WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today delivered remarks on the Senate floor on the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard (USCG) Act. The legislation would direct a new fleet mix analysis, require an updated shore infrastructure plan, enhance Coast Guard diversity and inclusion, and provide funding to modernize the Coast Guard Yard. The USCG Act would also ensure Coast Guard personnel are paid in the event of a government shutdown and increase funding to eliminate the shore side backlog by 2025.
Click here or the picture above to watch the floor speech.
Excerpt from Ranking Member Wicker’s remarks, as delivered, below:
For more than 230 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has watched over our shores, protected against foreign threats, lent a helping hand to those in need of rescue, and enforced the rule of law. The Coast Guard lives by its motto, “Always Ready,” and has earned the trust and admiration of the American people.
America could not do without this uniquely capable branch of our military. The Coast Guard is so effective and so versatile that it is tasked with 11 statutory missions spanning the entire globe.
One of the most well-known Coast Guard missions is search and rescue. The Coast Guard carries out 45 search and rescue missions on an average day, saving the lives and property of Americans in dire need.
The Coast Guard also protects our ports and inland waterways, facilitating billions of dollars in trade and maintaining the navigation aids that make sea commerce possible. In today’s global economy, 80 percent of international trade travels by sea. The Coast Guard plays a crucial role in screening commercial vessels, patrolling maritime infrastructure, and servicing aids to navigation, such as beacons and buoys. Each of these functions contributes to our nation’s prosperity and security.
The Coast Guard is also increasingly involved in homeland security. It is largely the Coast Guard’s job to deter potential threats before they arrive in U.S. ports. Coast Guard men and women can be found in every major port in America, conducting security boardings and escorting passenger and cargo vessels into our waterways. The Coast Guard also helps enforce U.S. migration laws and saves the lives of those who foolishly risk everything to travel on unseaworthy vessels.
Beyond this, the Coast Guard plays a crucial role in blocking narcotics and illegal weapons from entering the country. It is not uncommon for Americans to open their news feeds and read a report about the latest multi-million dollar drug bust carried out at sea by the Coast Guard. In one recent example, three Coast Guard cutters joined efforts to intercept more than 11,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $220 million. That was a remarkable feat, but not unusual for our Coast Guard.
As the Polar Regions attract more interest from Congress, it should be known that the Coast Guard is America’s surface presence in both the Arctic and Antarctic waters. Coast Guard icebreakers carry out a wide range of operations, allowing us to have a sustained presence in Antarctica and conduct research in some of the most remote corners of the Earth.
If all of these roles were not enough, the Coast Guard is taking on greater responsibilities in national security. Partnering side-by-side with the Navy, today’s Coast Guard conducts freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, provides maritime security in the Middle East, and deters illegal fishing in international waters.
This long list of responsibilities should make two things very clear. First, the Coast Guard is extremely capable and adept, and, secondly, it is being stretched increasingly thin. Today, the Coast Guard is being asked to carry out almost every maritime task imaginable, but Coast Guard funding has not kept up with these increased demands. The fifth branch of our military needs the certainty, predictable funding, and authorities necessary to accomplish all of its missions.
Congress has the ability to meet these needs, and I am asking my colleagues to do so by supporting a new bill, the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard Act.