The United Kingdom's Navy is experiencing a big manpower shortage brought on by years of intentional recruiting shortfalls. As a result the British approached the U.S. to help fill the gaps, but the needed help came from the Coast Guard not the Navy.
The first time the Royal Navy used American Navy personnel it resulted in the War of 1812. Now, more than 200 years later, the discussion is much more amicable. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft explained the situation at a recent event:
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft and First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of the U.K. Royal Navy Adm. Sir George Zambellas discuss the future relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard and U.K. Royal Navy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)
"Sixteen years ago, the Royal Navy was looking at budget challenges and they figured that one way they could meet budget is if they bring in no new personnel accessions," Zukunft said. "They did that for three years. So now, over 16 years later, you've got this big hole in the Royal Navy in sea-going ratings, engineers and electricians."
The Royal Navy's First Sea Lord, the head of all Naval personnel for the UK, Adm. Sir George Zambellas, personally asked for Coast Guardsmen to support the Royal Navy's operations. He offered to pay all permanent change of station costs and put the troops and their families up to "live the great European lifestyle."
The Coast Guard agreed. The Royal Navy will soon host 36 enlisted men and women from to support its Type 23 Frigate operations. The UK needed machinery technicians and electrician's mates first and foremost. This is actually not the first collaboration, as the Royal Navy and U.S. Coast Guard have been longtime partners, especially through Joint Interagency Task Force South, a key counter-trafficking task force in the Caribbean.
When Adm. Zunkunft asked Lord Zambellas why he didn't ask for sailors from the U.S. Navy, the First Sea Lord replied: "Well, you have old ships, we have old ships. Yours aren't under warranty, ours aren't under warranty. When they break, far away from home, the first thing you do is call is the duty engineer to come down and fix it. You don't call a contractor."