EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda L. Fagan
Coast Guard photograph
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Adm. Linda L. Fagan, the twenty seventh commandant of the Coast Guard, is serving the primary yr of a four-year time period. She sat down for an interview with Nationwide Protection Journal’s Editor in Chief Stew Magnuson Nov. 19 on the sidelines of the Halifax Safety Discussion board. The transcript has been edited for readability and brevity.
Q. Sadly, each time I’ve performed this interview with the Coast Guard commandant on the convention, the primary query is all the time the identical. How is the failure of Congress to cross a finances and the persevering with decision (CR) affecting the Coast Guard?
A. Clearly, this CR impacts all of the federal businesses within the authorities and a CR isn’t essentially the most useful place for us to be organizationally. A CR, as you understand, limits new-starts and quite a lot of different areas. That stated, the excellent news is that the Coast Guard enjoys large bipartisan help [in Congress], and a few of that interprets into finances help. So, it is an thrilling time to be within the Coast Guard.
Q. Are there any new begins that the CR impacts proper now?
A. Proper now, I can’t offer you a particular instance, however CRs have change into virtually the norm. We’re nonetheless executing the biggest acquisition applications that we have had since World Battle II. I stay dedicated to the trail that my predecessors put the group on with regard to these main ship investments. In order that’s all excellent news there. I am notably centered on our workforce — onboarding the expertise that we have to function these state-of-the-art ships and plane. However having a dependable finances is vital to have.
Q. One other sizzling matter is inflation. Two components to that: how is that affecting the Coast Guard and its acquisitions of these new applied sciences? After which the individuals half: how do you assist Coast Guard personnel cope with increased costs and price of residing?
A. Inflation is clearly actual. It is right here for all of us as residents. In all probability the largest affect on the group has been gasoline prices. We’re working with our [Defense Department] counterparts in regard to bills that the workforce could also be experiencing. All of the providers have service members which have skilled it, notably round housing and housing bills. There was a mid-year enhance in a few of the journey charges which are within the line with our DoD forces and we’re very aware of the truth that we have to guarantee our members are in a position to safe satisfactory housing and have sources to help themselves and their households.
It is clearly been a fairly dynamic scenario all through the summer time and I think might be for a while to come back, however we will proceed to function the Coast Guard. The frontline operations usually are not impacted by any of that, and the contracts are long-term contracts for acquisitions. They’ll proceed with out affect. There are time schedules and the provision chain the place you additionally get just a little little bit of disruption there, however nothing that has been tremendous substantial from time or a price standpoint,
Q. Are there any distributors on these long-term contracts who’ve been complaining about inflation, saying, “We signed this contract again then and now our uncooked supplies are costing a lot extra.”
A. Not that I am conscious of at my degree. I discussed workforce, recruiting, and the shipbuilding business and the protection base. They want entry to labor as nicely. We’re all centered on onboarding the labor wanted to truly construct the ships or function the Coast Guard, in my case.
Q. With the change of administration there is a renewed concentrate on local weather change and its affect. Is the Coast Guard doing something in a different way so far as operations within the Arctic?
A. I all the time begin with that we’re an Arctic nation, proper? As you understand, america has a big Arctic shoreline the place we have to guarantee our personal nationwide sovereignty. The Coast Guard operates each the heavy icebreaker Polar Star the medium ice breaker Healy. We’re on finances to start constructing and fielding Polar Safety Cutters, which might be new state-of-the-art heavy ice breakers. VT Halter Marine has the contract for these icebreakers. We’re working towards an in depth design. They will be nice, succesful ships. As a nation, we have not constructed [an icebreaker] for the reason that mid-70s. I might say it is going to be a sophisticated ship to construct, however it is going to be a powerful ship. We’re excited to have the ability to function them on behalf of the nation.
Q. The final I heard the Polar Safety Cutter will set sail Spring 2025.
A. We’re persevering with to work with urgency to get to the detailed design degree that enables us to start slicing metal and developing the shipyard to start developing the Polar Safety Cutter. Till the detailed design is finalized, we’ll know higher what the precise schedule is. Then as soon as we start, it will likely be a number of years to truly area the ship.
Q. Do you suppose as a nation, we’re ready for excellent energy competitors within the Arctic? As we stand now, we form of have a single level of failure, there’s the medium ice breaker Healy, however so far as the large one, we have this very outdated ship.
