Click here to watch Wicker’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today delivered the following remarks during the nomination hearing for U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Nominee Admiral Linda Fagan:
Remarks as delivered:
Thank you, Senator Cantwell. And absolutely, this is a historic moment. This is an important hearing for the nomination of Admiral Linda Fagan to be Commandant. So, welcome and welcome to the family, as the chair just stated. Admiral Fagan is well-qualified to lead the Coast Guard. She excelled in each of her previous posts, all of which were highly visible and very demanding.
In her current assignment as Vice Commandant, she has led the Coast Guard through the acquisition of much needed assets, like the Polar Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Cutter. Admiral Fagan understands the needs of the public, the Coast Guard, and those who will be under her charge. She has the experience, judgment, and poise this nation expects of its leaders.
And yes, this is an important step for all women as she takes command of one of the branches of the nation's armed services. Today, the Coast Guard is being asked to do more than ever, and yet it continues to be challenged by being under-resourced. It's time for Congress to step in and provide more support. Recently, Admiral Fagan and I traveled to the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, along with Senator Cardin.
I was dismayed to learn that the Yard could not even accommodate the new National Security Cutter because of insufficient and outdated infrastructure. This is just one example of the Coast Guard's dire infrastructure needs. Its current infrastructure recapitalization backlog is roughly $2 billion and deferred maintenance projects amount to another $1 billion. Cutting this backlog and getting the Coast Guard fully supplied has been a top priority of mine, and I look forward to working with Admiral Fagan toward that end.
I'm especially proud of Mississippi's role in modernizing the Coast Guard. The National Security Cutter is able to operate anywhere in the world, and the Polar Security Cutter will be an essential asset in the ongoing great power competition in the Arctic. Both of these Mississippi-built vessels are critical to our national security, but the Coast Guard needs the shore-side facilities, infrastructure, and advanced systems to support its new fleet.
To address this need, last year, I introduced the Unwavering Support for our Coast Guard Act, USCG Act. This would provide full funding for shore side infrastructure, ensure needed renovations at Coast Guard facilities around the country, pay Coast Guard members during a government shutdown as we do other service members, and require the service to evaluate the facilities and assets needed to complete its mission.
Our committee has the privilege of overseeing the Coast Guard. It is therefore our duty to make sure this branch of the Armed Forces has the leadership, policies, personnel, and resources it needs to succeed. I look forward to our discussion today with Admiral Fagan, and I trust that the committee and the full Senate will complete her confirmation process without delay.