coast Guard has completed a program review to achieve and sustain proficient deployable specialized forces as a fully integrated component of the Coast Guard's Maritime Trident of Forces: shore-based, maritime patrol and deployable specialized forces.

The service is now coordinating deployable specialized forces with other operating forces under the leadership of senior operational commanders. This will be accomplished by establishing clear requirements for capabilities, mission-essential tasks and corresponding competencies, and putting policy, doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures in place before operations begin. The Coast Guard will provide standardization of equipment, operations and tactics, and evaluate readiness, as well as focus on mitigating operational risk, safe training and effective operations.

As the Coast Guard improves how it operates, there is also a focus on where it operates. In response to a substantial increase in maritime activity in the Arctic, the Coast Guard conducted Operation Arctic Shield during 2012 to provide an air, surface and shoreside Coast Guard presence in the Arctic and to coordinate with federal, state, local and tribal partners throughout the summer. The effort provided an opportunity to exercise capabilities and partnerships, and the lessons learned will inform Coast Guard planning and strategy in the Arctic as human and commercial activity increases there.

Moving forward, the Coast Guard will continue building its strategy using a whole-of-government approach that will inform national dialogue and policy development for this vital region.

Fleet Status and Maintenance
In the coming year, the Coast Guard will also continue to recapitalize its surface and air fleets. Of the eight 418-foot national security cutters planned to replace its 40-year-old high-endurance cutters, three are fully operational and serving in the fleet, the fourth is in production, the fifth is under contract, and the funding for the sixth is contained in the president's fiscal year 2013 budget.

The Coast Guard also took the delivery of four of the 58 planned fast-response cutters and has 14 more under contract. There are 14 new fixed-wing HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft in service to replace the older HU-25 Guardian jets, with more on the way. Almost 144 existing helicopters have been completely refurbished. Further, there are 111 new response boats-medium, with 55 more on order.

Finally, the Coast Guard has upgraded various shore and communication facilities, and completed an overhaul of 17 110-foot patrol boats and 14 210-foot medium-endurance cutters. Work continues on improving the reliability and maintaining the core effectiveness of the 270-foot cutters to sustain current operations.

Marine Safety
The Coast Guard continues to implement elements of the Marine Safety Enhancement Plan to ensure it provides the best service to the U.S. maritime industry.

The focus is to reduce the risk of accidents by taking steps to prevent them. To accomplish this, civilian marine inspectors have been added around the U.S.

The Coast Guard's focus on prevention and preparedness paid dividends in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the search and rescue missions the Coast Guard performed, crews worked alongside local, state, federal and industry partners to quickly reopen the ports of New York and New Jersey to tug and barge traffic, essential for the delivery of energy products to the fuel-starved region. Coast Guard Strike Teams also lent their all-hazards response experience to dewater tunnels, reopening critical roadways in the region.

Since 2008, seven centers of expertise have been established to continue increasing Coast Guard proficiency in marine inspection and investigation. Further, six centers of expertise continue to increase proficiency in these disciplines. We are implementing regulatory changes provided in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and working to complete the process of organizing our sectors to provide a centralized point of access.

In 2013, the Coast Guard and industry will begin the implementation of ballast water standards established by regulation in 2012 for U.S. waters.

The new process establishes requirements for designing, testing, installing and operating equipment onboard vessels. The standard matches the one adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 2004, maximizing protection of the environment from invasive species while considering technological feasibility and impact on the economy.

Care for Service Members
The agency has also made progress on improving housing, child care and family services to its service members.

A national housing assessment of Coast Guard-owned family housing's suitability and adequacy was completed in May 2012 and is being used to inform future Coast Guard housing policies and initiatives.

Under a new statutory authority, the Coast Guard is selling excess housing and land, the proceeds from which go to improve other Coast Guard housing. Improvements have been made to the in-home Family Child Care program, and additional training and curriculum specialists will be hired to ensure continued accreditation of the Coast Guard's nine child development centers.

Looking to 2013
All of these initiatives will help us to pursue recapitalization efforts while sustaining our front line operations in a budget-constrained environment.

The Coast Guard's missions are expansive—as are waters for which it is responsible—but these critical steps will ensure its units remain flexible and Semper Paratus, always ready.

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