working with our partners. In the
energy realm, it’s all about expertise
and capacity, it’s a whole plan to
[safeguard and ensure the operation
of] the nation’s maritime transportation system.
How will the reduced presence
of the Navy in the Western
Hemisphere impact the Coast
MICHEL: The Navy has been pulled
into other areas, like the Pacific and
the Middle East, and it’s been difficult for them to provide surface
assets, but they can provide other
assets aside from ships. We would
like to see them back in this theater,
but we understand why they have to
pull back. It’s all about complementary resources and partnerships with
allied nations down there.
What is the impact of legacy
cutters on operations?
MICHEL: Last year, the Medium-Endurance Cutter fleet lost 20 percent of its operational days due to
unanticipated breakdowns. We are only getting 80 percent out of a fleet that is already old. The one benefit
from having an old ship is my concerns about cyber
security are a lot less on a ship of that class. There is
very little automation on those ships. But because of
that, they do not have the benefits of modern technology. The engines on there are big and inefficient.
The ships that are out there are slower, less capable,
more prone to breakdown, less intelligent, less efficient.
They use more manpower instead of machinery in order
to get things done, too. I would not say they are in a death
spiral at this point, but we spend way too much money
on that fleet when we should be investing elsewhere.
What is currently being done for icebreaker
MICHEL: Icebreakers are a little bit complicated. There
is an idea that we need a new polar icebreaker at some
point in the future, but we also have icebreaking
responsibilities right now. We currently have two oper-
ational icebreakers — one heavy icebreaker, Polar Star,
which was recently refurbished and we are trying to
get about seven to 10 more years out of life from that
refurbishment, and that’s the nation’s only heavy ice-
breaker. We also have Healy, which is a medium ice-
breaker, and it’s approaching its midlife.
In my opinion, that is not adequate icebreaking
capabilities, particularly on the heavy side of the
house because of the responsibilities they have there.
Being one deep on a 40-year-old ship is not where we
need to go.
So the Coast Guard has spent single-digit millions
to look into the procurement of a new polar icebreaker.
We have been reaching out to countries like Finland to
explore the types of steel and construction techniques
for this type of vessel. There are only two countries
“We currently have two operational icebreakers … In my opinion, that is not
adequate icebreaking capabilities, particularly on the heavy side of the
house because of the responsibilities they have there. Being one deep on a
40-year-old ship is not where we need to go.”
Coast Guard VADM Charles D. Michel, deputy commandant for Operations,
speaks during the Sea Services Roundtable on “A Cooperative 21st Century
Strategy” April 13 at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition in National Harbor, Md.