Adm. Linda Fagan, nominated Tuesday by President Joe Biden to lead the Coast Guard, is a University of Washington graduate who also spent time serving on the Seattle-based Polar Star icebreaker.

Fagan, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman to lead any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington.

“From her career beginnings as a deck watch officer on the Seattle-based icebreaker Polar Star, Admiral Fagan has shown strong leadership and a strong commitment to service that make her an outstanding choice,” Cantwell said in a Tuesday statement.

Fagan graduated from Coast Guard Academy in 1985, and obtained a Master of Science in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington in 2000, according to Cantwell.

During her Coast Guard career, Fagan has gained extensive experience in marine safety, according to a statement Tuesday from Department of Homeland Security’ Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Through the years, marine safety has been a big issue in the North Pacific, where Bering Sea crab boat sinkings and other accidents repeatedly have triggered Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigations. Those investigations result in recommendations to improve fishing industry safety that commandants have the power to accept or reject, or at times endorse legislative changes to maritime laws. And the Coast Guard has sometimes been accused by safety advocates of slow-walking regulations that have been passed by Congress.


Fagan also will be leading a Coast Guard that launched a major effort to modernize that includes building new icebreakers and other ships for the fleet. In Seattle, the Coast Guard has proposed a renovation and expansion of its waterfront base that will be home to three new Polar Security program cutters.

Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over the Coast Guard has been concerned about recruiting and retaining women in the Coast Guard as they struggle to balance careers and families. She said she is hopeful that Fagan, who is a mother, will inspire other women to serve “at the highest level in the Armed Forces.”

Since last year, Fagan has served in the number two Coast Guard position as vice commandant.

Fagan, if approved by the Senate, will succeed Adm. Karl Schultz, who will step down as commandant later this spring.