A Critical Asset
By J. MICHAEL McGRATH, National President
The first National Security
Cutter (NSC), Bertholf, is
unlike any other ship in the U.S.
Coast Guard fleet. Its state-of-the-art propulsion and weapon systems,
modern bridge and crew accommodations are unrivaled. Having spent
21 years with a naval architecture
and marine engineering firm following my naval career, I like to feel
I understand ship design.
This first ship in the new Legend
class of eight 418-foot cutters was
preliminarily accepted by the Coast
Guard on May 8 and will be commissioned in its homeport of Alameda, Calif., on Aug. 4, the Coast
Guard’s birthday. The Navy League of the United States
has been asked to coordinate the commissioning of this
FIRST major asset [see related article, page 53].
I had the opportunity to see this magnificent ship in
late June when Bertholf’s commanding officer, Capt.
Patrick Stadt, and his crew made a port call in
Baltimore as part of the ship’s East Coast tour before
heading to its homeport.
How fitting that this first-in-class ship be named for
Ellsworth Bertholf, the first commandant of the U.S.
Coast Guard. He was appointed captain-commandant
of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service in 1911, and in that
position oversaw its merger with the U.S. Life-Saving
Service to create the U.S. Coast Guard. He was named
captain-commandant of the new service in 1915.
It was my privilege to be onboard when the ship
docked at Broadway Pier in Fells Point June 27 and to
be in the company of distinguished guests that included Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant; Rep.
Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Department of Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his wife,
Meryl, Bertholf’s sponsor.
Secretary Chertoff, in prepared remarks, applauded
the Coast Guard and its industry partners for bringing
Bertholf to this point. Indeed, there were hurdles to
overcome during the ship’s development and construction, and a few issues still need to be addressed. But it
is in the water, in the capable hands of a captain and
crew who have been assembling in Alameda, training
and preparing to take over the
Bertholf for nearly two years.
Adm. Allen noted during his
remarks that a ship “comes to life
when the crew comes aboard.”
That is certainly true of Capt. Stadt
and his crew, who were eager to
show the 100 guests that day, and
the more than 3,000 visitors that
weekend, a glimpse of the Coast
Guard of the future.
Part of the service’s sweeping
Deepwater modernization program,
the NSCs will bring to the fleet
“higher sustained transit speeds;
greater endurance and range; and a
greater ability to launch and recover small boats, helicopters and, eventually, unmanned
aerial vehicles,” according to a Coast Guard fact sheet.
The successful delivery of Bertholf — built by
Northrop Grumman in Pascagoula, Miss. — reflects the
progress made during the last year in the Deepwater
program as a whole. Faced with a program that was rife
with problems and under the congressional microscope, the Coast Guard overhauled Deepwater’s management and oversight structure, taking complete control and responsibility for past failures and vowing to
turn the program around. The service has, indeed, put
Deepwater back on course.
The NSCs are a critical asset for the Coast Guard,
whose mission profile — drug interdiction, homeland
and port security, search and rescue, law enforcement
and much more — continues to grow on a tight budget using aging platforms and a talented but relatively
small personnel pool.
The Coast Guard has demonstrated its ability to
execute the Deepwater program and thus deserves the
congressional commitment to full funding. The
momentum must not be lost as budget battles continue to be waged in Washington.
One Mission — One Team