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Sen. Cruz Participates in Nomination Hearing for Vice Admiral Karl Schultz to be Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

‘On behalf of the people of Texas, I want to say thank you for the extraordinary job the Coast Guard did during our time of need’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today participated in the nomination hearing to consider Vice Admiral Karl Schultz to be promoted to Admiral and to consider his nomination to be Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. In the hearing, Sen. Cruz thanked Vice Admiral Shultz and the Coast Guard for their assistance during Hurricane Harvey. Vice Admiral Schultz led the Coast Guard’s response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate last year. Senator Cruz also asked how the Coast Guard is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season, and their concerns regarding the need for a reliable backup to GPS.  

Watch Sen. Cruz’s line of questioning here. A full transcript is below: 

Sen. Cruz: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. Admiral welcome, it is good to see you and thank you for being here. Congratulations on your nomination. Let me just take a minute just to thank you, to thank you personally, and thank the incredible heroes - the men and women of the Coast Guard. You’re called upon to do an incredibly difficult job each and every day, but it was never more difficult or more important than during the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. And the job that the Coast Guard did, Texans saw first-hand. In Texas over 11,000 people were rescued, over 1,300 pets were rescued. And not only that, there were over 2,500 Coast Guardsmen who live in areas in Texas impacted by the storm, of them at least 51 of them suffered catastrophic damage to their own homes, and 124 others reported property damage. And yet, over and over again we had heroes who their own home was under water and yet - I met with one young Coast Guard pilot who hiked out through waist-high water to a parking lot, to go be picked up by a chopper to go rescue others,  even though his own home was under water. And having spent, really been blessed to spend significant time with the Coast Guard swimmers and pilots. On behalf of the people of Texas I want to say thank you for the extraordinary job the Coast Guard did during our time of need.

Vice Admiral Schultz: “Senator, thank you for that and it was good to see you on the ground. We saw too much of each other, but I think it meant a lot to our men and women that you were at our facilities, you were on the hangar deck shaking hands with those rescue swimmers, those wrench turners, the people at the command centers. It was an unprecedented level challenge down there, and I am proud of the men and women of the Coast Guard but it is very reassuring here that you sort of recognize what a unique set of circumstances that were, so thank you for your continued support there.” 

Sen. Cruz: “It was an extraordinary bravery and the entire state is grateful for it. I would ask looking back now, now that hurricane is in the past, from your perspective what were the lessons learned from Harvey, Irma, and Maria? We had a hurricane season that I hope we don’t repeat anytime soon. What lessons do you think the Coast Guard has learned in terms of how to handle those challenges even better?”

Vice Admiral Schultz: “Senator, I appreciate that question. It’s a great question. I think what we realized - we were about seven weeks in the thick of those four major hurricanes and that challenged the organization. We deployed about 3,000 people, about 2,000 of which were active duty Coast Guard men and women from other locations. In New England, where we normally have a three helicopter station, a three fixed wing station, the air station Cape Cod, we drew that down to one aircraft. We took risk there. We closed down seasonal facilities on the Great Lakes to draw Coast Guard men and women in from that region. We brought folks from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii to support the efforts down there. So we took tremendous risk in other parts of the Coast Guard, negotiated thoughtful risk. I was never uncomfortable and I don’t think that we put my PAC area colleague in a place of discomfort, but had that been a super Sandy type series of events that went on - and it has gone on. I don’t want to diminish the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico - they’re still struggling. People don’t have power. Our Coast Guard men and women have challenges. But had that been more Sandy-like versus an intense seven week period, I think our 6,200 number reserve force would prove inadequate. We’re trying to plus those numbers up. Our Commandant has talked about needing to grow reservists by about 1,100 in the coming years. I absolutely share that commitment. I think we’re at a critical low point. Back when I used to do legislative affairs work, we were trying to get to a 10,000 level of reservists. We were at about 8,100. This was about 13 or 14 years ago. Right now, we’re authorized at about 7,000. We need to get above that 7,000 level to be the ready, relevant, responsive force that America needs, sir. In terms of social media, we found as the 911 system collapsed in use and in the outlying areas, folks were going to social media to call the Coast Guard. We were able to adapt and improvise and meet those demands, but we’ve got to look at that on what our approach is, not just in the Coast Guard, but in the emergency support functions at large - sort of whole of government. We don’t have the staffing and the manpower all over the country to respond to social media cries for help. We did there, so we’re working on that, we’re working on our internal policy. So a lot of lessons learned, sir, from that but it’s ongoing and we’re trying to be sure we’re ready for this upcoming hurricane season which is right around the corner.

Sen. Cruz: “I would also point to IT infrastructure; I know the T-1 line went down in the headquarters in the midst of that. And you guys innovated and dealt with it anyway, but it obviously raises a question going forward of having a backup to prevent it from going down.”

Vice Admiral Schultz: “And Senator if I could, you were at Houston. That is a new facility that came from previous years’ supplemental fundings from other hurricane damage - Rita, and I think it was Wilma and Rita that was the genesis of the funds there. That’s as good as it gets for us. Many of our facilities would not have endured as well, or had the resilience that we had in Houston to support that level of operation. That continued support from the Administration and Congress to beef up our resilience and get after some of these facilities that are very aged would be very beneficial to our readiness for the nation.”

Sen. Cruz: “And Mr. Chairman if I could ask one more question which, it has been an ongoing concern of mine, the lack of a reliable backup for GPS. We rely on GPS for an enormous amount, both to defend our nation and on the commercial side. How big a concern is the lack of a backup for GPS, and what do you think Congress should do about it?” 

Vice Admiral Schultz: “Well Senator, I think the reliance of where we are today in 2018 on GPS, I don’t think any of us had envisioned that. The Coast Guard is one of many stakeholders working within our department, DOT (Department of Transportation), DOD (Department of Defense); I think there is an assessment of the various segments that are reliant on that. There is ongoing work, there is a National Executive Committee that’s focused on that and we contributed to that. I think we were awarded about $500,000 from the Congress to look at jamming capabilities that are out there, that shut down GPS in the maritime domain. So I would say, I share your concern. We are an involved participant and stakeholder to a broader whole of government that NEXCOM Solutions said here that. I hope we figure out a way forward and I think the Congress is absolutely in the thick of that, Senator.”

Sen. Cruz: “Well I look forward to continuing to work with you.” 

Vice Admiral Schultz: “Thank you sir and we’re committed to working with you on that.”


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