Adm. Zukunft testifies before House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security

hearing

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft departs the Rayburn House Office Building after meeting with the subcommittee on homeland security to discuss the fiscal 2017 budget request. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Just over a week after his second State of the Coast Guard Address, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. He began his testimony by thanking the committee for their continued investments in Coast Guard men and women, including the Coast Guard’s largest acquisition budget ever in 2016.

“I cannot overstate the value of stable and predictable funding to support our long-term acquisition strategy, to control costs and to ensure operating funds for new assets,” the Commandant said. “You are helping us build a 21st Century Coast Guard and your support has already contributed to our mission success around the globe.”

The Commandant shared key operational highlights from 2015 with the committee, including notable successes in the transit zones that netted 700 smuggler arrests and seized more than 190 metric tons of cocaine bound for the United States. The Commandant stressed while Coast Guard crews were returning to port with billion-dollar cocaine hauls, their success is indicative of whole-of-government efforts to bring stability to the region.

“These interdictions sever the financial lines of illicit cartels, provide additional intelligence against future shipments and, most importantly, they reinstate the rule of law, curtail violence and bring stability to South and Central America,” the Commandant said during his opening remarks. “And by reducing violence to our south we also lessen the strain of unaccompanied minors crossing our own borders. We are making a difference in this fight, and thanks to your support we are going to continue our increased efforts in this important region.”

The Commandant stated the 2016 appropriation and the President’s 2017 budget request allows the Coast Guard to move forward with the most important acquisition it has undertaken since 1790, the recapitalization of 50-year old medium endurance cutters with the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Funding also allows for continued efforts to complete the program of record for both the fast response and national security cutters. Lastly, as announced by the President last September, the fiscal year 2017 budget request includes funding to begin recapitalizing the nation’s heavy icebreaking fleet – a symbol of sovereignty and access to the polar regions.

“The recapitalization of our cutter fleet is the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority,” the Commandant said. “These new ships increase our operational capability, best leverage intelligence and keep our Coast Guard men and women safe on an often unforgiving sea.”

The Commandant closed his remarks by stating investment in a 21st century Coast Guard is “as much about people as it is about platforms” noting the Service’s 2017 budget request sustains its current workforce and allows it to continue to build the future workforce.

“Our increasingly uncertain and complex world requires high-end skill sets from an in-demand talent pool,” the Commandant shared. “Cyber, intelligence, marine inspection and technically trained professionals have many options today, and we strive to be their employer of choice. To that end, we are already developing the congressionally mandated Coast Guard Manpower Requirements Plan that will establish a baseline for our 21st century workforce.”

“As I said in my State of the Coast Guard address, these are the Finest Hours to serve in the United States Coast Guard,” the Commandant concluded.

Editor’s note: for more information on Coast Guard budget priorities, visit the Coast Guard’s budget in brief. You can also check out where the Coast Guard is headed in 2016 by watching his 2016 State of the Coast Guard Address.

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