Foundation Principles and Modernization of the Finnish Armed Forces: The Perspective of the Permanent Secretary of Defense of Finland


By Robbin Laird

During my visit to Helsinki in February 2018, I had a chance to discuss the approach and modernization of Finnish Defense with Jukka Juusti, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence.

The Permanent Secretary manages and supervises the activities of the Ministry of Defence together with the Minister.

Jukka Matti Juusti (born in 1955) has a long career in the defense administration, covering a variety of tasks and responsibilities also on international level.

He was appointed Director General of the Resource Policy Department at the Ministry of Defence in 2012.

Prior to that, Jukka Juusti has acted as Deputy Chief of Staff (Logistics and Armaments), Chief Engineer and Chief of Armaments in the Defence Forces; Director of Armaments in the European Defence Agency (EDA); and he has also served at the Mission of Finland to Nato and has held the National Armaments Director Representative position.

Director General Juusti was graduated from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1979. He also completed the MDA degree (Master in Defence Administration) in the Cranfield Institute of Technology (UK) in 1989.

We discussed a number of the core principles of Finnish defense and their evolution in shaping a way ahead.

We started by talking about the core role which conscription and mobilization plays in Finland.

As the liberal democracies begin to deal more seriously with the challenges of the shift from the land wars to higher tempo operations and national defense, they can have much to learn from Finland.

Finland is clearly focused on mobilization and security of supply as key foundations to national defense.

And as military transformation unfolds, these core capabilities become increasingly important to deal with the core challenge identified in the Finnish defense policy document published last year:

“The threshold for the use of military force is lower and the time to respond shorter.”

Jukk Juusti, Permanent Secretary, Finnish Ministry of Defence

According to Juusti: “If you look at the map of Finland, it’s not an island but in practice we are an island.

“The vast majority of our trade is coming by ships.

“In that sense we are an island and this means that we have taken the security of supply always very seriously.

“It is the nature of Finland that we believe that we have to be able to take care of some of the most vital things by ourselves.

“That’s the reason for example that security of supply is so important for us.

“For example, with regard to ammunition and those kinds of supplies, we have a lot of stocks here in Finland.

“Of course, with regard to some of the equipment we never can have enough in our own resources.

“The security of supply has got another respect also, which is the civilian side of the aspect.

“We have a security of supply agency, which is extremely important for us and it takes care of the civilian part of the security of supply.

“For example, electricity and telecommunications are vital for the survival of the nation, and one needs have to have the security of supply in those areas. Security of supply agency collects the money in such a way that they are financially safeguarded.

“Whenever we buy some gasoline, they collect some part of that purchase for the security of supply funds.

“It is organized in that way.

“We are continuously investing, in effect, in security of supply for the civilian sector.”

“And we think broadly about civilian defense as part of our mobilization strategy.

“That’s the reason we were still building shelters for the civilians, both to maintain infrastructure in times of crisis and for civilian protection as well.”

Question: And with modern societies, another key aspect clearly is a key element as well. 

How does Finland approach this challenge?

Juusti: That is a very good point.

“Securing the data is one of the areas our national security of supply agency is focused upon.

“They have founded an organization, which is taking care of the secure data.

“Key national data must be secured.

“A key challenge is making sure that the data is not corrupted.

“One has to secure the data make certain data that you are using is valid and that the conclusions you are drawing from it reliable as well.

Question: And there can be a clear commercial impact from your approach as security of data is clearly both of concern for the commercial and military side. 

 Has that been the case in Finland?

Juusti: It has.

“Let me show you a data message terminal that I was part of developing some time ago.

“This encryption technology is dated know but the core point is that the technology was dual use and therefore useful for Nokia in their commercial endeavors as well as serving a core military function as well.

“But clearly we have shifted our focus to using the dual-use technologies and applying the civilian technologies and taking the best part of those technologies and applying them to the military side.

(And he literally brought the machine off of the shelf and showed it to me and as with individuals who enjoy working technology, got that glow in his eye talking about the development of the machine.  Having worked with Secretary Wynne, I got used to seeing the technology light up in the eyes of a senior defense official and recognized quickly that Juusti was part of that unusual community of technologists who migrate to become senior policy makers.)

