Adm. Karl Schultz became the 26th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard in today’s change of command ceremony that brought to a close Adm. Paul Zukunft’s more than 45 years of service.
Zukunft quipped that he would be “coming back as a lieutenant.”
The ceremony at USCG headquarters was attended by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.
About 2,000 Coast Guardsmen were there along with family of Zukunft and Schultz. After Fran DeNinno-Zukunft, wife of the outgoing commandant, received a rousing ovation, Trump said, “Fran, she got a bigger hand than anybody, including me; I don’t know if I’m happy about this.”
Nielsen thanked Zukunft and Schultz for “their exemplary service to this nation” as the USCG “is a vital member of our national security team.” She praised the Coast Guard for its “outstanding response” during last year’s hurricane season — “a truly remarkable undertaking” — and expressed “full confidence” in Schultz’s ability “to lead this organization with honor and integrity.”
Trump commented on Zukunft, “How good does he look? Forty-five years — must be something awfully good happening in the Coast Guard.”
“In that time, he has led every kind of mission and he has never backed down, ever, ever, ever. He’s never lost a challenge… he has led with extraordinary skill and devotion and pride,” the president said of the outgoing commandant. Trump also touted recapitalization allocations, promising the USCG “plenty other ships and boats and equipment and everything you need.”
“Our new budget, $700 billion — just passed — $700 billion this year, $716 billion next year. You’re going to be very well taken care of. You’re going to have to split that with a few others, but that’s how it goes,” he said.
Trump declared that “America is safe because our Coast Guard is strong,” and told the USCG “your service makes all of America proud … more so today than ever before.”
The president expressed “complete confidence” in Schultz, lauding his “incredible and very brave career.”
“America knows that we can always count on the Coast Guard because the Coast Guard is always ready,” he said.
Zunkuft joked that, as it’s the first day of hurricane season, “Yes, this is a good time to cut and run.”
The outgoing commandant predicted that the father of the Coast Guard, Alexander Hamilton, “would look down fondly” today at a service that was launched when the young nation was bankrupt and now serves all around the world.
“When I look at the talent coming in today… it’s a very competitive field out there with great folks,” Zukunft said.
Schultz said he was “both humbled and honored” to assume watch, as well as “confident we have built a strong leadership team” to move the Coast Guard forward.