WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard's new leader on Thursday appeared before the House Homeland Security Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee to lay out her vision and faced some tough questions.
The panel's chairperson wanted to know what the Coast Guard's first woman commandant is going to do to improve upon diversity.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey) pointed out that only 6% of the Coast Guard's 41,000-member active duty force is Black, and only 15% are women.
"I am particularly concerned that diversity decreases with rank, leaving little opportunity for women and minorities at the top," she said.
Admiral Linda Fagan pledged the Coast Guard will re-double its efforts to be more inclusive.
"The heartbeat of our Coast Guard is our workforce. Without them, we can't execute our missions," she said. "My highest priority as commandant is to transform our talent management system. We will recruit people from across our great nation who are service-oriented and have a high sense of purpose. And leaders will provide an increasingly diverse workforce and a strong sense of belonging so that every individual is valued, safe, and able to deliver their best service to the nation."
Last week, the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2026 arrived with the largest group of women in an incoming class in academy history, with 43% of the incoming students being women.
Fagan graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985. On June 1, she became the Coast Guard's 27th commandant. She is the first woman to lead that, or, any branch of the United States military.
Fagan also spoke about the Arctic, and the need to create an "enduring presence" in that part of the world, to compete with Russia and China.
She said: "We need to get that capability as soon as possible."