Obama Announces Nominees for Posts At USTRANSCOM, U.S. Coast Guard


April 2014

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Change is coming in the leadership of two government organizations vital to the SIU and maritime industry.


President Barack Obama announced recently his nominations to replace Gen. William Fraser as commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and Adm. Robert Papp as U.S. Coast Guard Commandant. Both posts have a large impact on American maritime interests, including the U.S. Merchant Marine.


 For USTRANSCOM, Obama selected Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, current commander of Air Mobility Command. For the Coast Guard, Obama picked Vice Adm. Paul Zukunft, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area.


Selva testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing March 11. In his testimony, Selva emphasized the importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine and its essential role in supporting American interests around the world. He added that the United States must take steps to ensure its Ready Reserve Force (RRF) of U.S.-flag vessels is well-maintained and able to serve the country for many years to come – a strategy that could involve expanding the fleet.


“The capacity provided by the RRF is critical to USTRANSCOM’s ability to meet its wartime requirements,” Selva said. “In the past, the fleet capacity was increased by using authorities to purchase vessels. For the future, we will explore all options to find a recapitalization strategy that is cost-effective and minimizes the cost of ownership (in) the fleet for the long term, to include purchase and extended service life programs where it makes sense.”


The general also touted the importance of key government initiatives like the Maritime Security Program (MSP). Under the MSP, an annual stipend ensures the military has access to a fleet of well-maintained U.S.-flag vessels in times of war or emergency. The agreement provides the military with billions of dollars in sealift capabilities for a fraction of the cost.


The MSP and others, Selva said, “are critical to USTRANSCOM’s ability to meet the needs of the warfighter and the nation. For more than a decade of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, our commercial sealift partners have provided the vast majority of sealift for the Department of Defense. The vessel capacity, intermodal transportation networks and the U.S. citizen Merchant Marine are key components to USTRANSCOM and its global mission.”


 Regarding the future of such important maritime programs, Selva pointed to the role played by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and its task to develop a national maritime strategy.


“Congress tasked the Maritime Administration with the development of a national maritime strategy to ensure the health of the fleet and the U.S. Merchant Marine,” Selva said. “USTRANSCOM is coordinating closely with MARAD to ensure these vital commercial programs remain effective in supporting DOD well into the future.”


Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) issued a statement praising Selva’s service and vowing his support. Durbin’s state is home to Scott Air Force Base, which serves as the location of USTRANSCOM headquarters.


“General Selva’s experience at Air Mobility Command has prepared him well to take on this critical new assignment at Scott Air Force base,” Durbin said. “I look forward to voting on his nomination as soon as possible in the Senate.” If confirmed by the Senate, Selva will succeed Fraser, who has served as USTRANSCOM commander since 2011.


Obama’s nominee for Coast Guard Commandant, meanwhile, is getting praise of his own. Vice Adm. Paul Zukunft, a 37-year Coast Guard veteran who currently commands the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, received high marks from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson.


“Since I became secretary, I have had the opportunity to get to know Vice Admiral Zukunft, and if confirmed he will be a great leader for the future of the Coast Guard,” Johnson said. “As a 37-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, he has demonstrated this leadership while serving in an number of different capacities, including coordinating federal response to the Deepwater Horizon Spill.”


If confirmed, Zukunft would replace Papp, who has served as commandant since 2010. Papp added himself among those praising Zukunft and his service.


“He is an outstanding selection to serve the nation as the next leader of the greatest Coast Guard in the world,” Papp said. “Paul and his wife, Fran, are eager to advocate for and represent all members of our Coast Guard family.”



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