Coast Guard Striving to ‘Do More with Less,’ Continue Tracking Illicit Trade
By JAMES PETERSON, Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON — The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard emphasized the service’s critical role as it tries to “do more with less,” during an Aug. 1 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft told attendees about his commitment to the future and how he plans to help improve other coast guards around the world.
Zukunft described the service’s current operating expense situation as being in the basement of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“The view from the basement is not that pretty,” Zukunft said. “It’s like the New York Mets of 1962 — you have no place to go but up, and we must go up.”
Despite limited funding, Zukunft said that many countries see the U.S. Coast Guard as the highest standard, and want to copy how it effectively operates and fulfills its duties.
“If you compare ourselves to other coast guards that want to be like [us], we are the world’s best coast guard,” he said. “Over the last three years, I have been around the world, and time and time again, I hear more and more that [other coast guards] want to be like the USCG.”
One of the primary focuses of the U.S. Coast Guard is combating illicit trade coming toward and around the United States, according to Zukunft. He believes working with countries struggling with smuggling is vital to accomplishing the service’s duty.
“At the end of the day, trade needs to continue to flourish,” Zukunft said, “but how do we isolate licit from illicit trade? That doesn’t happen unless we share information, share best practices. Many times [countries] look to us to do just that.”
However, he also wants to differentiate the Coast Guard from the U.S. Navy by looking at the Navy’s actions around the world and finding a way to compliment that action. He said for the Coast Guard to be offensive and defensive, there is a need to “integrate with but not replicate” the Navy.
Toward the end of the audience questions, Zukunft briefly mentioned the continuing need for recruiting, even with high recruiting rates from other services.
“We are open for business,” he said with a smile. “If you want to hang up your other military uniform and wear this one, come see me afterwards.”