Question: Clearly, there is always a reactive enemy and technology is dynamic which means that you must adjust your system as we all do to technological and scientific advances.

 What are some of those challenges facing us that you see?

Juusti: We have been talking about data and we could be discussing as well artificial intelligence and other key aspects of change.

“But underlying this is the rapid change in machine technology and that change will be driven significantly by advances in quantum computing.

“Quantum technology and quantum computing will evolve in a direction that protection of data through encryption will be increasingly challenging.

“The challenge will be to generate relevant data, protect it, and then keep ensuring its transmission in a world in which data encryption will have to be dynamic, not static.

“We will have to find ways when working with others to ensure that we can keep our data reliable and secure.

“And with the challenges posed by the changes in capabilities of AI and quantum computing this will be challenging indeed.”

“Another challenge that I see that we will have to deal with is posed by swarming drones.

“How to process the data of the threat from a significantly enhanced number of more capable incoming threats.

“For our defense of territory, we have many artillery pieces, but in the age of swarming drones we will have to have a significantly different capability to defend the territory.”

We focused on the dynamics of change associated with not just technology but learning by adversaries and the need for the forces of the liberal democracies to be able to ramp up their learning curve with regard to evolving threats. 

Our discussion reminded me of discussions in Australia where the RAAF has focused on the importance of gaining what they call “transient software advantages” over adversaries, recognizing that there are no plateaus in technological dominance but a continuous learning cycles for organizations to be able to prevail.

In short, the Finns have focused on the central importance of mobilization within which security of supply is a crucial element.

But in modern conditions, this simply does not mean static stockpiling of ammunition and equipment but a dynamic evaluation of what is necessary to sustain military capabilities through projected crises periods.

And as Finland reworks its regional networks, and shapes a broader perimeter of defense, how is the security of supply approach shaped and implemented?

As Finland adds 21st century combat systems, this will be part of the challenge facing the Finns, but with a solid foundation in place in terms of mobilization and distributed operations, their approach is quite symmetrical with the evolution of modern military technology.

MC-12 Take-Off

Footage of an MC-12 Liberty during take off.


Video by Senior Airman Timothy Kirchner 

Air Force Content Management  

The MC-12W is a medium-to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft.

Its primary mission is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support directly to ground forces. The MC-12W is a joint forces air component commander asset in support of the joint force commander.

The MC-12W is not just an aircraft, but a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system. The aircraft are military versions of the Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350ER.

A fully operational system consists of a modified aircraft with mission system suit, electro-optical infrared sensors, line-of-sight and satellite communications datalinks, along with a robust voice communications suite.

: The “M” is the Department of Defense designation for a multi-role version of the well-known C-12 series.

In April 2008, the Secretary of Defense established a DOD-wide ISR task force to identify and recommend solutions for increased ISR in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

On July 1, 2008, the Secretary of Defense tasked the Air Force to acquire the C-12 class aircraft to augment unmanned systems.

Of note, it was less than eight months from funding approval to delivery in the theater.

The MC-12W capability supports all aspects of the Air Force Irregular Warfare mission (counter insurgency, foreign internal defense and building partnership capacity).

Medium-to low-altitude ISR is a core mission for the Air Force.

The first MC-12W arrived at Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, April 28, 2009.

The first MC-12W flew its first combat support sortie on June 12, 2009.

The fleet of 13 aircraft later transferred to the 137th Air Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, and arrived at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base July 10, 2015.


Primary function:  intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

Contractor:  L-3 Communications
Power plant: Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A

Wingspan: 57 feet 11 inches (17.65 meters)
Length: 46 feet 8 inches (14.22 meters)

Height: 14 feet 4 inches (4.37 meters)

Weight: 12,500 pounds empty (5,669 kilograms)

Maximum takeoff weight: 16,500 pounds

Fuel capacity: 5,192 pounds (2,355 kilograms)

Speed: 312 knots

Range: approximately 2,400 nautical miles

Ceiling: 35,000 feet (10,668 meters)
Armament: none

Crew: two pilots and two sensor operators
Initial operating capability: June 2009

Unit cost: $17 million (aircraft and all communications equipment modifications)

Inventory: active force, 0; Reserve, 0; ANG, 13

Patriot System Briefing in Tallinn Estonia

Cpt. Thomas Harris, commander, Charlie Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, and his team gave a Patriot System briefing to members of the Estonian Defense Forces at the Support Command Center, Tallinn, Estonia Feb. 23.

