Adm. Zukunft testifies at Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The Coast Guard had a banner year of counter-drug operations in 2016. All told, Coast Guard men and women removed more than 200 metric tons of cocaine. In addition, 585 suspected drug smugglers were detained and brought to the United States for prosecution. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft shared these operations, and more, as he appeared before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today, joined by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell.
These operations were a result of the Coast Guard’s presence in the Western Hemisphere, driven by its strategy published in 2014. Ultimately, the Coast Guard’s campaign against illicit actors is about engaging threats as far from U.S. shores as possible. Enforcing rule of law on the high seas and in the territorial waters of foreign nation means traffickers – whether they’re transporting drugs, weapons, money or people – never reach U.S. shores.
Among 2016’s successes, however, the Commandant also shared what he called the Coast Guard’s “greatest challenge” in the region – capacity. The Commandant went on to provide an overview of key recapitalization efforts to advance the Coast Guard’s fleet and bridge these capacity gaps in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.
One area the Commandant expanded upon was how the Coast Guard is partnering with the Navy and other stakeholders to ensure continued momentum for building new polar icebreakers. He referenced the Integrated Program Office and how the service awarded industry studies to commence the build-out of a fleet of three heavy and three medium icebreakers – “all meaningful steps to keep our Nation on an accelerated path to deliver the first heavy icebreaker in 2023,” shared the Commandant. He further expressed his appreciation to the committee and it’s leadership for supporting this collaborative approach.
Another aging asset the Commandant spoke about was the 35 inland river and construction tenders – a fleet now more than five decades old on average.
“This fleet is critical to our economic and national security,” said the Commandant, referencing the $4.5 trillion worth of commerce generated by U.S. ports and waterways.
Lastly, the Commandant addressed the strength of the force. He pointed out how five consecutive years of funding offsets have impacted the Coast Guard’s operations and maintenance account. He also spoke of restoring 1,100 reserve billets, bringing 5,000 active duty members into the Coast Guard and sustaining more than 8,500 civil servants over the next five years.
The Commandant concluded his opening statement by acknowledging the “unwavering support” from the subcommittee as the service addresses its most pressing needs.
Editor’s note: for more information on Coast Guard budget priorities, visit the Coast Guard’s budget in brief. You can also follow along with where the Coast Guard is headed in 2017 by watching the 2017 State of the Coast Guard Address.