WASHINGTON – U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell testified Wednesday on the Coast Guard's Fiscal Year 2016 budget request before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Zukunft led his testimony by sharing his perspectives on the increasing demands the service is facing as four strategic trends converge on the Coast Guard in unprecedented ways. Those include combating transnational organized crime networks and securing our borders, safeguarding commerce, enhancing cybersecurity and adapting in the polar regions.
Zukunft stated that his highest investment priority is recapitalizing the aging Medium Endurance Cutter fleet with the Offshore Patrol Cutter. In 2014, four 210-foot cutters were sent to costly emergency dry dock where they lost 20 percent of their planned cutter underway days due to unscheduled maintenance.
"The Offshore Patrol Cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities," said Zukunft. "The Offshore Patrol Cutter is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing people, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports."
Cantrell testified on the importance of recapitalization efforts to the 88,000 men and women of the Coast Guard's workforce of active duty servicemembers and reservists, civilian employees and volunteer auxiliarists.
"We are doing all we can do to be good stewards of our aging resources and limited funding while we tend to the needs of our servicemembers and their families, who make so many other sacrifices," said Cantrell. "We ask so much of our well-educated, innovative and professional workforce, some of which are serving on assets older than their parents...and supported by infrastructure that's older than their grandparents."
In addition to investments in the Offshore Patrol Cutter, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget preserves Coast Guard operations, invests in Coast Guard people and continues recapitalization efforts for cutters, boats, aircraft, systems and infrastructure.