Alexandria, VA – The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) hosted its 15th annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast yesterday, bringing Coast Guard leaders and lawmakers together to discuss the needs of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and its personnel. The annual Capitol Hill event expands awareness of the service’s varied missions and tremendous service to our nation, and also provides a forum in which caucus members can engage with USCG leaders about the service’s challenges and requirements.
FRA Marks 15th Anniversary of Annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast
The Caucus is a bipartisan group of 78 lawmakers who share a common interest in the Coast Guard and is co-chaired by Representatives Howard Coble (N.C.), the only USCG veteran serving in Congress; Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Rick Larsen (Wash.) and Joe Courtney (Conn.). Other members in attendance included Representatives Rob Wittman (Va.) and John Garamendi (Calif.) and Delegate Donna M.C. Christensen (V.I), who all praised the versatile, multi-mission service and its personnel.
FRA’s National Executive Director (NED) Joe Barnes welcomed caucus members, as well as Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Bob Papp, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael Leavitt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve Force Mark Allen to the event. He also acknowledged the Coast Guard’s full complement of vice admirals who were also in attendance.
During his comments, Congressman Coble called Coast Guard personnel “the nation’s unsung heroes” and thanked FRA for its loyal support of the men and women who serve – a theme that was echoed throughout the event. The Coast Guard has a strong presence in each caucus member’s district, where the service’s impact is felt on a daily basis. Delegate Christensen acknowledged the service’s major interdiction efforts that keep illegal drugs out of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; Representative Whitman referenced the great work the Coast Guard does in his district, and Representative Garamendi, who serves as ranking member of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, acknowledged the demands on the service and vowed to be a strong supporter of the Coast Guard.
Commandant Papp and Master Chief Leavitt spoke of the Coast Guard’s broad mission requirements and the commitment of those who serve in an inherently dangerous environment, calling for resources to update the service’s aging infrastructure, continue efforts to improve family housing and support programs like childcare subsidies and the service’s ombudsman program. “These programs are being well received and making a difference for personnel and their families,” said Leavitt. “Our people are the key to maintaining a healthy Coast Guard.”
Papp thanked House members for additional funding in the FY 2014 Coast Guard budget (H.R. 2216 – DHS) that includes enhanced resources for housing and Reserve and active duty training. He said doing so sends a message to Coast Guardsmen that what they do is important to the nation. Papp also acknowledged FRA’s long-standing and strong commitment to the Coast Guard and thanked NED Barnes for his role in helping establish and sustain the annual USCG Caucus breakfast.
One of Papp’s guiding principles for his tenure as Commandant has been to “Honor our Profession” and he gratefully acknowledged the USCG Chief Petty Officer (CPO) community for its work in restoring the USCG Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The CPOs collectively raised $140,000 to refurbish and maintain the monument to “reflect pride in our service and inspire others.” Papp also spoke of plans to build a National Coast Guard Museum in New London, Conn. The project, which will be constructed in Representative Courtney’s district, is being funded through donations to the National Coast Guard Museum Association and will be the first and only national museum to honor the USCG. “New London was designated years ago as the site for this museum,” said Courtney, “and our state has committed $20 million to support its construction.”
FRA’s advocacy work focuses on compensation, health care and various quality-of-life programs that affect USCG personnel and their families. Specifically, FRA works to ensure Coast Guard pay and benefits remain on par with those enjoyed by Department of Defense personnel and that adequate funding is available to support these programs. FRA is committed to educating members of Congress, their staff and the public about the Coast Guard’s critical missions as a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
FRA is a congressionally chartered, non-profit organization representing the interests of current and former enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. As the collective voice for all Sea Service personnel since 1924, FRA speaks on behalf of its members on Capitol Hill. There is no law protecting military benefits, so FRA is here to stand guard. In addition to its advocacy work on Capitol Hill, FRA also sponsors a national Americanism Essay Contest and assists its members with disaster relief grants.
The Association additionally sponsors an Education Foundation that awards scholarships to deserving college students and was a 2012 recognized charity in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). For more information on the FRA Education Foundation, visit www.fra.org/foundation.