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commissioning short-range Falcon jets and bringing on the HC-144 CASA. It’s going to be a much better aircraft. We have 12 delivered, three more on order. We practically have rebuilt our helicopter fleet. We have a tre- mendous capability in our aviation logistics center in Elizabeth City, N.C. Give them bare airframes, they can make new helicopters. We have taken survey Navy helicopter frames and rebuilt them virtually to brand new H-60s or H-65s. Our short- range helicopters, H-65s, are up to D model. Our H-60s are up to T model. We invested to keep those aircraft in great shape. The next big project will be the

offshore patrol cutter (OPC) to re- place our 210-foot medium-endur- ance cutters (MECs) built in the ’60s, and our 270-foot MECs built in the ’70s and early ’80s. Our 27 MECs will be replaced by 25 OPCs. OPCs will be more substantial, with enhanced sea-keeping capabili- ty that will allow them to recover he- licopters and launch boats in higher sea states. We can’t use 210s or 270s just anytime up in Alaska. I’m hope- ful the OPC design will allow us to use them anywhere. That is years off. In 2015, we will

down select for the contractor and start building the OPC the next year.

After 9/11, the Coast Guard shifted resources to improve security in ports and to address threats posed to population areas from oil and natural gas vessels. Did that shift strain other Coast Guard missions? A decade ago, we had many small boat stations with too few people to run multiple boats. So we had to re- duce their operational requirements. After 9/11, we started sending boats on security patrols with automatic weapons mounted. That required an-


other level of training. And there was a time delay before we could bring more people in and get them trained. Meanwhile, Congress authorized

and appropriated funds for 13 mari- time safety and security teams, or MSSTs. A layman might call them waterborne SWAT teams. We formed them quickly. The capabilities re- quired were vague. We didn’t have in place doctrine, training, tactics, or procedures before we started throw- ing requirements at them. We have a cultural mindset in the Coast Guard to keep taking on more missions. The original legislation said MSST

teams, of about 80 people each, would provide fixed and moving security zones for security events in port. They had to learn how to be tactical boat drivers and use automatic weap- ons from moving boats. But we added even more new requirements — to board ships, conduct close-in combat operations, and retake vessels. Then we started doing vertical insertion, lowering people from he- licopters. Well, nobody ever gave us helicopters to do this, so we started taking it out of hide. All of a sudden, we had helicopter pilots having to be not only the best search-and-res- cue aviators in the world but also to do rotary air intercept against slow fliers entering a security event and vertical insertion ... . We asked them to train for airborne use of force, putting a marksman in helicopters like we have done for years in the Caribbean to stop drug smugglers, but now we wanted all air stations trained for that. So we kept saying “Do more” without any increase in resources. ... I became concerned we were asking our people to do too much. Then we started experiencing accidents.

You referred to an unprecedented number of accidents over the past

two years in your State of the Coast Guard speech last winter. We lost 14 aviators and an MSST member. Maritime enforcement specialist third class Shaun Lin, per- forming a hook-and-climb evolution at night, fell over the side of a ship. His flotation gear didn’t work, and the weight of his gear took him to the bottom.

This loss of life occurred among “deployable specialized forces.” That’s the broad name we’ve given to single mission-focused teams. Typi- cal cutters and small boat stations are multi-mission. After the Exxon Valdez spill, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 required we stand up single-mission pollution response strike teams. We have three today. MSSTs were an extension of that approach. We stra- tegically located them in 13 ports to provide security capability for events. We also have a Helicopter Interdiction [Tactical] Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla. They train to employ airborne use of force against go-fast vessels in the Caribbean for drug interdiction.

These specialized teams, and the training needed, put too much on your operators. Do you attribute the rash of accidents to that load? Yes, I do. I don’t think leadership was setting limits on what was humanly possible. You can qualify people for a


Does the Coast Guard have too many missions to fund as Congress looks to cut budgets? Click on Up to Speed at or mail MOAA, Attn: Editor, 201 N. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314, to share your thoughts.

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