My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 24, 2022

Commandant’s final SOTCG: Tuition support increases, cutter construction, and a workforce united in service

By MyCG Staff

Members’ tuition assistance is increasing 20 percent, Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz announced during his State of the Coast Guard address today. He also unveiled the name of the service’s next icebreaker: the Polar Sentinel. 

This was Schultz’s final State of the Coast Guard, an annual tradition during which commandants celebrate the service’s recent successes, recognize ongoing challenges, and announce developments to look forward to. Schultz used the address to emphasize the accomplishments of a workforce united in service. 

“Today, the state of the Coast Guard is strong. Perhaps stronger than ever, because we are united in service, adapting to new challenges and opportunities presented by a rapidly changing maritime domain.”  Schultz said.

He noted that technology, assets, infrastructure, and partnerships are transforming quickly, changing the ways we connect in the maritime domain. At the same time, people-focused policies and programs are offering new ways to connect with each other as shipmates.  

The commandant’s address covered a lot of ground. In what is becoming an annual tradition of its own, MyCG has summarized the major topics, with resources to help you get the information you need.  

Cutters, aviation, and shore infrastructure  

Our service is seeing the largest shipbuilding effort since World War II. This year, we expect to begin constructing the first heavy icebreaker built in the U.S. in over four decades. The new Polar Security Cutter’s name: Polar Sentinel. 

Within the next decade we will complete our fleet of more than 100 modern cutters to serve both off-shore and inland waterways. (Learn more by visiting the Coast Guard Acquisitions Newsroom.)

This modern fleet will create about 2,000 more sea-going and cutter support billets. The service is working hard to support the afloat community through initiatives like SWE exam points for cutter crews, mixed-gender berthing, expanded opportunities for women to serve underway, better mission management systems, longer cutter deferrals after childbirth, cutter-specific Teams user guides, and expanding access to cutter wifi.     

Significant change is occurring in our aviation community, where we are recapitalizing and changing the composition of our air assets.  

The Coast Guard is also making significant investments in shore infrastructure, housing improvements, wharf upgrades, and more than $1.4 billion dollars in anticipated contracts to improve shore facilities.  

Climate resiliency and environmental threats 

Climate change harms our infrastructure, while challenging our capacity to respond to significant weather events. We can help mitigate the impact by being proactive. TRACEN Petaluma is building a solar energy microgrid, and drones now let us see inside vessels during extreme weather. The Coast Guard funds new research projects every year; here’s how to share your innovative idea for improving hurricane response.  

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing  

IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat, resulting in tens of billions of dollars in economic losses for legal fishing enterprises. The Coast Guard’s international partnerships are key to combatting this economic and ecological threat. And the Coast Guard’s IUU fishing strategy will help us respond to this challenge in the years ahead. (Don’t miss: NOAA Knauss Sea Grant fellows make an impact in coastal restoration, combatting climate change, and illegal fishing

Arctic, Western Hemisphere, and contingency response 

Maritime activity in the Arctic region requires a continued focus on protecting sovereignty, and partnerships across all the Arctic Nations.  

Coast Guard Cutter Healy – commissioned in 1999 – recently completed a historic deployment, circumnavigating North America through the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal. The Healy’s crew mapped more than 12,000 square kilometers of previously uncharted seafloor, conducted search and rescue training with the Canadian coast guard and rangers, and strengthened connections with Western Hemisphere allies. (Don’t miss: Combining a passion of science with a career in ice breaking)  

Our service’s unique authorities take us to every region in the world with significant operations focused in the Western Hemisphere. Combatting transnational criminal organizations, securing maritime borders and safeguarding maritime commerce around the globe, the Coast Guard ensures economic strength maritime security, and safety of life at sea. (Don’t miss:  Coast Guard responds to Haiti for humanitarian aid following 7.2 earthquake.) 

The demand for Coast Guard leadership only continues to increase in support of national responses. Our personnel supported 13 contingencies in 2021, including:  

Tech revolution  

The Coast Guard’s tech revolution helps us stay connected, supports our workforce with an information system that is reliable, mobile, and integrated across platforms.     

Financial Systems Modernization Solution (FSMS), MHS Genesis and Electronic Health Records, and DoD365 cloud computing are a few examples of major investments in IT infrastructure for our workforce. These significant investments are indicative of a healthy and evolved attitude towards data, all to support a more ready Coast Guard. (Don’t miss: FSMS Update: Where to get help with travel vouchers or reimbursement claims.)  

DoD 365 allows members to access work accounts from personal computers using a common access card (CAC) reader. This upgrade especially helps our reservists, who can now access their Coast Guard email and collaboration tools from anywhere. (Don’t miss:  Access DoD365 on your personal computer.) 

Cyber initiatives  

Cyber attacks pose a risk to the nation’s critical maritime infrastructure. The Cyber Strategic Outlook lays out the Coast Guard’s vision protecting the maritime transportation system, defending our own networks, and operating in cyberspace.  

Our efforts include building and growing a robust cyber workforce. The Coast Guard now offers direct commissioning for cyber officers, and a cyber mission specialist rating with its own chief warrant officer specialty corps. (Don’t miss: New Cyber Mission Specialist enlisted rating expands cyberspace career opportunity) 

Recruiting 

Connecting with future shipmates remains the best way to generate interest in our service in an increasingly competitive job market. Everyone is a recruiter and anyone with a Coast Guard affiliation – active, reserve, retired, or extended family - should feel empowered to advocate for the opportunities the Coast Guard can offer. Several new recruiting initiatives are underway. 

This past November the fourth and largest Coast Guard Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (J-ROTC) was established. More than 170 local students are already participating in this program, benefiting from a recruiting program that can engage with local operational units. And two more units will launch this fallMaster Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden provided opening remarks and introductions during the 2022 State of the Coast Guard in Clearwater, Fla., Feb. 24, 2022 

Investing in our workforce 

The Coast Guard workforce is our service’s most valuable resource. New and expanded employment benefits are being rolled out to encourage members and civilians to stay with the organization. We want to attract and retain the talent needed to ensure both organizational and operational success.  

Enlisted career guides for each rating will be released soon, and Enlisted Personnel Management (EPM) is launching a team of enlisted career counselors. The 2023 assignment season will include enlisted career counselors in EPM. 

To help members achieve their personal and professional goals, the Commandant increased Coast Guard tuition assistance for associate, bachelor and master’s degrees from $3,750 to $4,500 annually for eligible members, the maximum level authorized across the military services.  

We are deeply committed to our employee’s mental, physical, and spiritual readiness. We’ve made significant improvements in telehealth capabilities, and have increased mental health care access, strengthening the resilience of our workforce. We are expanding our staffing by hiring mental health doctors, nurse case managers and behavioral health providers. We’ve also quadrupled our Auxiliary chaplain corps, who augment our 46 active duty chaplains and provide more touch points with our geographically distributed workforce. 

Diversity and inclusion 

In his 2019 address, Schultz asked the workforce to build a “tidal wave of energy” to ensure all members of the team were respected, empowered, and included. There has been progress here, informed by the RAND Corporation’s women's retention and under-represented minority studies. There’s a new Leadership Diversity Advisory Council and expanded support for affinity groups, specialized mentoring opportunities within different affinity communities, training for Change Agents, and more. The workforce continues to become more united in service, by creating a more inclusive Coast Guard. (Don’t miss: Women’s retention rates increasing

Continue the conversation