Written by Cmdr. Rick Wester.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp provided oral testimony before two U.S. House of Representatives subcommittees yesterday on the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request. In the morning, the Commandant testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and in the afternoon testified along with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation.
At both hearings the Commandant led his opening statement with a message of condolence to the victims of the terrorism attack in Boston, and described the Coast Guard’s active role in the response.
“The collective hearts of the entire Coast Guard family go out to the people of Boston, and all families affected by yesterday’s tragedy,” said the Commandant. “The Coast Guard is based in that community and we were able to respond immediately with boat crews from Sector Boston, a maritime safety and security team, an armed helicopter and boarding teams to enhance the overall maritime transportation security posture. Our ability to respond like that is the direct result of the tremendous support that Congress and the administration have given us over the past 12 years.”
The Commandant detailed how that same strong support enabled other recent responses. For example, during the Hurricane Sandy response Coast Guardsmen rescued 14 crewmembers from the HMS Bounty 80 miles offshore despite 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds, and also led an interagency effort to reopen the Port of New York and New Jersey to commerce shortly after the storm.
In his written testimony the Commandant stated: “Every day the Coast Guard acts to prevent and respond to an array of threats that, if left unchecked, could disrupt regional and global security, the economies of partner nations, access to resources and international trade. All of these are vital elements to our national prosperity.”
Over the last year the Coast Guard saved more than 3,500 lives, seized more than 107 metric tons of cocaine and 56 metric tons of marijuana, responded to 3,300 pollution incidents, seized 70 vessels and detained 352 suspected smugglers. Those detained smugglers included those charged with ramming a Coast Guard pursuit boat, killing Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III.
“We will make the very best use of the resources you provide to safely and effectively conduct operations in areas of greatest risk to the nation while recapitalizing our cutters, boats and aircraft to address current and emerging threats particularly in the offshore environment,” said the Commandant. “The president’s 2014 budget sustains the most critical front line operations and sustains the most critical acquisition projects.”
The Commandant thanked committees for their support, and thanked the president and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for including funding of the seventh national security cutter, his top acquisition priority for the 2014 budget. National security cutters are critical for the Coast Guard to successfully execute the Department of Homeland Security’s layered security strategy and interdict threats as far offshore as possible.
“We still have a long way to go,” said the Commandant. “As the Department of Defense rebalances to the Pacific and maritime activity increases in the Arctic, offshore demand for Coast Guard capabilities is increasing. Our older high endurance cutters have served offshore for 50 years but are at the end of their service lives.”
Leavitt added the new assets are safer, much more capable and allow Coast Guard crews to conduct missions as efficiently as possible. He also updated the committee on the status of Coast Guard family programs, including housing.
“We recently completed an assessment of all of our housing across the nation,” said the Master Chief. “We will leverage the findings of that assessment to ensure funding is directed to those housing units that provide the greatest benefit to our workforce and their families.”
The Commandant will also testify on the Coast Guard fiscal year 2014 budget before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard on Tuesday, April 23 at 10 a.m.
For more information, visit the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2014 budget request fact sheet or the Coast Guard’s 2013 Posture Statement. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation oral testimony video and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security oral testimony text are available.