“I am a Coast Guardsman… I stand the watch… I scan the horizon for signs of friend or foe, squall or calm, shoals or deep water, challenges and opportunities… always vigilant… As we look to the horizon, I have great confidence and optimism about where we are today… and where we are headed.” (Papp 2013) In his State of the Coast Guard Address in February, Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Papp was optimistic about the future of the Coast Guard. A member of his staff assured me that this stands true today.
The Coast Guard has faced many obstacles since its meager beginnings in 1790. More than once they have literally fought for their survival when government officials wanted to disband their service. They have also always been a service that operates on a smaller budget than any other branch of the military. They have become famous for doing a lot with a little. This fiscal year is no different. The Coast Guard has seen hard times before, but the most recent budget cuts put forth by Congress has many people concerned about its future.
This is why members were somewhat surprised by Adm. Papp’s optimism. He credits his confidence back to, “The men and woman of the Coast Guard. It’s Coast guardsmen. My ‘Coasties’.” (Papp 2013) He uses the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Sandy six months ago as an example of how unfailing the Coast Guard is. They were able to utilize the technology available to them, their training and their constant readiness in response to the “largest Atlantic Hurricane we’ve ever seen” (Papp 2013).
In his second State of the Coast Guard address last year, Adm. Papp told members that they “were navigating uncertain and stormy seas” (Papp 2013). And he freely admits that this year they continue to “maneuver in those uncertain and stormy seas.” (Papp 2013) He also states that “they may very well increase before they abate” (Papp 2013). However, as their motto Semper Paratus, always ready, shows they are ready for anything that can be thrown at them and they will adapt to the circumstances as necessary.
He says that the Coast Guard will continue to adapt as it always has. He told the members that “Proficiency must remain our enduring anchor,” (Papp 2013) Even during these trying times Adm. Papp let his Coast guardsmen know that sustaining mission excellence will remain their highest priority. They are also continuing their preparations to meet their growing responsibilities in the Arctic.
He states that the next priority is to “ensure we have the cutters, boats, aircraft and infrastructure necessary to conduct our missions.” (Papp 2013) He states that despite the new budget realities, they have made significant progress in recapitalizing their aging fleet. Last year they began commissioning the new Fast Endurance cutters, and more are in production and under contract. The Coast Guard is also working to replace their Medium Endurance Cutters, as well as their High Endurance Cutters. They have also placed new Response Boats at many of the small boat stations and done overhauls of the POLAR STAR. They began to replace and upgrade their aircraft.
The Coast Guard is also working on focusing more on families. They are making improvements to their Ombudsman program, expanding opportunities for affordable childcare and improving housing. They are continuing to improve the lives of Coast Guard families making things easier on them.
There are many more aspects of the Coast Guard’s mission that will see changes or adaptations within the new budgets and new environments. They are looking at many new responsibilities with the expanding Arctic frontier. The Coast Guard is also focusing on National Defense and Security. Despite their small size, small budget, and small fleet the Coast Guard continues to carry the torch and stand the watch. They have endured throughout their 223 year history and will continue to stand strong enduring in the future. As Adm. Papp said, “We will always move forward, towards the horizon…Of course we will never reach it; because over every horizon awaits another. And that is the promise that drives us forward. And we do this because we are Coast Guardsmen. This is our chosen profession. This is our way. This is what we do.” (Papp 2013)
Papp, Commandant Admiral Bob (2013). State of the Coast Guard Address: Forward…to the Horizon