U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered the keynote address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's 133rd Commencement Exercises on Wednesday.
Secretary Johnson is the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security and assumed his office on December 23, 2013.
Johnson joins a long line of distinguished speakers at the event. Vice President Joe Biden was here last year, and President Obama in 2011. Johnson praised the role of the retiring Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Robert Papp, in pushing for a modernization of the fleet in recent years.
The Coast Guard is the midst of the most expensive acquisition program in its history: commissioning 25 new offshore patrol cutters. "I pledge that I will continue to make it a priority for me, and the Department of Homeland Security," Secretary Johnson said.
Johnson said that modernization is particularly important because of the increasing emphasis on the Coast Guard's missions in both rescue operations and law enforcement. "I also know that now that we have completed military operations in Iraq," he said, "and we are winding down operations in Afghanistan, attention will turn to the Coast Guard."
The 200 newly commissioned ensigns from the class of 2014 leave the academy with a five-year commitment to the service. They'll now depart for missions all across the world. That excitement was summed up by valedictorian Stephanie Josephs. "I cannot wait to see the places we will go," she told her classmates, "the adventures we will have, the positive impacts we will make, and the number of lives we will save."