Minister of Defense, Jüri Luik, Chief of Defense Gen. Riho Terras, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia, James D. Melville Jr. were among those attended.

The briefing consisted of basic capabilities and basic knowledge about the Patriot weapon system and how it fits into a layered ballistic missile defense.

After the brief, participants looked at the Patriot System and a media event was held afterwards.

The Patriot battery was invited to Estonia to participate and celebrate Estonia’s 100th year anniversary.



Video by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson 

10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command

AC-130 in Flight


3/20/18: Footage of AC-130 in-flight.


Video by Senior Airman Timothy Kirchner 

Air Force Content Management

The AC-130U: “Spooky” gunships’ primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense.

Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination, reconnaissance, and armed overwatch mission sets.

This heavily armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather.

The sensor suite consists of a multispectral television sensors, high definition infrared sensors, and radar. These sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets anytime, anywhere.

The AC-130U employs synthetic aperture strike radar for long-range and adverse weather target detection and identification. The AC-130’s navigational devices include inertial navigation systems and global positioning systems.

The AC-130U’s capability to track and engage two targets simultaneously with different levels of ordnance is an invaluable asset to Special Operations Forces on the ground.

The Spooky is the third generation of C-130 gunships.

All gunships evolved from the first operational gunship, the AC-47, to the AC-119, and then the AC-130A which was the basis for the modern C-130 gunship.  The AC-130H “Spectre” gunships were fielded in 1972 and retired in 2015.

The AC-130 gunship has a combat history dating to Vietnam. Gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions. During Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983,

AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces enabling the successful assault of the Point Salines Airfield via airdrop and air land of friendly forces.

The AC-130 aircrew earned the Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award for the mission. 

AC-130s also had a primary role during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 when they destroyed Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities.

Aircrews earned the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year and the Tunner Award for their efforts.

During Operation Desert Storm, AC-130s provided close air support and force protection (air base defense) for ground forces. Gunships were also used during operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia, providing close air support for United Nations ground forces. Gunships also played a pivotal role in supporting the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The AC-130H provided air interdiction against key targets in the Sarajevo area. 

In 1997, gunships were diverted from Italy to provide combat air support for U.S. and allied ground troops during the evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania and Liberia.

AC-130s were also part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections.

More recently, AC-130U gunships have supported Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and have been employed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support.

Finally, AFSOC gunships have also played a pivotal role in the recent uprisings in the Middle East. Gunships provide armed reconnaissance, interdiction and direct support of ground troops engaged with enemy forces. 

General characteristics

Primary function: close air support, air interdiction and force protection

Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.

Power plant: four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine

Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches (40.4 meters) 
Length: 97 feet 9 inches (29.8 meters)

Height: 38 feet 6 inches (11.7 meters) 
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) (at sea level)

Range: approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling.

Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms) 
Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun.

Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted) 
Deployment date:  1995 
Unit cost:  $210 million
Inventory: active duty, 17; reserve, 0; ANG, 0

The Standup of the Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats: Shaping a Way Ahead


By Robbin Laird

(Updated) With the all the focus on the Russian intervention in the last US presidential elections, it is useful to take a broader view of the challenge focused by the new technologies and approaches.

During my recent visit to Helsinki,  a visit the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats provided such an overview.

Although the term is new, the efforts at hybrid influencing are not.

The means have changed, the liberal democracies are evolving and the challenges have mutated. 

The work of the Centre is at the vortex of a key vector for liberal democracies, namely the evolution of these democracies under the influence of a 21st century information society and with non-liberal actors seeking to use the new instruments to influence the evolution of the democratic societies.

This photo was taken at the time of the event inaugurating the Centre. (Ffrom left): President of the Republic of Finland Mr Sauli Niinistö, The NATO Secretary General Mr Jens Stoltenberg, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Ms Federica Mogherini and Prime Minister of Finland Mr Juha Sipilä. Credit: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats

The underlying dynamic is change within the liberal democracies themselves.

