After 2017 Hurricanes, Coast Guard Needs Repairs
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Thursday to testify on the Coast Guard’s response to the 2017 hurricane season.
In the span of five weeks, Coast Guard personnel rescued more than 11,300 people and 1,500 pets; fixed 1,269 discrepant aids to navigation; oversaw 290 pollution cases; assessed more than 3,600 grounded vessels; and restored America’s ports and waterways for maritime commerce and transportation. Adm. Zukunft attributed the service’s performance to its decentralized command and control structure, along with its ability to rapidly reallocate resources. Specifically, he highlighted the repositioning of assets away from other regions and the impact that this had on daily operations.
“Cutters and aircraft were taken away from search and rescue, counter-drug, and security operations in favor of saving lives, restoring affected waterways, and delivering critical disaster relief supplies and equipment to impacted areas. Nowhere was this more profound than in the Eastern Pacific – and the [transnational criminal organizations] were benefactors of our diminished presence at a time when over 60,000 Americans perish each year from drug overdoses,” Adm. Zukunft said.
The commandant also drew attention to damaged Coast Guard facilities, IT infrastructure and deferred maintenance, and the impact of this deterioration on the organization.
“Based on Harvey, Irma, and Maria alone, we need nearly a billion dollars to rebuild damaged infrastructure and restore eroded readiness. In particular, the Coast Guard incurred over $90 million in damages from Hurricane Matthew, yet supplemental relief was diminished to $15 million, and we still have units operating out of makeshift piers that have not been hardened to withstand any kind of significant weather. Given the many competing demands in our country today and the propensity to fix only what is broken, I am concerned the Coast Guard will continue to be known solely for our success – and not what we need to be made whole,” Zukunft cautioned.
This article is adapted from an editorial by U.S. Coast Guard Compass, and it appears here in abbreviated form. It may be found in its original format here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.