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Word has been rampant this week that the Office of Management and Budget is considering massive cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard’s already anemic budget. This is one of the worst ideas any administration from either party has come up with in decades, and there are several reasons why. In fact the idea is so bad, that word barely broke before a group of 23 U.S. Senators ( almost 25%) signed a letter asking that the cuts be reversed. Such a step by so many senators so early in the process is almost unheard of ! In their letter they stated in part,
““We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment,”
Some of the specific reasons this is such a bad idea include,
The Coast Guard is a vital cost effective multi mission agency. The Coast Guard has 11 statutory missions mandated by Congress, This missions span National Defense, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security. The fact is most of the time these missions are conducted by the same people facilities and equipment simultaneously. It is the Coast Guard’s ability to multi-task vital missions which makes it so cost effective. It also helps explain why further cuts would be so disastrous.
The Coast Guard’s capital ships and planes are rusting away. The Coast Guard’s Acquisition Budget alone has already been cut 40% between 2010 and 2015. Much like its much larger cousin the U.S. Navy too many of its ships are already serving past the end of their service life even after maintenance designed to extend their service life. This endangers the life of every Coast guard member that we ask to serve us in these outdated ships and even buildings. In their letter the group of 23 senators even point out that these cuts will likely lead to an expnasion of the “ice breaker gap.” In others words there will be an eeven longer period of years where the U.S. will have NO large ice breaking capability. The need for this function is increasing with the reduction in the polar ice cap, not reducing and certainly not going away.
Moves us backward on Immigration Control Our current president campaigned hard on reducing illegal immigration. In fact part of the supposed rational behind these cuts is to finance the wall at the U.S. Mexico border. However these cuts show a severe lack of understanding, or commitment on the issue of immigration. The Coast Guard including the port Security Teams etc. have a leading role in preventing illegal immigration. Hardening the target against illegal immigration by building a wall at the U.S./Mexico border will force those involved to attempt to find another way in. This makes the Coast guard’s contributions in the area of immigration control more vital than ever, not less so. In fact a strong argument can be made that the border wall, and Coast guard anti-immigration efforts are and must be part of the same strategy and must both be funded accordingly.
Puts Drugs on the Streets. The Coast guard is thought of as a sea going service, and for good reason. However there is not a street in America it does not protect. The service’s drug interdiction efforts alone take tons of drugs of American streets every year. Cut the funding and those drugs will go straight back on our streets. The link between the international drug cartels and funding international terrorism also cannot be ignored. By cutting the Coast Guard’s budget not only do we put drugs on our streets, but bring better funding to groups around the world who would bring violence to our door steps !
The Coast Guard is an easy target for budget cuts because most Americans give it little thought. That is partly intentional. The better the Coast Guard performs its 11 statutory missions the less we should have to thing about it. However because of the reasons above an others we need to defend OUR Coast Guard against those who would slash its budget after it has already been slashed so much, so many times.
Robert A. Crutchfield was granted the rank of Admiral, Texas Navy by the Governor of Texas in 1986 at the age of 24. He served as a staff officer inthe U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary from 1989-1995. He has also served as Chairman of the Republican Party of the Sixth State Senate District of Texas. Later he was a local board member with the U.S. Selective Service System. He also is a Life Member of the Navy League of the United States. Follow him on Twitter