Conflict has deepened, and the internet and associated means of communication have enhanced conflict rather than consensus within the liberal democracies.

President Trump has spoken frequently of “fake news” and although his critics condemn this phrase, we all know it exists and is a core challenge facing the liberal democracies.

It is the change associated with the new means of communication along with the evolution of a more differentiate and disaggregated society which provides the entry point for adversaries to conduct hybrid warfare in the information domain.

In other words, it is not about warfare per se; it is about the evolution of liberal democracies and the expanded tool sets which non-liberal actors have to seek to influence the culture, actions and decisions of the liberal democracies. 

This has been predictable.

When I participated in a Spanish government sponsored forum on the information society in 1996 held in Madrid, I highlighted what I saw as a number of challenges along with the promise of a new information society.

I highlighted what I saw as three major challenges and one of those was as follows:

“The risk that special interest groups in the information elite can gain inordinate influence and even undermine democracy by competing with elected representatives.”

1996 Information Society Conference

This certainly has happened and now ill liberal powers are one of those interest groups.

Both Communist China and revanchist Russia are part of Western economies and societies, unlike the Soviet Union which became over time more of onlooker to the West than an integral internal player, although the initial response to the Russian revolution certainly brought supporters of the Soviet Union in key positions to influence public parties and opinion.

But now as investors in the West, with legitimate interests and representatives but at the same time clearly committed to information war both the Russians and Chinese are spearheading significant change in the hybrid war aspect of information society.

And a key challenge which the liberal democracies face is clearly that we are on the defensive; it is difficult for us to counter offensive hybrid influencing efforts, although that will almost certainly be generated in the years ahead.

I had a chance to discuss the challenges and the focus of the new Centre with Päivi Tampere, Head of Communications for the Centre, and with Juha Mustonen, Director of International Relations.

The Centre is based on a 21st century model whereby a small staff operates a focal point to organize working groups, activities and networks among the member governments and flows through that activity to publications and white papers for the working groups.

As Tampere put it: “The approach has been to establish in Helsinki to have a rather small secretariat whose role is to coordinate and ask the right questions, and organize the work.

“We have 13 member states currently. EU member states or NATO allies can be members of our Centre.”

A network kick-start event at the Centre called Resilient Legislation ( Credit Photo: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats

“We have established three core networks to address three key areas of interest.

“The first is hybrid-influencing led by UK;

“The second community of interest headed by a Finn which is addressing “vulnerabilities and resiliencies.”

“And we are looking at a broad set of issues, such as the ability of adversaries to buy property next to Western military bases, issues such as legal resilience, maritime security, energy questions and a wide variety of activities which allow adversaries to more effectively compete in hybrid influencing.”

“The third COI called Strategy and Defense is led by Germany.

“In each network, we have experts who are working the challenges practically and we are tapping these networks to share best practices what has worked and what hasn’t worked in countering hybrid threats.

“The Centre also organizes targeted trainings and exercises to practitioners.

“All the activities aim at building participating states’ capacity to counter hybrid threats.

“The aim of the Centre’s research pool is to share insight to hybrid threats and make our public outreach publications to improve awareness of the hybrid challenge.”

With Juha Mustonen, who came from the Finnish Minsitry of Foreign Affairs to his current position, we discussed the challenges and the way ahead for the Centre.

“Influencing has always been a continuum first with peaceful means and then if needed with military means.

“Blurring the line between peace time influencing and war time influencing on a target country is at core of the hybrid threats challenge.

“A state can even cross the threshold of warfare but if it does not cross the threshold of attribution, there will be no military response at least if action is not attributed to that particular state.

“Indeed, the detection and attribution issue is a key one in shaping a response to hybrid threat.”

Laird: And with the kind of non-liberal states we are talking about, and with their expanded presence in our societies, they gain significant understanding and influence within our societies so they are working within our systems almost like interest groups, but with a focus on information war as well.

Mustonen: Adversaries can amplify vulnerabilities by buying land, doing investments, making these kinds of economic interdependencies.

