One day after Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft delivered his first State of the Coast Guard Address, he testified on the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request before the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
The Commandant led his testimony by sharing his perspectives on the increasing demands the service is facing as four strategic trends converge on the Coast Guard in unprecedented ways – combating transnational organized crime networks and securing our borders; safeguarding commerce; enhancing cybersecurity; and adapting in the polar regions. These growth areas span all Coast Guard activities and come at a time when many of the service’s shore infrastructure and operating platforms are past their service life.
“Last year, I sent four 50-year-old medium endurance cutters to costly emergency dry docks, losing 20 percent of my planned patrol days due to unscheduled maintenance,” said the Commandant in his opening statement. “These pressures put the Coast Guard under tremendous strain.”
“To help alleviate this strain, we have developed strategies to address these converging trends, and we are aligning our budget priorities to meet them,” he added. “In times of austerity, budgets must be driven by national strategic priorities. This ensures we are not doing more with less, but making smart choices so our people have the platforms they need to serve the nation now and into the future.”
In his testimony, the Commandant also shared his highest investment priority – recapitalizing the 50-year-old medium endurance fleet with the offshore patrol cutter stating it is the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s strategy to ensure future offshore presence in the transit zone.
In addition to investments in the offshore patrol cutter, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget preserves Coast Guard operations, invests in Coast Guard people and continues recapitalization efforts for cutters, boats, aircraft, systems and infrastructure. The budget also allocates resources for optimal mission performance. To continue meeting today’s operational requirements while investing in future capability to best serve the Nation, the Commandant shared the service’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget priorities: invest in the 21st Century Coast Guard; sustain mission excellence; and maximize service to nation.
As a testament to why investing in 21st Century platforms and people for the Coast Guard is a smart choice, the Commandant shared with the committee the fact that the Coast Guard was the first among all military branches to achieve a clean, unqualified, financial audit opinion. Further, the Coast Guard has done so for two consecutive years. Additionally, the Coast Guard won five federal acquisition awards in 2014.
“Investing in 21st century Coast Guard platforms and people is a smart choice,” said the Commandant. “No one will return more operational value on every dollar than the 88,000 men and women of the United States Coast Guard.”