But it’s not just the cutter fleet that must be upgraded. In “Endangered Species: Maritime Patrol Aircraft,” longtime Proceedings author Scott Truver teams with retired Vice Admiral Terry Cross for a sobering look at the gap between the Coast Guard’s old airplanes and their modern follow-ons, which they say are also too slow in coming. The highly touted C-130J Super Hercules long-range and HC-144A Ocean Sentry medium-range surveillance, reconnaissance, and transport craft are capable of working with joint and interagency teams because of their “connectivity.” But, the authors say, because of just that capability, the gap is widening and “unless addressed soon, promises to hamstring the Coast Guard’s ability to accomplish its missions.”
These air and surface capabilities will be important in the years to come, especially should there be another mass-migration event such as Operations Able Manner and Able Vigil in the 1990s. Commander Richard J. Wester, who was a lieutenant on board the CGC Escape (WMEC-6) during that period and is now serving on the Joint Staff, analyzes the Coast Guard’s earlier response and discusses its recent partnership with other federal agencies in developing an extensive plan for future contingencies.
Another Sea Service struggling with new budget realities is the Marine Corps. With the demise of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, says Navy Commander In Ha, the Corps needs to think outside the box. He sees the hovercraft—specifically an armed, off-the-shelf, and relatively inexpensive commercial product—as an ideal way to match capabilities with national-security needs. And with a little extra retrofitting, he adds, it probably could fulfill the mission of the beleaguered LCS.
While the Marine Corps’ combat capability is clear, it seems hard to believe that even some of its most battle-hardened veterans have never been on board a ship. The service needs to return to and update its amphibious training, according to Colonels Adam Holmes and David Fuquea, and the 2011 Bold Alligator exercise aimed to accomplish this. However, it also illustrated the somewhat deleterious effect that ten years of overseas land fighting has had on the Corps’ amphibious-warfare capabilities. Among the dramatic changes needed to regain proficiency at this “lost art” is a return to the Marines’ long-absent spirit of radical innovation. The authors worry that the removal of Marine detachments from Navy ships has destroyed the time-honored synergy between the two services. That bond may be difficult to recreate in the looming era of fiscal austerity.