Coast Guard Commandant Fagan Highlights Polar Security Cutters, Indo-Pacom Expansion

March 20, 2024 9:09 PM - Updated: March 21, 2024 4:11 PM
Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard, speaks to guests during the 2024 State of the Coast Guard Address in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2024. US Coast Guard Photo

While a Polar Security Cutter was not on the Fiscal Year 2025 budget, Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Linda Fagan said the program was still her top acquisition priority.

The Coast Guard did not ask for funding for the Polar Security Cutter Program its FY 2025 budget, but the service has already received full funding for the first two ships in previous budgets. The FY 2024 budget – which has not yet been approved by Congress – also requested $170 million for the program.

“This is the first new heavy icebreaker constructed in the United States since the 1970s,” Fagan said. “And as an Arctic nation, a new polar security cutter is critical to creating persistent presence in the high latitudes.”

The Polar Security Cutter is just one of the priorities that Fagan has on her list, she touched on during the 2024 State of the Coast Guard Wednesday night. Fagan highlighted the search and rescue mission of the Coast Guard, giving the example of Coasties saving people during the Maui fires. But the service is also a global one, Fagan said, adding that the service conducts missions in the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific.

Fagan spent about 25 minutes covering the priorities for the Coast Guard. The service requested $13.8 billion as part of its Fiscal Year 2025 budget with a majority of the funds going to operational costs.

The Coast Guard looks to expand its operations in the Indo-Pacific, with an ask of $263 million to increase presence and maritime governance, according to the Coast Guard’s fact sheet on its budget request.

The requests build on the Coast Guard’s ongoing expansion in the Indo-Pacific region. This year, the service moved USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903) to a new home port in Honolulu, Hawaii. The medium endurance cutter is currently on patrol in the South China Sea, Fagan said.

Part of the Coast Guard’s activity in the Indo-Pacific region is an agreement with the island nations of Vanuatu and Fiji to allow Coast Guard law enforcement to embark on their ships in order to help protect against illegal, unregulated and unregulated fishing by Chinese fisherman, Fagan said in her remarks.

The service is also asking for $530 million for the construction of the seventh Off-Shore Patrol Cutter and the long lead time materials for the eighth OPC , according to the Department of Homeland Security budget brief. The Coast Guard also asked for funding for funding for three Waterways Commerce Cutters and for post-delivery activities on the eleventh National Security Cutter the future USCGC Friedman (WMSL-760). Those projects request $135 million and $7 million, respectively.

Personnel continues to be an issue for the Coast Guard, which is down about 10 percent of its necessary force. Faced with the small force, the service is going through a temporary realignment.

The Coast Guard announced earlier this year that three 210’ Medium Endurance Cutters and seven 87’ Patrol Boats will be placed in layup with the medium endurance cutters pending decommissioning and the patrol boats pending reactivation.

Five 65’ Harbor Tugs will be kept in ready status but not continuously manned.

The Coast Guard also transferred crews at 23 seasonal stations to the parent command and suspended operations for six non-response units.

“These temporary changes are not a permanent solution. Americans want more Coast Guard not less,” Fagan said. “But trying to maintain the status quo with a workforce shortage puts our people and the American public at greater risk.”

In order to bring in more people, the Coast Guard needs more recruiting offices and recruiters, Fagan said.

She also highlighted a new talent approach where the service aims to meet new recruits where they are and customized curricula based on what skills a recruit brings. This year, 150 recruits graduated 30 percent faster due to the new approach, Fagan said.

“We’re moving away from a rigid one-size-fits all system to one that enables every individual to perform to their full potential,” she said. “It’s a generational change in our approach to talent management.”

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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