The U.S Coast Guard is adapting to a workforce shortage by making operational adjustments, aiming to preserve its capacity to fulfill critical missions. The agency has 10 percent fewer enlisted personnel than needed, and it has acknowledged that it cannot continue to operate as before with fewer people. Rather than attempt to run all its vessels shorthanded, it will be idling some of its cutters and transferring crew to fully man the remaining active vessels.
“We cannot do the same with less. Conducting our missions is often inherently dangerous, and doing so without enough crew puts our members and the American public at increased risk,” said Adm. Linda Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant.
While the agency says there will be no loss of search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, it will be reducing the number of operating vessels. Three medium-endurance cutters (WMECs) – the oldest oceangoing vessels in the fleet – will be put in layup pending decommissioning. Seven 87-foot patrol boats will also be laid up, with plans for eventual reactivation. Five of the 65-foot harbor tugs used on the Great Lakes will be put on standby in case they are needed for icebreaking, but will not be continuously manned. Last on the list, two of the 154-foot fast response cutters will head into an uncrewed overhaul period at the Coast Guard Yard.
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