The DoD Roundtable had the privilege of interviewing the Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Allen prior to his retirement this year. Admiral Thad W. Allen assumed the duties of the 23rd Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on May 25th, 2006. The Coast Guard is the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), comprised of about 42,000 men and women on Active Duty, 7,000 civilians, 8,000 Reservists and 34,000 volunteer Auxiliarists and is the fifth military service. I spent several tours in the Air Force combat rescue world and my Coast Guard contacts were always extremely professional and they often accomplished much with few resources. Visits to Coast Guard maintenance facilities at Elizabeth City, NC reflected the organizations pride and mission focus as well!
During the Roundtable Admiral Allen discussed the Coast Guards fiscal year 2011 budget including anticipated budget impacts such as the need to recapitalize the service's aging ships, aircraft and shore facilities. He also spoke proudly of the Coast Guard's recent response efforts in Haiti.
With his opening remarks concentrating on the need to recapitulate the Coast Guard resources such as cutters, boats and infrastructure it was easy to see why they had chosen it as their number one priority. With an ageing fleet of ships and small, isolated infrastructure stations in need of updates and funding Admiral Allen will ask Congress for the following spending priorities in hearings schedule in 3-4 weeks. Here are Coast Guard Budget Priorities for 2011:
- Recapitalize cutters, boats, aircraft and infrastructure
- Deliver value to the Nation
- Support and develop a competent, capable, diverse, and healthy workforce
- Modernize business practices
According to the admiral the Coast Guard will be smaller next year as they downsize manpower to provide additional funding for the recapitulation of their resources. The manpower reduction is about 1,000 active duty and will be partially covered by a much smaller hiring of civilian manpower (339 positions). When queried about the impact of the manpower loss on the national defense mission he provide some great commentary on how the Coast Guard provided some great capabilities but with so many missions to accomplish he had to use risk management to determine which to prosecute. He used the example of moving the anti drug resources in the Caribbean as first responders after the Haiti earthquake. The quake victims became the priority for them and he was quite proud of their response! So are we Admiral! Thank you from a grateful nation!
The Coast Guard intends to pursue purchase of national security cutters, patrol boats, utility boats and patrol aircraft. According to the budget the vessels and aircraft being replaced have reached the end of their service life! Specifically, FY 2011 recapitalization funding for NSC #5 with the ultimate goal of replacing the 40 year old fleet of 12 high endurance cutters. The maritime patrol aircraft will replace the 25 year old HU-25 Falcon jet fleet and the Fast Response Cutters will replace the Island Class Patrol Boat. Finally, the Response Boats-Medium will replace the current utility boats. When asked about helicopter resources, the admiral felt that the current fleet of HH-60s and HH65s had been through recent retrofits and that block upgrades such as the new engines for the HH-65s would keep them operational for 10-15 years.
When I asked about Coast Guard efforts to support their families, the Admiral spoke with conviction and heart felt feelings. His big point was parity/equity with the other military services. He said sometimes legislation forgets the Coast Guard when determining family funding issues such as child development centers and housing. Having seen some pretty bad Coast Guard housing I think he has a great point! The Guardian families are often located in isolated places with medical facility challenges as well. The admiral said the families often are in an almost deployed situation. The budget does include $14M for new housing which he was happy with and expressed appreciation to the President and First Lady for their support in this matter.
He closed with challenges faced by the Coast Guard including defining the Coast Guard’s role in Homeland Security and how to operate in a constrained budget environment. Thank you Admiral Allen for your service! Best Wishes and God Speed!
If you would like to listen to the audio of the Roundtable or read a transcript please go to DoDLive! Specific budget information can be found in this online pdf document If you would like to listen to Admiral Allen's State of the Coast Guard speech at the National Press Club here is an audio link.
If you would like to read more about the military response to the earthquake in Haiti please go to our Haiti articles on MilitaryAvenue.com which is chronological. To see the US Coast Guard installations on MilitaryAvenue please go to Coast Guard installations.
Photo Credits: Admiral Allen's Official Bio Photo
Photo Credits: PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Coast Guard Lt. Teresa Wolf, a physician assistant assigned to Port Security Unit (PSU) 307, and Methelus Edelette, A Haitian Coast Guard corpsman, provide medical attention and medicine during an orphanage relief project, Feb. 03,