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Breaking the U.S. military’s glass ceiling – The Seattle Times

  • Attorney Daniel Albert

For the first time in our nation’s history, a branch of the United States military will be led by a woman.
Adm. Linda Fagan will serve as the next Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and will take the helm by June 1 following her unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate Wednesday evening.
The Coast Guard is vital to our nation and to the Pacific Northwest. It should be proud of its growing mission, but that growth also presents challenges. Simply put, no agency does more with less.
Adm. Fagan’s leadership will be so important to ensure the Coast Guard is able to meet increasing demands on the men and women of the Coast Guard from extreme weather emergency response missions at home due to climate change, dynamic mission sets abroad such as new shipping routes opening in the changing Arctic to illegal fisheries enforcement in the Pacific, and so much more.
Adm. Fagan served for 36 years across all seven continents, making her the longest-serving active duty marine safety officer. She’s held numerous leadership positions and has extensive interagency experience, as well as an impressive marine science background.
All Washingtonians should be proud of the admiral’s appointment. She started her career as a Deck Watch Officer on the Seattle-based Polar Star. Adm. Fagan also earned a Master of Science in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington and is the only known UW grad to lead a branch of the armed services.
Women are drawn to service in the Coast Guard — the academy’s enrollment is nearly 40% female, higher representation than that of any other branch. But a high percentage of female Coasties leave within 10 years. That’s why I’ve fought to help the Coast Guard recruit and retain women.
In 2015, I helped author legislation that doubled the amount of maternity leave for women serving in the Coast Guard from six weeks to 12 weeks, matching the leave offered to their colleagues in the U.S. Navy. I also supported the Coast Guard’s Temporary Separation for Care of Newborn Children program, which allows career-oriented Coast Guard officers and enlisted service members to interrupt their service for up to two years to care for a child, but come back at their same rank once they return.
Coast Guard members with families need to be able to trust that their children are in good hands. Parents can be asked to leave their families for months at a time, and watch standers are required to be on duty for 12 consecutive hours. I fought for the inclusion of $120 million in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build Coast Guard owned and operated child-care centers nationwide, including one for Astoria, Oregon, that will benefit Coasties stationed at Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco. I look forward to working with Adm. Fagan to ensure Coast Guard women stationed in the Pacific Northwest have access to high quality child-care including a future child-care center at the base in Seattle.
As Commandant, I know that Adm. Fagan will pay special attention to the needs of parents like herself as she leads the Coast Guard’s nearly 55,700 strong active duty, reserve, and civilian workforce and approximately 26,000 auxiliary volunteers. But her confirmation is more than just a historic milestone — it’s also proof positive that every organization should invest in family-friendly policies. I know that she will support the needs of women serving in the Coast Guard — especially since her own daughter is a Coastie.
The Coast Guard’s people are part of our state’s fabric. At latest count, 1,641 active duty Coasties from the state of Washington are deployed across the state at 11 different stations along our coasts. A total of 1,291 active duty, civilians and reservists are based in Seattle.
As chair of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I brought Adm. Fagan’s nomination up for a swift vote. I’m proud that her confirmation moved so expeditiously through the Senate. I know Adm. Fagan will continue to be a tremendous leader, applying the Washington way to solving challenges before our Coast Guard and investing in the Coast Guard’s most important asset — its current and future workforce.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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