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Mr. Chairman, as I conclude my statement, I must ask you to think about the many Coast Guard men and women you have met. They are enthusiastic, well-trained, and ready to give any task their best effort. Some will even make the ultimate sacrifice, just as Lieutenant Jeffrey Crane, Lieutenant Charles Thigpen, Petty Officer Richard Hughes, and Petty Officer James Kanes did on June 8, 1997. As you're aware, they were all members of the crew of Coast Guard Helicopter 6549, which was lost attempting to rescue the crew of a disabled sailing vessel in storm-ravaged seas, 57 miles off the California coast.
The American people depend on the Coast Guard, knowing it will be semper paratus when needed. However, without her enlisted men and women, the Coast Guard's capability would cease to exist. Attracting and retaining the best workforce America has to offer is more difficult today, but never more important. Therefore, when you consider my statement for the record, I ask that you reflect on a basic premise of leadership. You take care of your people, they'll take care of you.
Mr. Chairman, I am convinced the action of this committee can have a positive impact on Coast Guard men and women and Coast Guard recruiting and retention. Thank you for inviting me today, and I look forward to your questions.
Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Master Chief, and we'll look at those very seriously.
Officer TRENT. Thank you. Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you for your testimony. Commodore Tucker. Commodore TUCKER. Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you and the members of your subcommittee, and to represent the over 34,000 men and women volunteers, the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.
As you remember, Sir, back in 1996, your subcommittee supported a change to the legislation regarding the Auxiliary, which was included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act. This Act granted the Commandant broad authority in using the Auxiliary, and provided adequate liability protection to auxiliaries performing these new missions.
I am very pleased to say to you, Sir, that since then the Auxiliary has moved aggressively to support the Coast Guard's goal of eliminating environmental damage, natural resource degradation, associated with maritime transportation, fishing, and recreational boating.
You have my written statement for the record. As I did last year, if I may, I would like to put some faces and specific circumstances to the statistics that is in my statement, by covering some examples of the support the Coast Guard Auxiliary is providing the Coast Guard and the citizens of our Nation. I believe these will give you some idea of the diversity in the value of our service and contribution.
But first, let me just mention one or two of the statistics. These 34,000 auxiliarists provide the Coast Guard in our states and other federal agencies over 5,900 operational vessels, scattered from the Virgin Islands all the way to Guam. They provide 114 privatelyowned aircraft that are ready to support the missions of the Coast Guard. And over 2,300 radio stations, they're ready to stand up and make sure that communications within the Coast Guard are maintained. That's especially important, because many areas of our country have communications dead spots.
Last year auxiliarists spent over 460,000 hours patrolling our Nation's waterways. They saved 481 lives, assisted over 11,300 people, and saved or assisted almost $.5 billion worth of property out on the water.
Doing these missions, it's with pride that I'd like to acknowledge the heroic acts of Auxiliarist Frank Monroe. Mr. Monroe, a member of the Coast Guard Safety Patrol from Station Fort Lauderdale Florida, participated in the Coast Guard efforts to render assistancetto il people thrown in the water when their boat swamped. In doing so, he rescued a child just seconds before she would have been sucked under a barge. He also, at the risk of his own life, saved three other passengers. Coast Guard personnel were able to save six more.
For his actions at the risk of his own life, Mr. Monroe was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal. And I might again note with pride that two other members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, on duty now, possess that very coveted award for deeds they did up in the Great Lakes.
A major mission of the Auxiliary is to serve as a force multiplier of the Coast Guard, in support of rescue or contingency operation. An excellent example of this support occurred when almost 100 auxiliarist from the 8th District, were called out to support the emergency flood relief operation, along the Red River of the north in North Dakota.
Auxiliarist provide the Coast Guard with mobile communications and command capability. Auxiliary privately-owned aircraft provided reconnaissance sorties, and moved personnel and supplies into areas not accessible by land vehicles. Additionally, Auxiliary crews maintained a disaster relief unit, and worked side by side with regular and Reserv Coast Guard personnel. This is a good indication of what the Commandant was saying about Team Coast Guard-all of us working together.
