Admiral Who Oversaw Hurricane Relief Tapped to Lead Coast Guard

President Trump, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are briefed by Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander Vice Admiral Karl Schultz (second from the left) during a Hurricane Harvey response update at Fire Station 5 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Aug. 29, 2017. (Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley)
Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck

A three-star admiral who emerged as the public face of the Coast Guard during a major response effort to four 2017 hurricanes has been tapped as the 26th commandant of the service.

The White House on Thursday sent the nomination of Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, the commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, according to ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

"Vice Admiral Schultz has served with honor and distinction for the past year-and-a-half as the Coast Guard's Atlantic Area commander, overseeing the Coast Guard's response to Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey," Nelson said in a statement. "He is 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, and as the service seeks to stay on track in replacing its decades-old fleet of cutters and aircraft."

Schultz, who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1983, has a career that includes command tours aboard a number of cutters, as well as high-profile liaison roles and a stint at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., as director of Governmental and Public Affairs.

In his position as Atlantic Area commander, he briefed President Donald Trump and other key officials on Coast Guard rescue and recovery efforts in the midst of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate, which pummeled Texas, the Caribbean, and coastal Louisiana. He also gave numerous interviews to major media outlets as storm relief efforts pushed forward.

"I should note that in an average year, the Coast Guard saves 3,600 lives. The Coast Guard tripled that number in Harvey alone," Schultz told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in November, referring to the first major hurricane of the season, which ripped through southern Texas.

Schultz, whose awards include four Legions of Merit, previously served as director of operations for U.S. Southern Command, where he directed joint military operations in the Caribbean and Central and South America, according to his official biography. He also commanded the 11th Coast Guard District as a flag officer.

Earlier in his career, according to his biography, Schultz served command tours on the cutters Venturous, Acacia and Farallon. He also has held a number of liaison positions, including congressional liaison officer to the House of Representatives and liaison officer to the Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

Current Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has served in the post since May 30, 2014. He is set to observe his "change-of-watch" ahead of retirement June 1.

Zukunft, who served as the federal coordinator for the response effort to the catastrophic 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill before becoming commandant, leaves his command following a year in which the Coast Guard conducted record drug interdictions, rescued more than 12,000 hurricane victims, and received plaudits from Trump for its accomplishments.

"In my 40 years, I have witnessed such incredible progress, a brand whose glide slope soars ever higher year after year, a glide slope that will continue to gain altitude," Zukunft said in his fourth and final State of the Coast Guard address, delivered March 1.

"And I can say with absolute conviction on June 1, when the 26th commandant takes the helm of what is and will continue to be the world's best Coast Guard … that glide slope will soar even higher then, trust me," he said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.