WASHINGTON — U.S. Coast Guard assets interdicted or disrupted more than 190 metric tons of cocaine and detained more than 700 suspected drug smugglers for prosecution in fiscal year 2015.
“When I met recently with the President of Honduras, he noted a 23 percent decrease in violent crime in his country — a result he attributes to [our] interdiction,” U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said in his State of the Coast Guard address on Feb. 23 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium.
“The increased budget allows me to invest in our capital fleet and intelligence programs so that we can continue to reestablish rule of law and stability in our own hemisphere.”
This was Adm. Zukunft’s second State of the Coast Guard address and he took the opportunity to recognize service accomplishments, reinforce his strategic intent, and provide direction for the coming year.
The commandant’s speech focused on how the budget is being driven by strategy and how the budget will support his priorities to invest in the 21st century Coast Guard, sustain mission excellence, and maximize value to the nation.
“Now, on behalf of the 88,000 women and men of the Coast Guard, I profoundly thank the 114th Congress and this administration for delivering an authorization bill along with the largest acquisition budget in Coast Guard history,” Zukunft said.
The commandant elaborated on what the 2017 budget means for the nation’s Arctic Strategy and how it paves the way to recapitalize the diminishing fleet of heavy icebreakers.
“Currently, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is returning home upon completion of its third consecutive mission to Antarctica, flying the flag of our nation’s sole operational heavy icebreaker capable of operating in ice up to 21-feet thick,” Zukunft said.
“It causes me great discomfort, as it should everyone in this audience, that the U.S. has no insurance policy — no self-rescue capability whatsoever — should Polar Star and her nearly 40-year-old engineering plant suffer an engineering casualty and become beset in the ice of Antarctica. However, the budget includes funding to accelerate the acquisition of heavy icebreakers, and as I have previously mentioned, I am grateful for the President’s ardent support to ensure the United States maintains year-round access to the strategic polar regions.
“I am committed to the safety, security and environmental stewardship of the Arctic, and I will continue to lead this effort at the international level.”
The commandant also highlighted the recently released Human Capital Strategy.
“For all the investments we are making in our capital plant, if they are not matched with a commensurate investment in our people, those aircraft, cutters, rescue boats and the skill sets required to operate them will become hollow,” Zukunft said.
“Which is why our Human Capital Strategy and retaining our most vital asset — our people — is the bedrock of the State of the Coast Guard.”
The commandant closed by saying that he is very optimistic in today’s state of the Coast Guard and that “these are truly the finest hours to serve in the United States Coast Guard.”
ONLINE: You can view the full 2016 State of the Coast Guard address video and script at www.uscg.mil/coastguard2016/.
To view the Coast Guard Budget in Brief, go to www.uscg.mil/budget/.