The U.S. Coast Guard is one of our great but perhaps underappreciated national treasures. Most of the time the service performs its mission in its usual quiet, professional manner. Only when some great disaster strikes, whether natural or manmade, is the Coast Guard suddenly thrust into a national spotlight. It happened with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and now again with the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion in April.
The spill has been taxing Coast Guard personnel and equipment to the limit these past several months, and it's all happening against the backdrop of a looming budget crunch that could force the service to shed personnel and threaten future shipbuilding plans. Into this gathering storm steps the new Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr. The admiral recently took time from his busy schedule to sit down with frequent contributor Art Pine for a wide-ranging interview. The Commandant is under no illusions about the challenges he's facing, and observers say he's the perfect choice to guide the service during one of its most crucial periods.