Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
America’s Coast Guard continues to focus on strategic challenges, build a 21st century Coast Guard and invest in Duty to People – a message I delivered today during my second State of the Coast Guard Address.
We have never been more relevant or better supported by the Administration and Congress. Our Arctic, Western Hemisphere, and Cyber strategies, along with our Energy Action Plan, are increasingly relevant today, and as reflected in our recent appropriations, strategy is driving budget like never before.
Our strategy to combat transnational organized crime networks promotes regional stability in Central America as our Southwest border is besieged by those fleeing violent crime that plagues the tri-border region of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Through intelligence-cued operations, increased at-sea interdictions, persistent offshore presence and strong interagency and international partnerships, the Coast Guard is taking the fight to these insidious networks. The backbone of our future success will ultimately be the Offshore Patrol Cutter –which remains our top investment priority.
The safety, security and environmental stewardship of the Arctic, requires U.S. leadership at the international level. Since 1965, the Coast Guard has been the Nation’s sole provider of heavy icebreakers, and the President’s announcement on the acquisition of additional heavy icebreakers affirmed this vital national capability. In procuring new heavy icebreakers, we will continue projecting U.S. sovereignty and assuring access to the polar regions.
Technology has fueled unprecedented growth and efficiency in our increasingly globalized economy but also spawned increasing risk in the cyber domain. As we implement our Cyber Strategy, the Coast Guard will continue to focus on strengthening internal networks and promoting strong cybersecurity practices for the critical maritime systems that fuel our Nation’s economic engine.
Global energy markets are as volatile as ever. Across the maritime domain, commercial shipping adjusts to just-in-time inventory cycles with each voyage. The Panama and Suez canals are widening, ships are getting larger and port upgrades to handle new volume will continue. All of this is occurring while additions to the U.S. flag fleet, including LNG-powered vessels, and oil and gas are moving on our vital U.S. Maritime Transportation System, drawing upon the expertise of our marine safety and waterways management professionals.
With tremendous support of the Administration and Congress, the Coast Guard is making needed improvements to its capital plant. However, without matching investments in the women and men required to operate them, our aircraft, cutters, boats and infrastructure will become hollow.
Our Human Capital Strategy provides a framework for talent management with a modernized vision for recruiting, training and retaining the absolute best workforce. Last month, I engaged with leaders in Silicon Valley and left convinced they are seeking competitive talent just as we are. The private sector recognizes the retention of talent goes far beyond benefits and compensation. Without question, the Coast Guard has a deeply imbued sense of mission that permeates everything we do.
As Commandant, I must ensure we have an appropriately sized and trained force that represents the rich diversity of our Nation. As I take inventory of our Coast Guard – including 41,000 active, 7,000 reserve, 8,500 civilian and 30,000 Auxiliary – we are well-equipped but under-manned. We will formally define a force size informed by strategy, analysis and risk management. I have also directed assignment policy changes to improve geographic stability; expanded maternity leave; overhauled sea pay; and continually emphasized our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Campaign.
Today, the State of the Coast Guard remains Semper Paratus – Always Ready to guard the Homeland, protect our environment, facilitate maritime commerce, save those in peril on the sea and attack transnational organized crime networks that attempt to exploit the maritime domain. Right now, Coast Guard women and men are on watch – as they have been for 225 years – serving the Nation’s interests, security and prosperity.