USCG: Developments in Shore Infrastructure

The U.S. Coast Guard is prioritizing necessary shore infrastructure upgrades while looking ahead to new challenges in the Arctic, the next maritime frontier.
By Rear Adm. Ronald J. Rabago, P.E., USCG

NSC Bertholf approaches a pier at Naval Base San Diego. The Coast Guard’s highest investment priority is the recapitalization of its aging fleet of cutters and aircraft and the shore infrastructure that supports them. PHOTOS COURTESY USCG

The U.S. Coast Guard is a multi-mission, maritime service within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). From oil spill response to port security to drug interdiction, the Coast Guard is a leader in national security and must remain ever vigilant to a broad range of human and natural threats.

The Coast Guard will face stiff fiscal challenges in the years ahead, similar to the other federal agencies. Still, we must be prepared to perform our 11 statutory missions as we serve our nation. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus, means “Always Ready,” and we will be just that.


The Coast Guard’s highest investment priority remains the recapitalization of our aging fleet of major cutters and aircraft and the shore infrastructure that supports them. The Legend-class National Security Cutter (NSC) will be the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s modernized fleet. The 418-ft NSC will replace the 378-ft High Endurance Cutters that have been in service since the 1960s. Three NSC’s are already in service, home-ported at Alameda, Calif. The fourth and fifth NSCs, to be homeported in Charleston, S.C., are being built in Pascagoula, Miss., under fixed-price, incentive- type production contracts. Long-lead materials for the sixth NSC were approved in the Coast Guard’s FY2012 budget.

Another major acquisition program includes the replacement of the HU-25 Falcon Jet with the HC-144A Ocean Sentry. The HC-144A is being acquired under a firm fixed-price contract. To date, 14 of 18 HC-144’s now on order have been delivered to the Coast Guard. (For information on the Coast Guard’s acquisition programs, visit


Supporting shore infrastructure for newly acquired assets is provided thru the Coast Guard’s Major Acquisition Systems Infrastructure (MASI) program. Necessary shore infrastructure and upgrades include cutter homeport improvements, shore power upgrades, shore-side support buildings, and new training and maintenance aircraft hangars. In 2013—pending final budget outcomes—the Coast Guard expects to invest approximately $50 million in infrastructure improvements directly supporting the new fleet acquisitions.


The Coast Guard is scheduled to move into a new headquarters in fall 2013. The facility will comprise about 1.3-million-ft² of the overall new Department of Homeland Security complex being constructed, and is on track to achieve LEED Gold.

When Hurricane Sandy brought remarkable destruction to the mid- and north- Atlantic Coast this past fall, the Coast Guard was prepared. We worked with other agencies, DHS components and the maritime industry to ensure that ports were prepared before the storm. The Coast Guard used innovative means to locate and warn vessels in the path of the hurricane. After the storm hit, the Coast Guard responded to search-and-rescue cases from Florida to Maine, re-established shipping lanes and ports, and responded to countless oil spills. Ultimately, the Coast Guard led a multi-agency response that oversaw 1,500 personnel covering 1,200-mi of shoreline.

Significant damage sustained by many Coast Guard facilities added some challenge to the response effort in the storm’s immediate aftermath. Several facilities were rendered inoperable. Damage Assessment Teams consisting of Coast Guard engineers and environmental health professionals mobilized in advance of the storm; they were immediately on scene to determine the extent of the damage and establish plans for reconstitution. Coast Guard Repair Teams, comprised of active duty personnel, reservists and civilian employees with assessment and repair expertise, arrived shortly thereafter to provide assistance. These Repair Teams quickly removed storm debris, established generator power, hardened facilities and executed other basic repairs within their capability. These efforts were critical to the broader effort of restoring the Coast Guard’s operating capability and re-establishing the nation’s vital marine transportation system.

As part of the emergency aid package authorized by Congress, the Coast Guard received approximately $274 million for the repair and reconstitution of units that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This will include restoring pre-storm conditions, and in some instances, upgrading critical buildings and systems to be more resilient to future storms. Most of these facilities are in the New York and New Jersey area of operations including units at Staten Island and Long Island, N.Y., and Sandy Hook, N.J.


