Adm. Zukunft testifies before Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appears before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appears before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

In the week following his annual State of the Coast Guard address, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard to discuss the Coast Guard’s role as an indispensable instrument of national security.

The Commandant started his testimony by sharing the Coast Guard’s enduring value proposition to the United States.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks with Sen. Dan Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks with Sen. Dan Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“The Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to help secure the border, combat transnational organized crime and safeguard America’s economic prosperity,” said the Commandant.

The Commandant went on to highlight recent operations that are a testament to this value. These highlights included the Coast Guard’s record year of drug seizures in 2016 – $5.6 billion worth of cocaine – and the 585 suspected drug smugglers detained by the Coast Guard, also a record for the service. The Commandant further shared how disrupting illicit trafficking results in greater safety in our homeland and security at our borders.

“The Coast Guard’s capabilities and authorities position our Service to attack these networks before they reach our borders, and where they are most vulnerable – at sea,” said the Commandant. “Using our broad law enforcement authorities and a portfolio of more than 60 bi-lateral agreements we push out our maritime borders to disrupt these illicit pathways.”

What impact does the Coast Guard have on the illicit trafficking of drugs destined for our communities? The Coast Guard and partner agencies interdicted more cocaine at sea than was removed at the land border and across the entire nation by all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies combined.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell before testifying on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell before testifying on March 22, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

In sharing these operational successes with the subcommittee, the Commandant emphasized the lack of capacity to tackle all known threats. While the Coast Guard and its partner agencies have intelligence on illicit activity, only 30 percent can be targeted due to gaps in surface assets. To that end, the Commandant said continued investments must be made to ensure the Coast Guard can maintain its edge against transnational criminal organizations.

He also detailed the need for smart investments in other key assets – to include icebreakers, river tenders and aging shore infrastructure. He shared that without continued and sustained investment, the Coast Guard will see decreased readiness.

Ending his oral statement, the Commandant reminded the subcommittee that funding for the Coast Guard is about funding for its people.

“Invest in the Coast Guard, and our assets and people will continue to deliver great returns,” said the Commandant.

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.

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