Vice Admiral Parker on the Role of the National Security Cutters


08/18/2011 On August 18, 2011 Second Line of Defense had a chance to sit down with Vice Admiral Robert Parker, Commander USCG Atlantic Area, and USCG Defense Force East.  Last month, SLD discussed the Pacific challenges with Vice Admiral Manson Brown.  The interview with Vice Admiral Parker will be published next month.

One topic of conversation with both Admirals was the impact of the new national security cutter on USCG operations.  Both emphasized that the NSC was more than a ship, namely a capability for controlling a significant operational area.  And both echoed the perspective of Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, Vice Admiral John Currier:

The NSC is a mobile security force that can move to meet a threat, or stay to meet the threat, whatever’s required.  It can sprint or it can loiter for a long time with the eyes and ears to protect a large swath of ocean or coastline.

But the bubble idea highlights the key role of command and control in various scenarios. In a natural disaster, it’s operating a different bubble than a counter narcotics bubble, but it’s the same concept.

You’ve got domain awareness in air and surface, you’ve got tools to affect the outer edges of the bubble, you’ve got organic intelligence capability, and you’ve got the ability to import critical intelligence.  All of these things can go on with the NSC as a centerpiece.  It’s not just the ship, it is a defense management system… a threat management system.

And Vice Admirals Parker and Manson Brown argued in a recent article:

The NSC has command-and-control capabilities former cutters did not, but they are needed when responding to critical incidents and providing for a protected homeland. A secure communications suite allows for classified communications, providing government leadership with the timely information necessary for decision-makers in a crisis.

The on-board Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) is integral to sharing real-time tactical and classified information-sharing with our operational partners. This is especially true when considering overseas contingency operations and how sensitive information and tasking must be transmitted, only possible via the SCIF. For example, with the anticipated drilling for oil in the near future within Cuban waters only 60 miles from U.S. soil, the NSC can assist with protecting American interests by providing a persistent presence or potential command-and-control node for a catastrophic release of oil that would impact U.S. shores far more broadly than even the 2010 Macondo 252 Deepwater Horizon oil-well spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Enforcing safety zones and patrolling off the coast of Haiti, the NSC also would provide a visual deterrent as well as a stable, persistent platform for command-and-control.

Throughout the Pacific Ocean, from American Samoa to the Bering Sea, a significant number of U.S. EEZs and National Marine Sanctuaries require monitoring and enforcement. The vast distances involved in ensuring our national sovereignty in these remote locations require the long range and endurance of the NSC. Another concern throughout the Pacific is the enforcement of the High Seas Drift Net Convention laws (the nets are the so-called “curtains of death”) by detecting and interdicting vessels engaged in fisheries that are illegal, unreported, or unregulated. This supports U.S. Department of Commerce efforts to prohibit commercial ventures of such vessels, which undermine the U.S. economy.

In this video, Vice Admiral Parker explains the impact of the NSC and how he would have used it in the Haiti humanitarian operation.