Praising his charges for the significant missions they undertook last year, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft made pitches for two significant items on his wish list — a new polar icebreaker and an increased presence in the Arctic.
“We are trusted in the Arctic to preserve our sovereignty over precious oil and minerals, to ensure access to opening shipping routes and … to keep our border secure in a region with an emerging U.S. coastline and a mounting Russian footprint,”Zukunft said March 1, in his annual State of the Coast Guard remarks. He then praised the Trump administration and Congress for supporting Coast Guard plans to submit a request for proposal for a new heavy icebreaker in the near future.
Zukunft also lauded the Coast Guard men and women who serve under him for their responses during and after the hurricanes that struck Texas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — even as their own homes and livelihoods were significantly affected.
Noting that Coast Guard efforts led to referrals of 606 smugglers to the Justice Department for prosecution, as well as the seizure of $7.2 billion in cocaine, Zukunft also reiterated the service’s promise to the nation’s borders.
He also cited the increased emphasis on cyber security, stating that the subject would now be offered as a major at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The speech, delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., would be his last state-of-the-service message. Zukunft is slated to retire later this year.