The United States’ peer naval competitors are on the rise, and our Navy is woefully deficient in the small surface combatants that provide global presence during peacetime and serve as utility players during times of conflict. Until the early 1990s, the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest cutters could be expected to fill a portion of the small surface combatant gap. However, decisions made since the end of the Cold War have left the service without cutters to meet today’s minimum threshold of combat value. Restoring credible warfighting capability to the major cutter fleet is an efficient way to address the small surface combatant shortfall.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy should move jointly and decisively to arm, train and equip the major cutter fleet so that it can perform a useful set of defense and expeditionary missions. The decision to do so is not only a reasonable response to threats posed by increasingly capable, bold and bellicose competitors, but also a recognition of the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard’s large cutters will be put in harm’s way during a general—or major—regional war regardless of the service’s ability to prepare them in advance. Moving forward first requires a reexamination of the major cutter fleet’s historical combat role and the decisions that saw that role scaled back as the Cold War ended.
Read the full article at The National Interest.