The Arctic region is rising in importance as the new maritime frontier for the Coast Guard. Demands for expertise and oversight are increasing with reduction in sea ice and longer open-water periods. Exploration of offshore natural resources is expanding. Shipping related to onshore mining in Alaska and international transits along the Russian Northern Sea Route have increased as well. A significant surge in maritime activities and the remoteness of this region make this a serious challenge, especially in an austere budget environment. Undeterred, however, the Coast Guard will continue to work alongside the Department of Defense, DHS and other federal agencies to meet the challenges of growing responsibilities in the Arctic.

Recently, the Coast Guard completed Arctic Shield 2012. This was a ninemonth interagency operation consisting of outreach, operations and assessment of capabilities. Given the lack of available shore infrastructure, the Coast Guard deployed maritime surface assets including a National Security Cutter and two oceangoing, ice capable buoy tenders. These vessels provided critical support, enabling a sustained presence and serving as a launching pad for small boats and helicopters. The National Security Cutter and other vessels also provided a robust suite of communications capabilities. Additionally, the Coast Guard surged two HH-60 helicopters from Air Station Kodiak to Barrow, Alaska. The Coast Guard was able to lease an existing hangar facility to support these helicopters.

Moving forward, the Coast Guard is exploring what is going to be the best way to establish the modern infrastructure that will be necessary to execute the mission in the Arctic region.

In order to maximize limited resources, we will analyze infrastructure requirements from a national perspective and explore partnering opportunities. Utilizing “offshore” infrastructure in the form of Coast Guard cutters also will be a key strategic component to meet this emerging mission.


An exciting development this year is the relocation of Coast Guard Headquarters from the current location at Buzzard Point in Washington D.C., to the city’s historic St. Elizabeths Hospital site in Ward 8.

The state-of-the-art headquarters will be a part of a consolidated DHS campus. DHS component agencies currently occupy more than 7-million-ft² of office space at 50 locations throughout the Washington metro area. By consolidating these agencies at St. Elizabeths, the government will reduce the department’s footprint and eliminate a significant number of leases. The government is using a phased development approach for the new campus. When completed, it is expected to host 14,000 employees. The Coast Guard will be the first to occupy the site, with the move scheduled to begin in fall 2013.

The Coast Guard received approximately $274 million to repair and reconstitute facilities impacted by Superstorm Sandy, including at Sandy Hook CGS, N.J.

This has been a fascinating project from the start. The facilities are located on the 176-acre west campus of St. Elizabeths, which was designated a national historic landmark in 1991. The first phase alone involved the largest excavation project in the history of Washington D.C., with approximately 1.6-million-yd³ of excavation taking place—nearly 160,000 truck loads. Coast Guard HQ will comprise about 1.3-million-ft² of the overall DHS complex.

The facility features numerous sustainable design features, including natural light, green rooftops and high performing HVAC systems. Additionally, it is being constructed with mostly renewable or local materials, low volatile organic compound paints and carpets, and is on track to achieve a LEED Gold rating.


The Coast Guard’s traditional shore investment program for new construction continues to experience funding challenges. Because of this, the Coast Guard is prioritizing several smaller scale new construction projects that will deliver the greatest impact on operations. This includes the construction of a new boat ramp for launching small boats at Station New York on Staten Island, which will enhance response capability at what is one of the busiest small boat stations in the country.

We also are planning to build a new aircraft rinse rack facility to wash aircraft at Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. The rinse rack is critical to reducing aircraft corrosion and maintenance costs for C-130’s operating in a harsh marine environment.

With an aging shore plant and limited recapitalization funding, we must pursue cost-effective maintenance projects that are critical to sustaining operations. The Coast Guard is placing renewed emphasis on innovative engineering designs and advanced contracting solutions to make the most of every shore maintenance dollar.


Despite economically challenging times, the Coast Guard continues to press forward. We are the nation’s maritime first responder, whether it is in the Arctic or anywhere else along our nation’s 95,000-mi of coastline. The Coast Guard is always ready and we will adapt to meet new mission demands.

Successful efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy exemplify that the Coast Guard is ever resilient and prepared. Steady progress towards the recapitalization of an aged fleet of cutters and aircraft will be critical toward sustaining mission capability and resilient national security. Our engineers and mission support professionals are finding innovative ways to balance competing demands on a limited budget and the Coast Guard is making difficult, but necessary investment prioritization decisions. Semper Paratus!

Rear Adm. Ronald J. Rábago, P.E., USCG, is Assistant Commandant for Engineering & Logistics and Chief Engineer, U.S. Coast Guard. He can be reached through Lt. Cdr. Peter Bosma, P.E., USCG; 202-475-5631, or peter.f.bosma@