Can’t Have Too Little Coast Guard

by Craig Hooper on May 23, 2021

President Biden spoke to Coast Guard Academy graduates last week, charting out an organizational future that everybody kind of already knows–that the Coast Guard is bound for bigger things. That’s all great news, but there seems to be no money coming behind it. And that’s a problem. The Coast Guard faces cost challenges everywhere. It’s under fiscal pressure ashore, as it strives to recapitalize aging infrastructure, on the waterfront, as it prepares infrastructure to welcome its “new” fleet, and at sea, where it is absorbing a new set of ships with increased operational expenses.

And while more money and mission relevance are great, there are limits. Ask the Coast Guard to do more for less money, and, in time, it’ll break. And, for that matter, the converse is true too–you can’t toss money at the agency. There’s a limit to what the Coast Guard can absorb. Throw too much money in and you get fun things like the decades-long corrosive fiasco of Deepwater. But you do want to fully fund the plans the Coast Guard has developed on their own–as a penurious service, their plans–even the high end options–are generally modest, achievable given the current operational parameters, and generally desperately needed. It’s not a contractor-driven menu of tasty defense-sector work either. The service watches every dollar and they’re darn good stewards of the taxpayer buck. Fund the Coast Guard’s priorities–fund those priorities at their “highest price/we never thought we’d get this, but I’m going to put down all the stuff my command needs” option where possible– and the Coast Guard will be both thrilled and far more effective.

VOA’s excellent Steve Herman reached out, asking if the Coast Guard was getting enough funding to do all it was being asked to do. My answer was, “No”, with a caution that, while the Coast Guard needs money, you can’t just throw money at ’em, either:

To do all this, the Coast Guard needs more money, according to Craig Hooper, founder and chief executive officer of the Themistocles Advisory Group, a national security research group.

Coast Guard ‘magic’

“Because the Coast Guard does not have much money, they work from a strong strategic template — often bringing the rest of the nation along with them — so any extra funding should support the planning they’ve already done,” Hooper said. “If you pour too much money on this small, elite group, the nation risks losing the magic that makes the Coast Guard so effective.”

I also worry that the Department of Defense is going to pull out of all the maritime missions that they consider to be mundane and boring. The current leadership sure seems captivated by the high-tech, wiz-bang stuff, and they look to be off-loading old gear to get the newest baubles. That’s great, but it’s a recipe for disaster if the Defense Department runs off to fund “high-end” warfare and the Coast Guard gets left holding the “every other mission” bag.

“Hooper, who is also publisher of, told VOA he also worries that as Biden’s Defense Department embraces a high-tech vision for national security, “the Coast Guard — the service that handles all the day-to-day work in the maritime that really preserves international order and peace at sea — will be ignored. Hypersonics, artificial intelligence and robots are great, but they aren’t replacements for a Coast Guard boarding team.”

The Coast Guard has plenty of high-tech stuff too, but it’s largely applied stuff that supports the “mundane” day-to-day taskings–the very taskings the Navy seems so eager to put behind them.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the high-tech stuff as much as anybody. But I don’t see it doing EVERYTHING. There’s a high-low mix here somewhere that makes sense, but the Navy (and the rest of DOD) sure as heck seem perfectly fine shutting off the low-end maritime stuff to their junior partner, the Coast Guard.

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Underfunded, U.S. Coast Guard IUU Fishing Enforcement Needs Biden’s Help
May 24, 2021 at 8:50 am

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James O'Keefe May 27, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Thanks, Craig.


Craig Hooper May 23, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Nice to know folks still keep up with the site! I’ve been so busy with the company that cross-posting took a back seat. I’ll try to crosspost more, but, in the meantime, I’m writing more formal stuff up over here:


James O'Keefe May 23, 2021 at 8:38 am

Hi Craig,

It would be helpful to those of us who keep an eye on your blog more than your twitter account if you periodically posted links to your articles in Forbes and elsewhere. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions.



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