Cantwell: “This is a historic moment for our country and for women in the Armed Services. It will be the first time that a woman will lead one of the six branches of the Armed Services.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led the nomination hearing of Admiral Linda Fagan, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. If confirmed, Admiral Fagan would be the first woman, and the first mother, to lead any branch of the United States Armed Forces.
Admiral Fagan currently serves as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Vice Commandant and is the longest-serving active duty Marine Safety Officer. She received a Master of Science in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington and previously served on the Seattle-based heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star.
After praising Admiral Fagan for her long and impressive 36-year career in the Coast Guard, Sen. Cantwell noted: “But beyond that. Beyond that impressive resume, this is a historic moment for our country and for women in the Armed Services. It will be the first time that a woman will lead one of the six branches of the Armed Services.”
“So I am hoping that your leadership will also will lead to more progress on getting women recruited and retained in the Coast Guard. That with your help and focus on important issues, like childcare, healthcare, and education that ‘Coasties,’ like your daughter, can have a long career in the Coast Guard,” Sen. Cantwell added.
Admiral Fagan underscored her commitment to ensuring that the Coast Guard provides an inclusive and supportive environment that includes families.
“Childcare is a critical, critical issue and need for Coast Guard families. Having access to quality childcare is one of the primary needs for many of our families,” Admiral Fagan said. “I'm committed to working with the Committee to ensure that Coast Guard members have access to childcare.”
Nearly 40% of all U.S. Coast Guard academy enrollees are women, which is the highest percentage among all service academies. As Commandant, Admiral Fagan will lead 55,700 active duty, reserve, and civilian members, and approximately 26,000 auxiliary volunteers.
Washington state is currently home to 1,641 active duty Coast Guard service members deployed across 11 different stations. A total of 1,291 active duty, civilians, and reservists are based in Seattle.
At the hearing, Sen. Cantwell asked Admiral Fagan, “Since obviously you have a big footprint in Seattle,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Are you committed to getting good [childcare] facilities there for the Seattle Coast Guard community?”
“We're excited about what's going on in Seattle. We look forward to working with you to ensure that you know childcare is a primary area of focus as we moved to homeport the Polar Security Cutters there,” said Admiral Fagan. “And look forward to working with you and making sure that Coast Guard families have access to the childcare that they need.”
Senator Cantwell is an ardent supporter of U.S. Coast Guard families. In 2021, Cantwell championed two provisions that were included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including $309 million for repairs and new construction of Coast Guard owned housing and infrastructure across the country and $120 million to build Coast Guard owned and operated childcare centers, which are critical to the retention of women serving in the Coast Guard.
In 2017, Senator Cantwell advocated for Coast Guard paid family leave policies to be expanded to include LGBTQ+ couples, adoptive parents, and secondary caregivers. The U.S. Coast Guard announced the expansion of its paid family leave policy in June 2018. In 2015, Senator Cantwell authored an amendment to ensure Coast Guard members were not receiving less maternity leave than other branches of the military, such as the Navy. This resulted in paid maternity leave for Coast Guard members being doubled from 6 to 12 weeks.
Sen. Cantwell also praised Admiral Fagan’s nomination when announced: “From her career beginnings as a deck watch officer on the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Star, Admiral Fagan has shown strong leadership and a commitment to service that makes her an outstanding choice as the Coast Guard’s 27th Commandant. Upon confirmation, she will become the first woman and mother to lead any branch of the Armed Forces. This nomination proves the value of enacting laws that provide family leave, childcare, and health care access to support talented women in the Coast Guard who have dual roles as service members and parents. Admiral Fagan’s nomination will inspire generations of American women to strive to serve at the highest level in the Armed Forces.”
Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement is available HERE.
Transcript is available HERE.