Nearly 60 congressmen from both sides of the aisle have written a letter criticising President Donald Trump’s proposed $US1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard as “cause for serious alarm.”
The letter, which was organised by Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, called such a move “nonsensical” given Trump’s calls to rebuild America’s armed forces and reduce the entry of foreign criminals and drugs into the United States.
“The US Coast Guard has, for years, operated under the realities of severe budget limitations,” the letter said. “Preserving and strengthening America’s security interests and protecting American jobs demand a fully funded US Coast Guard.”
Earlier this month, reporting on Trump’s proposed budget guidance found it would ask for $US1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard, at a time when the service was doing more than ever.
The budget called for the cancellation of a $US500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specialises in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.
In an interview with Business Insider before the proposed budget news was made public, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft noted that his service was severely under-resourced to the point that it simply could not fulfil all of its requirements.
“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.
The letter says that the Office of Management and Budget, which is working on the budget proposal, “severely discounts the value and effectiveness” of the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $US54 billion by taking money from non-defence areas, such as the State Department.
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