On Tuesday, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation about acquisition programs and the need for more funding.
During the hearing, the Commandant pointed to the Coast Guard’s four-year record of clean financial audits – the only military service with such a clean bill of fiscal health – and he called for more support for the perennially underfunded agency. With just five percent annual growth in operations and maintenance and $2 billion per year for acquisition, Adm. Zukunft said that he could “dig out of the Budget Control Act basement [and build] out our fleet of national security cutters, offshore patrol cutters, fast response cutters, [and] icebreakers.” He also pointed to the service’s $1.6 billion shoreside infrastructure backlog. Earlier this year, Zukunft noted that the shortfall is so severe that it is not unheard of for coast guardsmen to be found literally patching roofs.
The Commandant also emphasized that the Coast Guard would be best located in the Department of Homeland Security. It has been housed in multiple agencies over the years, most recently the Department of Transportation, and Adm. Zukunft advocated against transferring it to the Department of Defense (although he has often argued that it is a military service).
“Our 11 statutory missions, they best align with those of the Department of Homeland Security,” said the Commandant. “And two of our highest priority regions – reining in transnational criminal organizations like never before across the Western Hemisphere, Central and South America before they reach the United States, and exerting sovereignty while protecting safety of life at sea in the Arctic – do not rank high in the regionalized national military strategy.”
Zukunft lifts paddler restrictions on Potomac
In a surprise move, Adm. Zukunft also testified that he would amend restrictions on paddlers on the Potomac River to let them to pass clear on the Maryland side of the waterway, even when President Donald Trump is at the Trump National Golf Club on the opposite bank. The Coast Guard has closed off access along a two-mile stretch of the river during the president’s visits, angering paddlers and sparking a minor political controversy. “We listened and we are making that accommodation to the public,” Zukunft said.