he US Coast Guard has long prided itself on accomplishing a vast range of missions on a shoestring budget, but that can-do spirit is under pressure as the service gets busier and budgets fail to keep pace. Stopping drugs and illegal immigrants remain priorities and climate change is making the Arctic navigable. All of this comes as the Coast Guard struggles with aging ships that are breaking down and infrastructure that is literally crumbling. New large cutters and patrol boats are coming online, but not fast enough. Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s 25th commandant, discussed his new strategy to prioritize its missions.
Q. In the first state of the Coast Guard address, you unveiled a new strategy where you have to make prioritized calls. The spirit of the service has been, no matter what the missions, we are going to execute all of them. What are your priorities and where are you potentially going to have to start saying no to?
A. A lot of times we will put a budget package together and then at the end of the day we look at what is left. We never get the full budget that we ask for and then we decide, what are we going to do with it. Instead we turn that around and we actually put the horse in front of the cart and say, here is our strategic intent.