Written by Cmdr. Rick Wester.
The Commandant led his opening statement with a strong statement reaffirming the Coast Guard’s continuing focus on eliminating sexual assault from the service. After reading a message he previously communicated to the entire Coast Guard entitled “Respect our Shipmates – Duty Demands Courage,” he added progress is being made.
“I’ve spoken to junior and senior people in the field and they all indicate more willingness and trust to come forward now and report these cases,” said the Commandant. “But one case is too many.” The Commandant added the service has recently implemented its Sexual Assault Strategic Plan, conducted unit-level training throughout the service and significantly increased the number of victim advocates and sexual assault response coordinators.
Shifting to the budget, the Commandant thanked the committee for their support and thanked the president and Secretaryof Homeland Security Janet Napolitano for supporting his top priorities in the 2014 budget. The Commandant added the current fiscal environment has required the service to make difficult decisions to ensure future Coast Guardsmen have the tools required to protect the nation.
“The FY14 budget sustains the most critical front-line operations while funding our most critical acquisition projects. We are making great strides in recapitalizing the Coast Guard’s aging fleet.”
Due to predictable funding and a stable and efficient production line, costs for the sixth national security cutter is nearly the same as the fourth and fifth cutters. Funding of the seventh is in the 2014 budget.
“National security cutters do amazing work. Cutter Waesche recently interdicted contraband worth an estimated $7.5 million, and just last week Bertholf disrupted a shipment of cocaine valued at over $5 million,” said the Commandant. “These cutters are also key to meeting growing demands in the Bering Sea and the Arctic.”
In his written testimony the Commandant stated that over the last year the Coast Guard seized more than 107 metric tons of cocaine and 56 metric tons of marijuana, saved more than 3,500 lives, 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.
“Our commitment to the nation and our duty to honor the memory of Senior Chief Horne strengthens our resolve to defeat those threats,” said the Commandant. “The men and women of the Coast Guard give their all and make sacrifices every day, putting their country first. I have never been prouder of them.”