The "on scene" Coast Guard commanders stated they could not have maintained efficient and effective command control without the Auxiliary capabilities present. They no communications up north until the Auxiliary provided it with their mobile communications capability. They had no means of getting critical personnel on the scene, until the Auxiliary provided support with Auxiliary aircraft. They of course had the normal support for the Coast Guard, but we backed that up with those aircraft we provided.
The Auxiliary took over as Coast Guard personnel, followed the flood down river, seamlessly fitting into the Coast Guard team. They continued providing flood support to the victims without any degradation or additional support. Their preparedness and professionalism was critical in allowing me, as well as the Coast Guard on-the-scene commander, to concentrate on other problem areas.
As a result, sir, the 8th District has formed three Auxiliary disaster response units, which in perhaps this year or in coming years will be ready to immediately deploy to reinforce the Coast Guard along the Mississippi and the other rivers flowing into it.
Another way the auxiliary was used; Auxiliarists from the 14th District in Hawaii trained 52 employees for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, which included members of that state's marine patrol. Training covered the safe operation of motor vessels and maintenance and use of the vessel safety equipment.
Continuing out in the Pacific, the Coast Guard Auxiliary unit in Guam used Auxiliary communications to provide a relay between the Coast Guard Marianas section and a Navy helicopter, which provided search and rescue for an overdue vessel. By using the Auxiliary's land mobile facility, the Coast Guard was able to overcome the dead spots in communications around Guam.
Moving in a little different area up to the Great Lakes, but again another life-saving requirement, Auxiliarists from the 9th District supported the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for providing boating safety instruction to over 2,500 duck hunters. This may seem like a minor case of support, but I'm sure you realize that up in the Great Lakes—with the cold water—this was done to combat the annual occurrence of major tragedies, due to drowning and hypothermia.
Finally, another area the Auxiliary's moved into involves aids to navigation. The Charleston Light, the last lighthouse built in the United States, recently became the responsibility of the first Auxiliarist trained and qualified as a lighthouse technician. This Auxiliarist is now responsible for performing preventive maintenance and repairs on the lighthouse and ensuring that it's operating properly.
I believe these brief narratives give some idea of the diversity of the current Auxiliary support. It is proof that your subcommittee really made a great decision by giving the Auxiliary the authority to pursue these new areas in support of our nation.
Today we're very proud to be part of Team Coast Guard. As I said, we believe the opportunities provided by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 positions us to perform invaluable service now and in the future. As you know, for 59 years the Auxiliary has provided the dedicated volunteer service to our country and its Coast Guard. As we move forward into the 21st century, we're really confident that we can maintain, and in fact increase our support to our Nation.
Sir, I look forward to your questions.
And we certainly appreciate not only the time and effort you've put into your testimony, but all the many people that you work with, and do such a fine job.
Admiral, I'm going to cover a little bit of diverse ground here. The first area of questions is the most, at least for now, the most vexing, and everybody has their own opinion on things, especially the weather and human behavior. The weather is complex and human behavior is complex.
I have my own opinions, for example, as to why teenage drug use is up; too much television, too many VCR movies, not enough social interaction with people with-moral values is a relative term-with people that want to see young people have a good future, with a sense of love and discipline, and all of those things. Plus, the easy
access that drugs might have to young people, and their sense of curiosity about that particular age.
But I'm going to ask your opinion on why you think drug use among teenagers is rising, especially increasing, or actually doubled I guess, in the United States since 1992.
Admiral KRAMEK. Well, I've just gotten the last of my four kids through college, so it's just been a couple of years that they've been teenagers, not long ago. But I can tell you what my impression was. I think we made good strides in the early 1980s and the late 1980s, all the way up to about 1990 and so, on reminding and educating our children that it was bad. And if one were to look back far enough at the statistics from 1975 to 1998, this morning, I'd think that we'd see a dramatic decline in drug use among the citizens of the United States, from over 20 million drug users to far less than half of that today. And I would also point out that we have a good strategy right now that the President just rolled out 3 weeks ago, to decrease the rate we have today by 50 percent by the year 2007.
