Congress Unimpressed At Slow-Moving Nomination Of Coast Guard’s New Boss


The Biden Administration’s decision to nominate Admiral Linda L. Fagan to serve as the next U.S. Coast Guard Commandant was the worst-kept secret in Washington. Nominated to serve as Vice-Commandant of the Coast Guard only last year, Fagan’s promotion to lead the nation’s maritime service was so highly anticipated that Congressional Coast Guard advocates wonder why the Biden Administration took so long to get the process under way.

Congressional sources suggest the White House decided to promote Admiral Fagan in early January. And though no White House announcement was forthcoming, by the first week of April, as Admiral Fagan walked into Washington’s premier naval expo, the Sea-Air-Space convocation at Washington’s National Harbor, her impending nomination to lead the Coast Guard was common knowledge.

Admiral Fagan’s nomination, of course, is great news for both the Nation and the Coast Guard. The Admiral is fantastic. As a Vice Admiral, she ran the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area just as America pivoted to the Pacific, shepherding the service through landmark cooperative naval deployments in contested Asian waters. Operating from Alameda, California, she got her sailors through a brutal government shutdown, helped introduce new vessels to the Pacific and weathered all kinds of technical challenges that would have sunk a less adept manager.

Admiral Fagan is exactly what the Coast Guard needs in the years ahead, particularly as the often-overlooked sea service fights a growing U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a slice of the Homeland Security budget and is asked to fill in for a shrinking U.S. Navy.


Admiral Fagan will sail through the nomination process, bolstered by deep bipartisan support. The only question is why it has taken so long for the Biden Administration to get this perfect nominee into play? The grizzled and avuncular Admiral Karl L. Schultz, the current Coast Guard Commandant, is legally required to leave his post by June 1. That’s not much time to get a nomination across the line.

To use maritime terminology, the Administration has restricted its ability to maneuver, hazarding itself without cause. And that, in turn, endangers the Coast Guard’s strong standing in Congress.

Blasting The Biden Administration’s Lack Of Urgency:

Senator Roger Wicker (MS-R), the Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wasted no time expressing his exasperation, saying, “Admiral Fagan is an outstanding choice to lead the Coast Guard. President Bident’s unnecessary delay in announcing her nomination puts real risk on a timely succession of command.”

Senator Wicker is right. Holding off until after April 8 to formally notify Congress of Admiral Fagan’s nomination leaves very little time for the creaky Congressional confirmation machine to lurch into action. For an Administration in its 15th month, delaying the nomination of a widely popular nominee like Fagan until the last possible second is an inexplicable waste of political resources. The sprint to get things done at the last-minute wears upon even the most committed Congressional Coast Guard advocate.

Irked Congressional sources complain the White House slow-walked the formal nomination papers over to Congress, forcing formal nomination work to begin on the second week of April, just as Congress left for a recess. Those complaints are valid. With the Senate in recess until the 25th of April, the Biden Administration is cutting things very, very close.

Senator Wicker senses the Administration’s interest is elsewhere, saying “Quite frankly, given Admiral Fagan’s qualifications, the only reason I can think of for the delay is the Administration decided our men and women in the Coast Guard are not a priority.”

Of course, the Biden Administration is also eager to get all the milage possible out of Admiral Shultz, who has proven to be an operationally adept and reliable maritime leader. And with enormous challenges ahead for the U.S. Coast Guard, few begrudge granting Admiral Fagan all the time she needs to assemble her team. But waiting until everyone must scramble to get the Coast Guard’s signature nomination over the line is an unnecessary waste of the Coast Guard’s political influence on the “Hill”, and it suggests, to other Congressional Coast Guard advocates beyond Senator Wicker, that the Administration simply isn’t prioritizing the oceans or maritime security.

As frustration builds in Congress, the Administration’s lack of urgency in getting the new Commandant’s nomination across the line is a self-imposed error. With Congressional leaders increasingly frustrated over the Biden Administration’s approach to the maritime, irked at the Navy’s “choose your own adventure” 30-year Shipbuilding Plan, the Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage leak and other maritime problems, even a very popular and well-liked nominee is at risk of suffering a tough time before Congress, a victim of being in the wrong place just as Congressional tempers boil over.


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