President Trump on Thursday nominated Vice Adm. Karl Schultz to be the next Coast Guard Commandant, succeeding Adm. Paul Zukunft, who will complete his four-year term as the service’s 25th commandant at the end of May.

Schultz is currently commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area, which puts him in charge of all Coast Guard missions reaching from the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. Schultz is also the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Joint Task Force East, a multi-agency mission-focused entity established under the Obama administration to bring a unity of effort to combatting terrorism and illegal migration and drug trafficking.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Karl Schultz. Photo: Coast Guard
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Karl Schultz. Photo: Coast Guard

Schultz has been with the Coast Guard for 35 years, and before leading its Atlantic Area operations, he served as the operations director for U.S. Southern Command. He also commanded the Coast Guard’s Eleventh District, which put him in in charge of operations from California to Peru, and has served as director of Governmental and Public Affairs at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that Schultz “has exemplified the selfless service that defines the U.S. Coast Guard throughout his remarkable career, and I look forward to working closely with him in his new role.”

If confirmed, which is likely, Schultz will have to navigate constant financial pressures the Coast Guard faces due to constrained resources and aging assets and infrastructure. The Coast Guard is well on its way to recapitalizing its assets, particularly its fleet of surface vessels.

In addition to the mature Fast Response and National Security Cutter programs, the Coast Guard this year hopes to award a contract to begin construction of the first of 25 planned Offshore Patrol Cutters and last week kicked off a competition for the first of three heavy polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard also wants to acquire a new fleet of cutters to monitor the nation’s interior waterways and faces a deficit of about $1.5 billion for replacing and repairing its shore-based infrastructure.

Trump also nominated Vice Adm. Charles Ray to be Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. Ray is currently Deputy Commandant for Operations, responsible for operational strategy, policy, guidance and resources.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, in a statement lauded Schultz, calling him “an excellent choice to lead the Coast Guard at a time when its missions, such as securing our maritime borders, ports and waterways, have never been more important as the service seeks to stay on track in replacing its decades old fleet of cutters and aircraft.”