“They can be in dialogue with our citizens or groups of our citizens, for example, to fostering anti-immigrant sentiments and exploiting them to have greater access to certain groups inside the European societies.

“For example, the narratives of some European far right groupings have become quite close to some adversaries’ narratives.”

Question: But your focus is not only on the use of domestic influence but mixing this with kinetic power as well to shape Western positions and opinion as well, isn’t it?

Mustonen: Adversaries are using many instruments of power. One may identify a demonstration affect from the limited use of military power and then by demonstrating our vulnerabilities a trial of a psychological affect within Western societies to shape policies more favorable to their interests.

“If you are using many instruments of power, below the threshold of warfare, their synergetic effect can cause your bigger gain in your target societies, and this is the dark side of comprehensive approach.”

“The challenge is to understand the thresholds of influence and the approaches.

“What is legitimate and what is not?

“And how do we counter punch against the use of hybrid influencing by Non-Western adversaries?

“How can we prevent our adversaries from exploiting democratic fractures and vulnerabilities, to enhance their own power positions?

“How do we do so without losing our credibility as governments in front of our own people?”

Laird: A key opportunity for the center is to shape a narrative and core questions which Western societies need to address, especially with all the conflict within our societies over fake news and the like.

Mustonen: Shaping a credible narrative and framing the right questions is a core challenge but one which the Centre will hope to achieve in the period ahead.

“We are putting these issues in front of our participants and aim at improving our understanding of hybrid threats and the ways we can comprehensively response to the threats.”


The Icebreaker Gap: Shaping a Way Ahead to Deal with the Challenge


We have written for years about the impact of the decline of the icebreaker force in the USCG on US Arctic policy.

We referred to the US as the “reluctant Arctic power.”

In our interview with the USCG Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft we focused on the need to shift policy and to add the kinds of assets the USCG needs to able to fulfill a core mission.

Question: With regard to the Arctic, there is an obvious need to ramp up US presence and the resources to provide for presence.

How do you view the way ahead?

Admiral Zukunft: “We clearly need a new icebreaker.

“We’ve written the operational requirement documents that make the icebreaker a floating command and control platform.

“We can put a skiff on it. It’s also an instrument to enforce sovereignty.

“Rather then ice hardened, you have actually an ice breaking capability up there as well.

“It is extremely hard to predict what that area’s going to look like in 20, 30 years but without a new icebreaker we will be observers more than participants in shaping Arctic safety and security.

“An independent High Latitude analysis confirmed that we need three and three – three heavy and three medium icebreakers.

“We have helped stand up an Arctic Coast Guard Forum based on the Pacific Coast Guard Forum model.

“This allows the key national stakeholders in Arctic safety and security to work together where possible to enhance safety and security in this dynamic region.

“We are looking to do a mass rescue exercise in 2017 around Iceland that will bring in Denmark and other NATO partners for a collective security effort.

“And to be clear, the USCG is the key sea service for the Arctic, the USN has in effect devolved Arctic security responsibilities to the USCG.”


Later this week, the USCG is to release its request for proposal for a new heavy icebreaker.

According to a story by Ben Werner published on USNI News on March 1, 2018:

Speaking Thursday during his final State of the Coast Guard address, Zukunft said the icebreaker program is part of a funding pivot point, with a $11.6-billion funding request for Fiscal Year 2019 that will shape the Coast Guard for the next 40 years.

“We are building out the Coast Guard of tomorrow, and to do that we will need 5 percent annualized growth in operations and maintenance account and a $2-billion floor for acquisitions to continue to do so,” Zukunft said.
“It is a small ask, for the smallest armed service whose full appropriation is less than one line item on the appropriations of the other four armed services.”

While Zukunft pointed to several achievements during the past year, securing funding for a new heavy icebreaker represents a fundamental shift in how the Coast Guard advances U.S. policy in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

“We are trusted in the Arctic to preserve our sovereignty over precious oil and minerals, to ensure access to opening shipping routes, and let’s not forget, to keep our border secure in a region with an emerging U.S. coastline and mounting Russian footprint,” Zukunft said.

