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T&I Committee Leaders Press U.S. Coast Guard to Adopt NAS Recommendations on Unmanned Systems

Members urge Commandant Admiral Schultz to adopt National Academy of Sciences recommendations to increase the Coast Guard’s unmanned system capacity

Washington, D.C., December 10, 2020 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Today, the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Full Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH) sent a letter to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz urging him to adopt the recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on unmanned systems (UxS), and to realign plans, operations, budgets, and policies to enable the USCG to capitalize on UxS through purposeful strategic action.

The NAS report, titled Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions: A Strategic Imperative, has been completed and provided to the Coast Guard. It was required by a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provision that was included in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018. Specifically, the report recommends that the USCG do the following:

Issue a High-Level UxS Strategy;
Designate a Senior UxS Champion;
Create a UxS Program Office;
Expand and Normalize UxS Implementation; and
Determine Actual UxS Funding Needs.

“To date, Coast Guard initiatives designed to assess the applicability of UxS to mission areas and to introduce their capabilities into the fleet and force structure have been slower and more ad hoc than the adoption and integration of UxS in military, science, and industrial applications,” the Members wrote. “However, now that these technologies have matured and are more readily and reliably available, it is time for the Coast Guard to establish proactively a formal means to identify, investigate, and integrate these promising systems.  This will allow the Coast Guard to establish funding needs and make a compelling case to Congress and the Administration for the additional resources to acquire and use these technologies.”

A full copy of the letter can be found below and here.

December 10, 2020

Admiral Karl L. Schultz
Commandant
United States Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20593

Dear Admiral Schultz:                                                            

            The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Committee or T&I) has a keen interest in the United States Coast Guard’s (Coast Guard’s or Service’s) ability to effectively and efficiently perform its many critical missions. That is why in section 812 of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 the Committee directed the Coast Guard to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to assess the availability of unmanned systems (UxS) for use by the Coast Guard in improving marine domain awareness. That report, Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions: A Strategic Imperative, has been completed and provided to the Coast Guard.[1] 

            To date, Coast Guard initiatives designed to assess the applicability of UxS to mission areas and to introduce their capabilities into the fleet and force structure have been slower and more ad hoc than the adoption and integration of UxS in military, science, and industrial applications. However, now that these technologies have matured and are more readily and reliably available, it is time for the Coast Guard to establish proactively a formal means to identify, investigate, and integrate these promising systems. This will allow the Coast Guard to establish funding needs and make a compelling case to Congress and the Administration for the additional resources to acquire and use these technologies.

            We urge you to adopt the following recommendations from the NAS report and to realign plans, operations, budgets, and policies to enable the Service to capitalize on UxS through purposeful strategic action:

1.      Issue a High-Level UxS Strategy. UxS deployment should have a compelling rationale based on specific desired outcomes and supported by the Coast Guard’s approach for achieving them.

2.      Designate a Senior UxS Champion. UxS deployment needs a Flag or Senior Executive Service (SES) federal employee to champion the cross-organizational efforts required to identify, promote, advocate for, coordinate, and facilitate UxS strategic goals and objectives.

3.      Create a UxS Program Office. As with other major acquisition programs, UxS deployment requires a program office that will work in concert with the senior leader charged with advancing the Service’s UxS strategy to plan, coordinate, assess, and promote UxS activities within the Service, and to leverage relevant activities and capabilities outside the Service.

4.      Expand and Normalize UxS Implementation. UxS deployment requires significant, systematic operations-related experimentation with low-cost UxS, such as designating field unit test platforms and rapid operational integration of UxS systems.

5.      Determine Actual UxS Funding Needs. Broad, enduring UxS deployment throughout the Coast Guard requires an internal study of the necessary multi-year spending for research, assets, integration, personnel, and other aspects to enable full and sustained implementation of a UxS strategy.

            To remain ready, relevant, and responsive, the Coast Guard must take a more strategic and accelerated approach to exploit existing and future unmanned systems' capabilities. Thank you for your attention to this request. If you have any questions about this request, please have your staff contact Dave Jansen, of the majority staff at (202) 225-4472, or John Clark Rayfield of the minority staff at (202) 226-0204.

Sincerely,

Peter A. DeFazio
Chair  

Sam Graves
Ranking Member

Sean Patrick Maloney
Chair
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation

Bob Gibbs
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation



[1] See National Academy of Sciences, Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions: A Strategic Imperative report (2020), available at https://www.nap.edu/read/25987/chapter/1.

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