National Press Club

Admiral tells NPC American Legion Post 20 Coast Guard needs more money

February 2, 2018 | By Ken Dalecki | kdalecki@hotmail.com

Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, director of governmental and public affairs for the U.S. Coast Guard, spoke at a meeting of the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 on Jan. 30, 2018.

Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, director of governmental and public affairs for the U.S. Coast Guard, spoke at a meeting of the National Press Club American Legion Post 20 on Jan. 30, 2018.

Photo/Image: Rex Stucky

Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, director of governmental and public affairs for the U.S. Coast Guard, told a meeting of National Press Club American Legion Post 20 on Jan. 30 that the move from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 gave his branch of the service a much-needed boost in funding but the Coast Guard still faces budgetary challenges.

Gautier, a 1987 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, said constraints imposed on all of the services by a sequestration due to the inability of Congress to adopt new defense budgets has been "disrupting progress" and is causing "unnecessary waste."

President Donald Trump made the same point in his State of the Union Address later on Jan. 30, when he called on Congress to return to passing regular defense budgets.

Specifically, the Coast Guard needs money to replace its aging fleet of cutters, to build an icebreaker fleet, to respond to unforeseen disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, and to meet its other various missions, Gautier said.

Flooding in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey was "a major challenge" to the Coast Guard, which rescued 12,000 people and 1,200 pets over three days, Gautier said. One lesson learned was the importance of social media in carrying out the mission and publicizing the Coast Guard's role. The call center at Coast Guard headquarters in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., received about 1,000 messages per hour via social media during the crisis, including people asking to be rescued or inquiring about friends and relatives, he said. Because the Coast Guard was too taxed to include embedded media during rescue operations, its personnel often used their cellphones to record rescues and make them available to the press, he said.

The Coast Guard, which has only 44,000 active-duty personnel and 8,000 reservists, relies a volunteer auxiliary and public support to fulfill its many missions, Gautier said. He thanked veterans for the "service and sacrifice" they gave to build public support for today's service personnel.

The Coast Guard's mission include countering smuggling operations, including the interdiction of some 440 tons of cocaine last year, more than all of the cocaine confiscated by all law- enforcement agencies in the country, Gautier said.

The Coast is also helping other maritime countries improve their coastal rescue and defense operations through training and the donation of used equipment, Gautier said. "Most countries don't need a Navy, but do need a coast guard," he said.

One of Gautier's assignments is overseeing the Coast Guard's history and heritage programs, which include efforts to establish a Coast Guard museum in New London, Connecticut. The privately funded Coast Guard Museum Foundation aims to compete that project in 2022, he said.

Club President Andrea Edney, who was unable to attend the Post's candidates' forum in December, opened the meeting with an outline of her goals for her term, including training for journalists to promote fairness and objectivity.

Speaker portions of Post 20 meetings are open to all Club members.