Admiral Linda Fagan, First Woman Nominee to Lead U.S. Coast Guard, Appears Before Commerce Committee

Cantwell: “This is a historic moment for our country and for women in the Armed Services. It will be the first time that a woman will lead one of the six branches of the Armed Services.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, led the nomination hearing of Admiral Linda Fagan, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. If confirmed, Admiral Fagan would be the first woman, and first mother, to lead any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Admiral Fagan currently serves as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Vice Commandant and is the longest serving active duty Marine Safety Officer. She received a Master of Science in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington and previously served on the Seattle-based heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star.

At the hearing, Senator Cantwell asked Admiral Fagan, “Since obviously you have a big footprint in Seattle. Are you committed to getting good [childcare] facilities there for the Seattle Coast Guard community?”

Admiral Fagan replied, “We're excited about what's going on in Seattle. We look forward to working with you to ensure that you know childcare is a primary area of focus as we moved to homeport the Polar Security Cutters there,” said Admiral Fagan. “And look forward to working with you and making sure that Coast Guard families have access to the child care that they need.”

Nearly 40% of all U.S. Coast Guard academy enrollees are women, which is the highest percentage among all service academies. As Commandant, Admiral Fagan will lead 55,700 active duty, reserve, and civilian members, and approximately 26,000 auxiliary volunteers.

Washington state is currently home to 1,641 active duty Coast Guard service members deployed across 11 different stations. A total of 1,291 active duty, civilians, and reservists are based in Seattle. 

During the question and answer, Senator Cantwell also secured a commitment from Admiral Fagan for the Coast Guard to help protect Southern Resident orcas in Puget Sound: “Southern Resident orcas are a very big part of sustainability issues for us in Puget Sound…Will you commit to work with us on a system for Puget Sound…to reduce vessel strikes, noise impacts, and other issues?”

“We remain committed to working with you on the issue of preservation of the killer whales as it pertains to Puget Sound,” said Admiral Fagan.

Senator Cantwell is an ardent supporter of U.S. Coast Guard families. In 2021, Cantwell championed two provisions that were included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including $309 million for repairs and new construction of Coast Guard owned housing and infrastructure across the country and $120 million to build Coast Guard owned and operated childcare centers, which are critical to the retention of women serving in the Coast Guard.

In 2017, Senator Cantwell advocated for Coast Guard paid family leave policies to be expanded to include LGBTQ+ couples, adoptive parents, and secondary caregivers. The U.S. Coast Guard announced the expansion of their paid family leave policy in June 2018. In 2015, Senator Cantwell authored an amendment to ensure Coast Guard members were not receiving less maternity leave than other branches of the military, such as the Navy. This resulted in paid maternity leave for Coast Guard members being doubled from 6 to 12 weeks.

When Admiral Fagan’s nomination was announced, Senator Cantwell released the following statement: “From her career beginnings as a deck watch officer on the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Star, Admiral Fagan has shown strong leadership and a commitment to service that make her an outstanding choice as the Coast Guard’s 27th Commandant. Upon confirmation, she will become the first woman and mother to lead any branch of the Armed Forces. This nomination proves the value of enacting laws that provide family leave, childcare, and health care access to support talented women in the Coast Guard who have dual roles as service members and parents. Admiral Fagan’s nomination will inspire generations of American women to strive to serve at the highest level in the Armed Forces.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement is available HERE, audio HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Admiral Fagan is available HERE, audio HERE. Part II of the Q&A is available HERE, audio HERE.

A full transcript is available HERE.