Press Releases

Chairman Webster Statement from Hearing on Implementing Recommendations of the Coast Guard’s Operation Fouled Anchor Review

Washington, D.C., March 6, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
f t # e

Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL) from today’s hearing, entitled “Implementation of the Recommendations of the Accountability and Transparency Review and Efforts to Ease Coast Guard Manpower Shortages”:

We meet today to examine the Coast Guard’s implementation of the recommendations from the Accountability and Transparency Review, as well as the Service’s efforts to ease its manpower shortages.

I’d like to welcome our witnesses joining us today — Vice Admiral Paul Thomas, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard, and Heather MacLeod, Director, Homeland Security and Justice at the United States Government Accountability Office. We welcome you both back to the Subcommittee.

In June 2023, the Coast Guard briefed the Transportation Committee on Operation Fouled Anchor, the Service’s years-long investigation into sexual assault and harassment cases and other misconduct at the Coast Guard Academy that occurred between 1990 and 2006. The investigation uncovered a pattern of not handling cases as they would be handled today. As a result, perpetrators were not held properly accountable, and victims were not treated with the respect and care they deserved.

Unfortunately, the Coast Guard’s efforts to inform Congress and the public of these findings were not prompted by transparency, or even while working with this committee to curb sexual assault and sexual harassment in the merchant marine fleet over the previous two Congresses, but rather by a forthcoming news report.  

During the course of the Committee’s investigation, it has become apparent that some of the Service’s critical disclosures and document production continued to be driven by leaks and news reports, rather than true transparency and accountability.

In July 2023, after the public release of the Operation Fouled Anchor Report, the Commandant directed a 90-day review of current laws, policies, practices, and culture designed to prevent and respond to instances of sexual assault and harassment within the Service.

On November 27, the Coast Guard released the results of the 90-day review, along with more than 30 directed actions by the Commandant, which seek to mitigate instances of harassment, assault, and other misconduct within the Service. While the Coast Guard’s lack of transparency appeared to be driven in part by a desire to protect the Service and the reputation of the Academy, its failure to be forthcoming achieved the opposite effect.

The men and women serving in our Coast Guard, whom we ask so much of, deserve better from their leadership. So today, we are going to look towards the future and discuss the Service’s efforts to implement practices that will meaningfully address these issues.

The Commandant’s Directed Actions, released along with the Accountability and Transparency Report, provide a solid starting place to strengthen protections for victims and uphold the Service’s values.  To ensure these practices are implemented, and to provide the Service with the authorities it requires to carry out the recommendations, yesterday, Ranking Member Carbajal and I introduced the Coast Guard Accountability and Transparency Act

Vice Admiral Thomas — this legislation will hold the Service’s feet to the fire to make sure those recommendations are carried out.

The Coast Guard’s struggles with transparency and accountability are occurring as it also struggles to retain and recruit Service members. Despite increasing mission demands, the Service is operating with a deficit of approximately 4,800 members across its ranks.

Short nearly 10 percent of its workforce, the Coast Guard has been forced to reduce staffing standards at shoreside stations, temporarily close seasonal stations, and decommission cutters ahead of schedule. With fewer people, the Coast Guard cannot continue to operate as it has historically without either reducing its missions or degrading its capabilities.

 Recognizing these challenges, in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2023, the Committee authorized for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025, $12 million to fund additional recruiting personnel and offices for Coast Guard Recruiting Command and $9 million to enhance Coast Guard recruiting capabilities.

I look forward to hearing more about the Coast Guard’s multi-tiered effort to mitigate its recruiting challenges, including efforts to retain personnel and improve recruiting capabilities.

Click here for more information from today’s hearing, including video and witness testimony.

f t # e