The U.S. Coast Guard is used to doing more with less. The service works with five percent of the budget of the U.S. Navy, and it has learned to excel with what it has on hand. Its well-maintained cutters often serve well into their fourth or fifth decade, and the eldest hull in the fleet is pushing 60. Shoreside facilities run on a similarly cost-efficient basis. While the service’s federal backing is often bare-bones, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can draw on an additional source of support: its alumni, who donate their time and funds to make this public institution even better.
While it might be assumed that the federal budget provides enough to meet the needs of the service academies, there are limits to what Cogress will cover. The CGA’s alumni step in to deliver a “margin of excellence” for facilities and programs, giving the school the edge it needs to compete for the best students in the country. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is a highly selective institution, and the alumni intend to keep it that way.
This supplemental private funding goes to high-profile projects, including some that contribute directly to national security. The alumni paid for the Coast Guard Academy’s new $1.5 million cybersecurity lab, which supports a newly-created cyber systems major. (Despite its small size, this program sent a team of cadets to the National Security Agency’s cyber competition and brought home third place this year – besting the U.S. Naval Academy.) Several years back, alumni helped raise $8 million to buy a fleet of eight sail training yachts for the academy’s waterfront program, replacing four aging yawls at no cost to the taxpayer.
The latest project for the USCGA’s alumni association is its most ambitious yet. Its members have raised $21 million for the construction of an elegant, airy waterfront activity center, with classrooms and lab space for maritime research. Construction is nearing completion and the new center is on schedule to open on October 12, just in time for homecoming. The new building will house the academy’s small boat handling and sail training programs, along with the CGA’s well-regarded collegiate sailing team. In addition to its day-to-day function, it’s designed to upgrade the aesthetics of the waterfront and create a positive impression of the academy for visitors and future cadets, and its modern facade will be a new highlight for the campus tour.
“This LEED-certified, multi-purpose facility will serve as a gathering spot for cadets and officer candidates from across our great nation,” said Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, at a groundbreaking ceremony last year. “It will be a space where young women and men can gather to learn and grow and I am certain it will serve as a facility that will enhance an appreciation for the water and all its power and beauty and ultimately it will help us instill a liking for the sea and its lore.”