A modernized data system is critical to ensuring Coast Guard leaders from headquarters to stations are enabled “to provide the right training and professional development opportunities to every individual as they progress through their careers,” Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan told Congress.
Taking advantage of those new technologies, she told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in a July 27 hearing on USCG personnel, “will improve our personnel data systems so we can make well-informed human resources decisions.”
“Our workforce is the heartbeat of the Coast Guard, and without them, we cannot execute missions,” Fagan said. “My highest priority as a commandant is to transform our talent management system, which has not significantly changed in 75 years, to better serve our people in the 21st century. We will deploy innovative practices to recruit people from across our great nation who are service-oriented, have a high sense of purpose, and best represent every facet of our nation’s diversity.”
“And like the other armed services, the Coast Guard is facing a recruiting challenge as we compete for talent in a shrinking population of young people with a propensity for military service,” she added. “We will overcome that challenge by highlighting the opportunity to do meaningful work every day in service to the American public.”
Retention after recruitment is the goal “by providing greater career flexibility and opportunities for geographic stability, eliminating policy barriers that make it difficult for some to continue to serve,” and especially providing members and their families “access to high-quality housing, health care, and child care that they deserve.”
“Thank you to the support of Congress, we’ve tripled the number of Coast Guard children enrolled in our child care subsidy programs that allows our workforce to arrange child care that works for their individual family needs, whether that means care either near their workplace or near their homes,” Fagan said. “We have invested in the physical and mental wellness of our people. To address the unique medical needs of our crews at remote units, we have deployed mobile medical readiness teams that bring doctors and technicians directly to them. Our workforce at these remote units have benefited from significant increases in medical readiness without taking time away from duty to travel to distant medical providers.”
“We’ve also increased training for our independent duty corpsmen to enable them to better recognize and respond to patients’ mental health needs,” she continued. “We’re pursuing new agreements with the Navy’s Medical Education and Training Campus to include Coast Guard students in the professional Behavioral Health Technician school, further enhancing our medical staff’s ability to care for our workforce’s mental health needs.”
The Coast Guard also continues to focus on diversity and inclusion. “Our leaders will provide our entire workforce a strong sense of belonging so every individual is valued, safe, and able to deliver their best service to the nation,” the commandant said. “The variable and unpredictable operational challenge our units and people encounter every day demand new thinking. An inclusive workforce with diverse experiences, perspectives, and ideas is better equipped to succeed.”
“We just onboarded the class of 2026 at the Coast Guard Academy. It’s the most diverse class that we’ve onboarded as an organization. It was 43 percent women and 38 percent underrepresented minority males,” she said. “The challenge now is as those group of young officers come forward, ensuring that we’ve eliminated barriers for them to continue to serve so that we retain, particularly women and underrepresented minority males, at similar retention rates to their majority male counterparts.”
Changes that have been implemented over the past five years have resulted in a 28 percent increase in retention of women, particularly at the E-6 and E-7 levels.
“At the O-4 level, it’s 375 additional women that we’ve retained as a result of some of that policy change,” Fagan continued. “And we’re continuing to look at opportunities to improve those retention numbers and ensure that the diversity we bring in upfront is still with us as we approach a 20-year plan.”
Fagan said that, as a whole, “retention is not a particular challenge for the organization right now” but there is a concerted focus on “making it easier for those who are serving to continue to serve” as the Coast Guard has “surged resources into the recruiting mission space.”
“We’ve hired an additional 15 recruiters… we’ve stood up an integrated team with a one-star in charge of it to bring the total capability of the organization to bear as we look at recruiting,” she said, with a “sense of urgency” to improve recruitment.
The commandant told lawmakers that 107 Coast Guard members have been voluntarily discharged for failing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said the mandate “is not an issue for recruitment” numbers, and “all the recruits at Cape May are vaccinated.”
Fagan acknowledged that the “significant shift or disruption in the housing market in the United States writ large” has been felt by service members as they move to new duty stations.
“We continue to engage with DoD and look forward to the opportunity of working with you in Congress on ways to reduce that lag time and ensure that our military families are able to access affordable quality housing,” she said. “We do operate some of our own Coast Guard housing. We’ve got 2,600 housing units around the country… but it has been a challenging transfer season.”
The Coast Guard has also “made great progress as an organization with regard to connectivity, particularly with bandwidth access,” and continues to move to improve connection speeds and bandwidth in more geographic areas. “It’s an operational readiness issue” and “a quality-of-life issue for our members, and we remain committed to improving that experience so that the folks that go to sea have an enjoyable experience and are able to continue to communicate with their families.”
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) asked Fagan whether membership in a domestic extremist organization should be cause for removal from the Coast Guard.
“What would you consider to be cause for removal from the Coast Guard for someone who manifests an affiliation with an extremist organization?” Brown asked.
“Extremism and hate behavior has no place in the Coast Guard. It’s inconsistent with our core values and does not contribute to the kind of culture that we pride ourselves in as an organization,” Fagan replied. “I am committed to eliminating extremism and hate behavior in the organization.”
“We’ve had reports of that,” she added. “We fully investigate that activity and bad behavior using our Coast Guard investigative services. We’ve also recently updated some of our hate speech and activities behavior. I remain committed to where we have found substantiated evidence of hate activity and extremism that we’ll ensure full accountability for those members.”
“I don’t have specific numbers right now with regard to how many investigations we have done, but I have confidence in our system to ensure that activity that’s inconsistent with our core values will not be tolerated within the organization.”
“Does your confidence extend to the quality of counter-domestic extremism training that is currently required of your enlisted and officer personnel each year?” Brown asked.
“We have moved to require that training, and that also helps to ensure that, again, we’re appropriately investigating and following through with those reports,” Fagan said. “And I remain committed to ensuring that training is current and that those who are required to access it are so that we are fairly and transparently conducting investigations into, again, activity that’s inconsistent with our core values.”