Having said all that, there has been an increase, mostly in marijuana usenot amongst cocaine use_amongst teenagers, but amongst marijuana use. We forgot to tell them it was important. The education programs and the
public relation programs were terminated or cut back. In this President's budget you'll see money in there to bring those back. You can hardly turn on your TV right now without seeing an advertisement sponsored by the drug czar's office, that it's bad for you and bad for children. $175 million was provided to do that this last year.
It takes everybody. It takes coalitions, it take schools, it takes parent, it takes churches, it takes the media. Certainly, some of the things you mentioned were detrimental.
It takes something else too. From my standpoint, it takes the availability of marijuana. We intradicted over 100,000 pounds of marijuana last year. Besides 100,000 pounds of cocaine, there's still marijuana coming into the country. More perplexing is that in some of our states it's the largest cash crop, grown right here in the United States. My estimates as Interdiction Coordinator is that perhaps 25 percent of all the marijuana in the world is grown in the United States of America, and distributed to our kids and to our population.
So we have a lot of work to do on all fronts, but I'm convinced if we follow the Strategy outlined in the President's 1998 National Drug Control Strategy, and continue to meet those goals, we'll drive it down. In the next 10 years less than 3 percent of our population will use drugs, and that will be the lowest its every been since we've recorded these things.
Mr. GILCHREST. Admiral, if we're going to color the white boxes yellow, do we need an increase in funding, and more than what has now been proposed?
Admiral KRAMEK. Over the 10-year period?
Admiral KRAMEK. Then I think the budget process needs to determine that.
But I have to point out to you, in the Strategy—the budget in the strategy as proposed you'll notice is flatlined. It's the same amount of money now for the next 10 years. And in fact, when you put inflation and cost of living expenses, all that on it, you have decreased buying power.
Mr. GILCHREST. So, I guess what I'm—
Admiral KRAMEK. But that's because the Congress and the Administration signed a balanced budget agreement, and so we're all living with those caps. And when you're flatlined like that, why you can't get there from here.
So the Strategy points this out, and it says that each year in order to meet the targets there's going to have to be budget decisions that will allow us to meet the target. Last year I could meet the target. Can I meet it this year? Not quite.
Mr. GILCHREST. I think we as people, if we're going to take this seriously, have to sit down and set goals for ourselves, and we have to be flexible. We want to balance the budget, and we understand all those ramifications, but out of a 1.7 trillion federal budget annually, I'm sure we can set goals that prioritize the most important things, and we as members can help you achieve what we all collectively want, and that's to reduce drug use by American citizens.
Admiral KRAMEK. It doesn't take that much more, Mr. Chairman. As I showed you in some of the charts in the classified briefing, we're not far off the mark, and it doesn't take that much more to do a better job.
Mr. GILCHREST. Then we'll work with you to ensure that small extra amount.
You said something, Admiral, about-moving away from drug interdiction, and we take it seriously. We want to work very aggressively to pursue that goal during the rest of this session, and the sessions to come.
You said something that caught my imagination as far as maritime trade tripling in-how many years?
Admiral KRAMEK. The next 15 to 20 years.
Admiral KRAMEK. There are various commerce reports put together by the Department of Commerce. The United States is still considered an island nation with respect to trade. Ninety-five percent of our imports and exports, quantity-wise, go by sea. This amount of trade is going to triple in the next 15 or 20 years, and so the Coast Guard has developed a plan for a waterways management system-vessel traffic systems that we do and aids to navigation; they're all part of that.
In order for the United States to maintain its global competitiveness in this environment, we have to world class waterways management system, such as they do in other nations; Singapore, the Netherlands.
Mr. GILCHREST. Admiral, based on what you just said —
Mr. GILCHREST. our free capitalistic market economy is based on competition, but that competition extends also from one port to the next, and the ports all have various rules, somewhat different regulations. One port dredges to 40 feet; the next port wants to dredge to 50 feet; somebody else wants to dredge at 60 feet.