Yesterday, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp provided an update on the Coast Guard to the 24th Annual Surface Navy Association Symposium in Arlington, Va. He shared information on the Coast Guard’s current surface operations and the progress the Coast Guard has made in recapitalizing surface assets.
Papp told the audience the Coast Guard is fully engaged in securing the Americas, from the Arctic down to the Eastern Pacific. He said our versatile and agile cutters serve as the front line for the security, safety and stewardship of our waters and homeland. These ships also have the ability to project soft power internationally, which is in great demand as many international navies look much like us.
Some examples from the past year that highlight these points include:
• The Coast Guard Cutter Healy diverted from a scheduled science mission and is clearing a path through nearly 100 miles of Arctic ice that will enable the tanker Renda to deliver about 1.3 million gallons of fuel to Nome, Alaska, for the winter. The situation arose after a regularly scheduled fuel shipment was delayed in November due to severe storms in the Bering Strait.
• The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut shifted from its primary aids to navigation and law enforcement missions to deliver emergency fresh water supplies and an assessment team to the Tokelau Islands in the central Pacific in October 2011, after a severe drought left Tokelau citizens with a seven-day supply of water.
• The Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk interdicted a semi-submersible vessel carrying seven tons of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras in September 2011. The smugglers scuttled the vessel with the drugs aboard, but divers later recovered the contraband, providing evidence to prosecute the vessel’s crew. The cocaine was bound for the U.S.
Papp also told the audience that the upcoming year would be an exciting time for ongoing recapitalization of the service’s cutters.
Of the eight national security cutters planned to replace our 40-year-old fleet of 12 378-ft high endurance cutters, two are now serving in the fleet, the third has been delivered and will be commissioned this spring, the fourth is being built and the fifth is under contract. The fiscal year 2012 budget provides $77 million for long lead time materials for the sixth national security cutter.
On its first patrol in the Eastern Pacific, the second national security cutter, Waesche, seized more than a ton of cocaine. The ship’s endurance, speed and enhanced sensors contributed to the successful mission.
Additionally, three of the 58 planned Sentinel-Class fast response cutters are in the water preparing for delivery with six others under construction. With recent enactment of the fiscal year 2012 budget, the first 18 vessels have been funded. The lead ship, Bernard C. Webber, will be commissioned in the spring.
In keeping with the Surface Navy Association theme, “Surface Navy: A Credible Force in Uncertain Times,” the Coast Guard proves itself daily as a credible seagoing force protecting the security, safety and stewardship of our nation’s waters.