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WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Coast Guard role containing China should garner full seat with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lawmakers say
The so-called Coast Guard Caucus in Congress is calling for the commandant of that service to be added to the Joint Chiefs of Staff after it was used to respond to Chinese aggression in the Philippine Sea.
China has more naval ships than the U.S. military, with American shipbuilding struggling to keep up, but the Coast Guard sent a cutter and a Hercules search plane stationed in Guam 750 miles in December to respond to illegal Chinese fishing vessels operating near the Pacific nation of Palau.
The island nation was visited by former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper last year as part of an effort to build new Pacific alliances and contain Chinese aggression and Beijing's flouting of international laws. Naval security experts have noted that China’s ship advantage is smaller than advertised due to its number of littoral ships that operate closer to shore. Now, members of Congress from Gulf states argue that the Coast Guard's role in containing Chinese aggression has been demonstrated.
“The Coast Guard plays a key role in keeping our nation safe, making the service more than worthy of a seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff table,” Florida Democrat Rep. Charlie Crist said in a statement last week, announcing legislation co-sponsored with Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo.
The new legislation would elevate the commandant of the Coast Guard to a full seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Coast Guard falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security but is a nonvoting member of the Joint Chiefs. The two coastal members of Congress say the threat from China necessitates changing that policy, something that could be added to next year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
“Its work with the Pentagon is constantly growing,” said Palazzo.
The Pentagon on Tuesday declined to comment on the proposed legislation.
"I don't know the size of the table in the tank," DOD spokesman John Kirby said, referring to the secure Pentagon room where the Joint Chiefs meet. "I won't speculate about proposed legislation."
China currently has some 335 surface ships compared to America’s 296. Shipbuilding plans tossed around under the Trump administration called for as many as 500 ships, but funding that effort and growing the defense industrial base will require ample public and congressional support.###