Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
Phenomenal. It’s the word I used to kick off today’s State of the Coast Guard Address and one in which best describes Coast Guard men and women. Our active duty, reserve, civil service and auxiliary members are a remarkable team predisposed to put Service before self as they ensure the security and prosperity of our nation.
And, I might add, what a phenomenal year it has been for the U.S. Coast Guard.
This year the Coast Guard interdicted record volumes of cocaine, apprehended more Cuban migrants at sea, stood up the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, created a Cyber Protection Team, and had a fourth consecutive clean financial audit opinion.
We are also recapitalizing our legacy fleet across three cutter classes – National Security Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter, Fast Response Cutter – with ships that have proven to be true game changers. And, we are well on our way to accelerating the delivery of a new heavy icebreaker, the first in a fleet of three heavy and three medium icebreakers. This is a Coast Guard that offers tremendous returns on investment.
This may lead some to believe that our fiscal challenges are behind us. Yet we are not postured to benefit from the vital national security investments. Coast Guard men and women are military members who operate on the front lines to secure our nation and our borders – our Service must be categorized and funded accordingly.
Every few months, a new major cutter arrives at our piers, and yet we simply to not have enough surveillance platforms to track the threats to our nation. Our capable surface assets can do so much more if properly complemented by 21st century ISR capabilities. The Coast Guard must acquire land-based, unmanned or remotely piloted systems to help counter the threat and increase the return of our capital investments.
Domestically, the health and security of our nation’s economic engine requires Coast Guard investments since more than $4.5 trillion of our nation’s economic activity occurs on our waterways. This maritime network of waterways is maintained by an inland fleet of cutters now in service for more than five decades. The time to replace these assets is past due. Using a boxing metaphor: we are funded in the flyweight class. After 226 years of service, the time is long overdue to up our weight class. Our funding needs to reflect the power of our Coast Guard punch.
As Commandant, I am in the business of ensuring the readiness of our force. Of ensuring our men and women are properly trained and equipped to carry out their mission. It is this force, and all that our men and women do, that continually and truly humble me. I could not be more grateful for each of our phenomenal active duty, reserve, civil servant, and auxiliary members.