Coast Guard Stands Ready For Challenges, Commandant Says

By Ian Graham

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard stands ready to confront current and future challenges, said Adm. Thad W. Allen, commandant of the service.

Today’s Coast Guard is a strong, resilient force, Allen said during a DoDLive blogger’s roundtable Feb. 16. The Coast Guard, he said, plans to restore and refurbish some of its aging fleet with the $1.4 billion contained in this year’s proposed federal budget.

Yet a tight budgeting process brought about by a down economy poses potential challenges for the Coast Guard, the admiral said.

“When you’re operating in a constrained budget environment, it’s very, very difficult to make tradeoffs. But in this case, we have to focus on recapitalizing and rebuilding new ships,” Allen said. “Otherwise you create what they would call a hollow force.”

The problem in explaining the Coast Guard’s funding requirements Allen said, comes, in part, from its national presence across maritime domains and many agencies’ jurisdictions. While the service falls under Homeland Security, the Coast Guard also partners in operations involving the Defense Department and performs tasks across every branch of the government.

The Coast Guard, Allen said, is a multi-mission organization that performs both military and law enforcement duties.

“I think we’re the exact type of agency the government needs right now, but in a constrained budget environment we’re the hardest to explain,” he said. “We have cutters that can do a number of missions. But they can’t do them all at once.”

Consequently, Allen said, there’s “an inherent risk-management process that takes place, in how we allocate our resources now.”

Allen thanked President Barack Obama for his support and also thanked First Lady Michelle Obama for her work on behalf of military families. The Coast Guard, the admiral noted, has received $14 million to build new family housing for its servicemembers. The proposed budget, he added, also would support acquisition of additional cutters, aircraft, fast-response cutters and funding to begin the design process for the new medium-endurance cutters.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. has been nominated to succeed Allen as the new Coast Guard commandant. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Papp would relieve Allen in May 2010.

“The challenges I see that are going to kind of transcend across my tenure and Adm. Papp’s tenure; pending his confirmation are going to have to do with really clearly defining what we do within the Department of Homeland Security,” Allen said.

Ian Graham is assigned to Defense Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate.

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