Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.
As a ship captain I always enjoyed going up to the bridge to check in with the watchstanders, to scan the horizon and check our progress on the charted course. The State of the Coast Guard Address gives me a similar privilege as Commandant, and yesterday I delivered my fourth and final annual Address in the recently dedicated CDR Raymond J. “Ray” Evans Conference Center in the new Douglas A. Munro Coast Guard Headquarters Building.
There was no better location to speak about the State of Our Coast Guard. This year, instead of focusing on what we do, I focused on who we are, how we conduct our missions and “Our Way” that defines us as Coast Guardsmen. Because those things that endure – character, culture, ethos, the manners of our profession –define us as Coast Guardsmen.
“Our Way” is proficiency in craft, proficiency in leadership, and disciplined initiative. You will see it among our heroes from that long blue line of Coast Guard men and women who have served our country almost since its inception. You also see it everywhere today, embodied by several special guests who joined me for the Address from throughout our Service. Indeed, important things like proficiency remain the same, despite change.
I continue to rely upon proficiency in leadership of all Coast Guardsmen to eliminate sexual assault from our Service. We each have a duty to protect our shipmates, and that duty demands courage. We either demonstrate this courage to act or we enable a predator. Whether you see a shipmate who is vulnerable or see a predator preparing to strike, you must act. There are no bystanders in the Coast Guard.
Our collective efforts to improve proficiency throughout the Coast Guard have also helped us to achieve my first Guiding Principle, Steady the Service. When I became Commandant, we were in the midst of one of the largest reorganizations in our Service’s history I was concerned that our doctrine, training and resourcing had not kept up with the pace of organizational change, resulting in the mishap deaths of 15 Coast Guardsmen. We set about to fix that and we have made great progress.
Steadying the Service is also about renewing our capabilities, such as our cutter recapitalization program. We have received funding to purchase long lead time materials for our eighth National Security Cutter, and with continued support in FY15, we hope to soon complete one of the most significant acquisition projects in our history.
Closer to shore, our new Fast Response Cutters have become the workhorse of our interdiction operations in the approaches to Florida and Puerto Rico. We’ve commissioned seven of these cutters so far, of a planned fleet of 58.
After an extremely competitive bidding process we recently selected three finalists who will now compete to produce the most affordable and capable design possible for the nation’s new Offshore Patrol Cutters. We have reached this milestone at a critical time. Our current fleet of 50-year old Medium Endurance Cutters are 20 years past their design life.
All three cutter classes are critical to the Department of Homeland Security’s layered security strategy to counter maritime threats as far offshore as possible, well before they reach our waters and our shores.
Steading the Service is about even more than all of this. Early on in this job I realized that it is really about who we are as Coast Guardsmen. “Our Way” is knowing and recommitting ourselves to the core principles and beliefs that have defined us throughout our Service history.
During the Address I announced the release of an updated edition of our Service’s foundational doctrine, Coast Guard Publication 1. It describes who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. It speaks to the way we have been America’s force for maritime governance and the enduring legacy of our Service.
It’s one thing to read about our history – it’s quite another thing to experience it. One of my real passions has been to ensure that we have an enduring place to preserve and share that history, a place to honor those who have come before and to learn from them. A new National Coast Guard Museum will be such a place where you will see our on full display something that has always been part of who we are and defined “Our Way.”
As I head towards the ladder to lay below from the bridge, I’m still focused on the challenges that lie ahead. Prudent mariners prepare for the worst. But my experiences as a sailor have also given me a strong sense of optimism that has been continuously validated by all that I have observed and by all of the Coast Guardsmen I have had the privilege of serving with. We have the good fortune to be members of this very unique Service that is always ready when our country needs us.
We are the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. This is our chosen profession. This is who we are. “This is Our Way.”