Adm. Zukunft testifies before Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testifies before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard June 15, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testifies before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard June 15, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard today, first sharing his gratitude for the committee’s support of the 88,000 men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“You are helping us build a 21st century Coast Guard postured for mission success around the globe, and I thank you for the incredible support,” the Commandant said during the hearing.

The operations-focused hearing served as an opportunity for the Commandant to highlight not only recent missions but also the people responsible for executing the missions.

In talking about Arctic and Antarctic operations, the Commandant shared the story of two electricians aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the nation’s only heavy icebreaker. While underway in Antarctic waters, an electrical fault took down a main generator necessary for ship’s propulsion. With the nearest spare part thousands of miles away, the crewmembers fixed the fault using ingenuity and perseverance.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testifies before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard June 15, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testifies before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard June 15, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

In discussing how the Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts are attacking financial lines of illicit cartels, the Commandant shared the actions of a pursuit mission commander aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk. During the Mohawk’s recent deployment, the coxswain led her team in the tactical pursuit and interdiction of six drug-laden smuggling vessels. These seizures netted nine metric tons of cocaine, and the detention of 16 smugglers. The Commandant reinforced how interdictions operations are “people-intensive” and also require capable platforms.

“At 25, Mohawk is older than many of her crew, and she is the newest medium endurance cutter in our fleet,” said the Commandant. “Until the offshore patrol cutter comes on line, there is much maintenance for our support personnel to contend with as well.”

“To that end,” the Commandant added, “I remain confident that we will down-select to a single shipbuilder and award OPC detailed design by the end of this fiscal year.”

Lastly, the Commandant shared the story of a marine inspector stationed at Sector Lower Mississippi River, a unit responsible for 2,200 miles inland waterways. The Commandant reiterated how inspectors there, and at all of our marine safety units, are critical to our nation’s economic prosperity.

“He completed 130 inspections of tank barges to enable completion of shipyard repairs valued in the millions of dollars, actions critical to maintaining the safety of an industry that moves most of our nation’s commodities in a just-in-time economy,” shared the Commandant.

The Commandant reiterated these are just a sample of the people who are part of today’s Coast Guard, responsible for the safety, security and stewardship of our maritime domain. Stating the “tempo of operations across every mission exceeds anything I have seen in my 40-year career” the Commandant ended by sharing that he readily anticipates continued investments in a modern, capable Coast Guard.

“I look forward to working with this committee as we make prudent investments in the 21st century Coast Guard – in platforms and people,” concluded the Commandant at the hearing.

Editor’s note: for more information on Coast Guard budget priorities, visit the Coast Guard’s budget in brief. You can see more from the hearing at the subcommittee’s page.

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