March 14, 2014 – Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp testified recently before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request.
The Commandant led his opening statement by thanking both the Subcommittee and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson for their continued support of Coast Guardsmen.
“I will be eternally indebted to all of you for your hard work behind the scenes to make sure our people are taken care of,” said the Commandant.
The Commandant also thanked the subcommittee for their support of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 which helped to relieve the erosive effects of sequestration on the Coast Guard, restoring front line operations and badly needed training hours.
In his testimony, the Commandant focused on the need for cutter recapitalization efforts to allow the Coast Guard to better serve our maritime nation.
“We rely on the safe, secure and free flow of goods across the seas and into our ports and waterways,” said the Commandant. “Every day the Coast Guard acts to both prevent and respond to an array of threats that, if left unchecked, would impede trade, weaken our economy and create instability.”
During fiscal year 2013 the Coast Guard saved 3,200 lives, seized 88 metric tons of cocaine and 37 metric tons of marijuana, responded to 11,146 reports of pollution, interdicted more than 2,000 undocumented migrants and detained 190 suspected smugglers.
As the nation’s maritime governance force, the Coast Guard aims to interdict threats as far from U.S. shores as possible per DHS’ layered security strategy, and a capable offshore fleet of cutters is critical. However, the average Reliance Class Medium Endurance Cutter is 46 years old, and the oldest turns 50 this year.
“I sailed aboard one of these cutters, the Valiant, as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy,” said Adm. Papp, who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1975. “Due solely to the determination of our cuttermen, naval engineers and our modernized mission support system, Valiant will still be sailing when I retire this May.”
Two weeks ago the Coast Guard awarded the preliminary and contract design contracts for the Offshore Patrol Cutter fleet which will replace the aging Medium Endurance Cutters. In his recent State of the Coast Guard Address, the Commandant called this the most important shipbuilding initiative in the service’s 223-year history.
“We now sit at a critical point in time where the vital necessity to recapitalize our aging offshore fleet connects with the expertise and strong competition to do so affordably,” said the Commandant. “To lose this opportunity would affect the very shape of our service and impact our ability to conduct our missions for the next 40 years.”
As important as the Offshore Patrol Cutter recapitalization project is, Adm. Papp noted that his top priority over the past two years has been eliminating sexual harassment from the service.
“We started a military campaign office to oversee the implementation of our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategic Plan and I have personally talked to about 35,000 Coast Guardsmen over the last 18 months during all hands meetings,” said the Commandant. “Even though the number of reports are going up, I feel that is a sign that victims are now trusting the system, and allowing us to vigorously hold the perpetrators accountable.”