Currently, the Coast Guard only has one heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), which was commissioned in 1976 – shortly before Zukunft started his 41-year Coast Guard career after graduating from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1977.

In the following article which we published in 2011, we discussed with Rear Admiral (Retired) Jeffrey M. Garrett, a man with significant Arctic experience, the importance of the icebreaker to US national security policy:

12/19/2011 Shortly before he was to testify before Congress with regard to the Arctic, Rear Admiral Jeffrey M. Garrett, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) sat down with Second Line of Defense to provide our readers with an update.

SLD: The icebreaker is an extremely important asset for presence in the Arctic and as you described operates as kind of a mother ship in the Arctic.  What’s the current situation with the US icebreaker fleet?

Garret: The current national multi-mission polar Icebreaker fleet is three right now.  Unfortunately, neither of the 35-year-old polar class vessels is operational; one is laid up, the other one is undergoing a multiyear refurbishment project.  The only operational Icebreaker is actually a less powerful, more modern ship, the Healy, which is actually deployed in the Arctic right now.


The Icebreaker fleet represents the main surface presence that the U.S. can exert in what is essentially a maritime domain in the Arctic Ocean.  An area that is becoming much more accessible to a whole range of human activities.  And it’s clearly brought Arctic Alaska, the U.S. piece of the Arctic into a new concern for the Coast Guard, particularly in terms of exercising its statutory responsibilities there. It is obviously important as well for protecting broader national interests, such as presence, sovereignty, and even support of defense operations.

The Icebreaker is really the platform that can give you year-round access to that for both the broader national interest, as well as being able to conduct Coast Guard operations.

SLD:    A lot of folks Inside the Beltway say that these Arctic missions are very futuristic, and some would argue that we’re in a financial crisis and we can’t afford an Arctic presence. How does our inability to play going to affect our interest in the very near-term?

Garret: To get to the first part of your question, the Icebreakers are clearly very expensive ships compared to others.  But really, the perspective should be what is the cost of not having an Icebreaker?  If you have a major contingency in the Arctic, whether it’s security related, oil spill related, or something like that, even search-and-rescue, or tourism ships getting in trouble, you have no way of responding. And the cost of not being able to respond to those things may be very high.

The Icebreaker is an insurance policy against future contingencies in a rapidly transforming Arctic.

SLD:    We were talking a little bit earlier about, in effect, about a fleet concept, which would include the Arctic.  The way we’ve looked at it is a Pacific strategy from the Arctic to Australia.  And you were focusing very much on building some commonality of the National Security Cutter fleet that would be in the Pacific and with the Coast Guard with a evolving icebreaker fleet.  How would that work?  What’s your vision of integrating NSCs and future Icebreakers?

Garret: What’s changed for the Coast Guard is that the Icebreaker fleet no longer is just performing science and missions for other agencies.  It’s now becoming a core Coast Guard asset in terms of being able to execute Coast Guard responsibilities in the Arctic, and in the Antarctic, for that matter.

A future Icebreaker is essentially a national security cutter set of capabilities with the additional ability to operate in ice covered waters, and for extended periods of time.  So really, it’s not an odd animal that’s kind of an add-on to the Coast Guard fleet; it’s really central to the whole core concept of being able to do Coast Guard missions at sea a long way from homeport.

And I think the ability for these kinds of ships to exert a surface presence, in a whole range of things from the most simple peacetime task, such as search-and-rescue, to all the way up to security and defense related issues is a highly effective tool that the United States needs.

SLD: And I guess the final point is when you say surface presence, of course, there are air assets coming off of these Icebreakers as well.  And as we go over time, we’re going to have to build out the capabilities of what could be on that ship.

Garret: Absolutely.  I think having rotary wing assets on the ship is a key part of this. The icebreakers have a lot of other capabilities, which include the ability to have sophisticated command-and-control communication systems, to carry cargo, to have container spots on deck so you can modularize a lot of your mission packages when you want to specialize it for certain missions.  There are other aspects as well such as extra berthing, an ability to carry small boats, etc.  It’s really a floating base in the Arctic, in a place where there really is no infrastructure.

For earlier SLD pieces discussing the Arctic with  Rear Admiral Garrett, please see