2015 State of the Coast Guard Address
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
Countries in our hemisphere are on the cusp of instability. The United States leads the world in oil and gas production. The cyber domain is transforming industries and governments at an astonishing rate. Arctic waters continue to open. There is no question – the United States Coast Guard is operating in a world unlike ever before.
Today I delivered my first State of the Coast Guard Address and outlined how America’s Coast Guard will meet the challenges of today while preparing for complexities that remain ahead. I began by addressing a growing concern as the Department of Homeland Security faces a potential lapse in appropriation; unquestionably, the Coast Guard’s workforce, acquisition programs and daily operations will be adversely impacted. However, should a lapse occur, our military, civilian, military retirees and annuitants will receive pay for work performed through February 27. While the challenges of a shutdown are significant, I am optimistic we will get through it.
Despite this budget uncertainty, we are facing unparalleled demands on the Service. We must: build the 21st century Coast Guard; defeat transnational organized crime; safeguard maritime commerce; operate in the Polar regions; maximize return on investment; and drive out sexual assault.
Combating transnational organized crime networks within our own hemisphere requires an offensive strategy; one that targets and disrupts criminals where they are most vulnerable – on our turf, at sea. The Coast Guard will do this through intelligence-based operations and persistent offshore presence. The backbone of this presence will be the Offshore Patrol Cutter – the physical manifestation of our at-sea authorities. The Offshore Patrol Cutter is a key element of our Western Hemisphere Strategy and is my number one acquisition investment priority.
On the energy front, there has been a ten-fold increase in oil and natural gas transits on the Mississippi River compared to four years ago. Additionally, a new tank barge entered the stream of commerce every day in America in 2013. These dramatic changes in U.S. energy production and shipbuilding have increased the demand on the entire maritime transportation system. As a maritime regulator, we must keep pace with this demand. The Coast Guard will improve our marine safety workforce and focus on innovative technologies to advance the Nation’s waterways management system. Our statutory role in ensuring the maritime transportation system is resilient also includes the cyber domain. In coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, I intend to sign a Coast Guard Cyber Strategy to defend our own network and protect maritime critical infrastructure.
The Coast Guard’s mission of safeguarding the homeland connects to nearly every facet of the Nation’s maritime interests, including the polar regions. In the Arctic, we are witnessing a significant spike in human activity. Managing increased activity, including the development of natural resources, is critical to the safe and responsible use of this region now and into the future. The Coast Guard will continue to partner with other Arctic nation coast guards through the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. Most critically, we will continue to advocate for a national capability in the polar regions through a whole-of-government approach as the United States assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council later this spring.
This unparalleled demand for the Coast Guard requires a 21st century workforce that is specialized, adaptive and diverse. For nearly 225 years, Coast Guard men and women have been the model for efficient, affordable and accountable government. Our human resource system must attract, include and retain diverse people who can lead and operate in complex environments against sophisticated adversaries. A 21st century workforce inspires public trust, beginning with driving out the scourge of sexual assault from our ranks. All Coast Guard men and women must stand together and collectively say “Not in my Coast Guard.” This crime occurring in our service causes me great unrest and I remain steadfast in reinforcing a culture of respect inhospitable to sexual assault and the behaviors that enable it – such as hazing, harassment and predatory conduct.
As many challenges lie ahead, Coast Guard men and women must have the platforms and resources they need to serve the Nation now and into the future. As Commandant, I am committed to ensuring our budget is driven by strategies aligned with national priorities. I will take decisive action to alleviate the strain of an austere budget environment and will make tough decisions in the face of our increasing demands. Through investing in our people, the recapitalization of our aging fleet and sustainment of our front-line operations, the Coast Guard will return more operational value on every dollar to meet the demands of today while preparing for tomorrow.
Right now, Coast Guard men and women are standing the watch around the world. They deserve America’s investment as they continue to protect the Nation’s interests, security and prosperity as we have for 225 years.