A. So, with the altering setting within the Arctic — the place there’s extra water and fewer ice — there are free parts of the yr we’re in a position to function different Coast Guard ships like Nationwide Safety Cutters, and now we have to do this. We have clearly acquired nationwide safety pursuits within the shared maritime boundary line between ourselves and the Russians after which simply guaranteeing that we’re offering presence and the form of life saving work that we do. There’s elevated human exercise across the extra open Arctic and so whereas the icebreakers are crucial, this isn’t an ice-free area, and we want to have the ability to function year-round and different components of the yr. We have got different ship varieties that we’re in a position to function up there, and we do.
Q. And transferring south, what are you seeing now within the border areas so far as interdiction of drug smugglers and migrants. There’s plenty of strain on the land border, however what are you seeing within the Caribbean?
A. Clearly, now we have a job in maritime migration. It is a life-saving function. It is an extremely perilous journey for individuals who take to the ocean and in conveyances that aren’t seaworthy. Now we have property within the Caribbean and elsewhere to make sure that that folks do not lose their lives and people harmful journeys are tried and we stay dedicated to that that life-saving work.
Q. Are you seeing a rise in numbers, individuals making an attempt another path to the ocean?
A. They’re kind of all the time there and we proceed to make sure that we do not have a tragic lack of life. Within the current months, it has primarily been people from Cuba trying these migration patterns. The easiest way to stop these massive tragic lack of lives is to not permit giant numbers of parents to take to the ocean. We work with our different federal businesses to assist preserve that secure, once more so that folks do not tragically lose their lives.
Q. As for the brand new Offshore Patrol Cutter, there are current stories within the press about the primary drive shafts not being as much as requirements, or not working accurately, which presumably places that schedule in danger. What is the newest replace on that?
A. We’re actually excited in regards to the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Jap Shipbuilding will ship 4 of them for us after which there was a part II re-compete. The following hulls might be constructed elsewhere. I’m conscious of a few of the shaft challenges that they’ve skilled with their subcontractor. At this level, I’m not conscious of any kind of supply schedule threat. Clearly, we’re not on the timeline I assumed we have been on six months in the past and we’re nonetheless not. Once more, I am assured we will get that ship within the water earlier than an excessive amount of longer. … They are going to be nice, nice ships.
Q And that was about June 2023?
A. One ought to go within the water someday subsequent spring after which we’ll begin working all of the post-delivery points. I do not recall whether or not it is June or August, however it will likely be subsequent yr.
Q. What’s subsequent for Coast Guard acquisitions?
A. Waterway Commerce Cutters. … These are the inland cutters that do all of the aids to navigation and upkeep on the inland river methods. … I am enthusiastic about these. We’re speaking and dealing with the congressional delegations across the Nice Lakes in regards to the potential for a further Nice Lakes icebreaker.
After which as I look throughout the fleet, there are some simply broader conversations that we have not but stepped into [like] how we keep the marine transportation system, assurance, resiliency and safety. We have got small 65-foot harbor tugs with icebreaking capability in New England primarily, however they play a key function in that system and a few of them are 50-plus years outdated.
Q. And plane. Is there something taking place in that realm from unmanned aerial automobiles all the way in which as much as mounted wing?
A. We have got the ScanEagle [small UAV] on the Nationwide Safety Cutter. We have got a crew at headquarters what kind of unmanned functionality and sensors we should be onboarding. It’s actually about sensors, about creating data. After which utilizing that data for a choice benefit. We have stood up an information workplace two months in the past to work by our knowledge, infrastructure and governance methods in order that we will start this foundational work that then will permit us to start to make use of machine studying, AI in these sorts of initiatives. We have got just a little little bit of groundwork to do there, however I am enthusiastic about that.
We’re on document to maneuver towards a single fleet of helicopters, to maneuver towards a tail-fold, blade-fold H-60 fleet and we’re on a path that can take us ahead. You are nicely conscious of the age of the H-65s. I am enthusiastic about that chance to [upgrade those].
Q. Are you casting an eye fixed towards the Military’s future vertical raise program?
A. We’re clearly watching that carefully. Proper now, the H-60 goes to be our vertical raise for the foreseeable future. … There are numerous methods to create data and situational consciousness and utilizing unmanned methods is an economical manner to do this. However on the finish of the day, we’re within the individuals enterprise, and we’ll all the time want a human being and a bit of metal to both come out of the sky or attain over the sting and save somebody’s life. However there’s plenty of house within the operations half earlier than you get there.
Matters: Maritime Safety