Biden selects first woman four-star admiral for the Coast Guard

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Aaron Mehta
·2 min read
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Updated 4/19/21 at 2:00 pm EST, reflecting the nomination becoming official several hours after it was reported by Defense News.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has nominated Coast Guard Vice Adm. Linda Fagan to the role of vice commandant, making her the first woman to achieve a fourth-star in the service.

Fagan, the head of the Coast Guard’s Pacific area of operations, would replace Adm. Charles Ray, who has been the Coast Guard’s No. 2 officer since May 2018. Defense News first reported the nomination early Monday.

According to her biography, Fagan has served on all seven continents. She previously held command roles along the east coast, and also served as deputy director of operations for Headquarters at U.S. Northern Command.

“I am pleased that President Biden has nominated Vice Admiral Linda Fagan to be the Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard,” Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “She is a superb leader who, as the 32nd Vice Commandant, will guide the Coast Guard at a time when its mission of securing our maritime borders, ports, and waterways has never been more important.

“If confirmed, Vice Admiral Fagan would serve as the first woman to be promoted to a 4-star rank in the Coast Guard. We are grateful to Vice Admiral Fagan for continuing her service to country, for the trail she has blazed, and for inspiring us all.”

During the presidential election, the Biden team pledged to increase the number of women serving in top national security roles. In addition to naming Kathleen Hicks the first female deputy secretary of defense and nominating Christine Wormuth as the first female Army secretary, the administration has also nominated Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, to lead U.S. Transportation Command and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson to lead U.S. Southern Command.

Why do so many women leave the Coast Guard?

According to 2019 figures, 13.8 percent of the active component and 15.4 percent of the reserve component of the Coast Guard are women. A 2019 RAND report found that women officers in the Coast Guard left the service at a higher rate than their male counterparts.

The RAND researchers found that among officers, 83.9 percent of men remain in the Coast Guard after five years, compared to 78.3 percent of women, a retention gap of 5.6 percentage points. After ten years, that gap widens to 12.6 percentage points, and at 19 years, the gap widened to 12.9 percentage points. The study found that men are more likely to be given jobs out to sea, as opposed to jobs ashore; Coast Guard members who are given jobs aboard vessels had a higher retention rate regardless of genders.

However, the study also noted that retention rates for women in the Coast Guard were higher than any of the military services.