March 15th 2017

Members of Congress are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s budget proposal to dramatically reduce funding for the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The proposed reduction of the Coast Guard’s budget by 11.8 percent would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump Administration, in particular the President’s priorities regarding enhanced maritime security needs and a desire to invest in our nation’s military,” wrote 23 senators in a March 8 letter to John Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

One of the cuts proposed by the White House would zero-out funding for the ninth Legend-class National Security Cutter, already in preproduction at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss.

Another would eliminate the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team.

In the letter, the senators called the cuts “negligent and detrimental to our national security.”

The new Coast Guard cutters are at the forefront of U.S. efforts to stop illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants from entering the nation by sea.

In an average year, the Coast Guard seizes three times the amount of cocaine on water as is captured at the nation’s land borders.

The Coast Guard also intercepts thousands of migrants each year who attempt to enter the country illegally by sea from Cuba, Haiti and other nations.

“The Coast Guard is a lean service with 41,700 active duty members supporting 11 statutory missions worldwide,” the senators wrote, pointing out that the agency is expected to control a maritime border that is much larger and more extensive than the nation’s land border.

“We cannot defend our homeland and continue critical security missions without the U.S. Coast Guard. It is as simple as that,” says Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.

Among the Coast Guard’s responsibilities is control of America’s increasingly ice-free Arctic borders.

Today, the U.S. icebreaker fleet consists of just two vessels, the HEALY, used for scientific research, and the POLAR STAR, first commissioned in 1976 and still in use in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Russia, by contrast, has 40 icebreakers and plans to build more to reinforce its own claims on the Arctic.

In the context of border security, some analysts have pointed to President Trump’s plan to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico as a factor that would make the Coast Guard’s role even more critical.

“Simultaneously fortifying the southern land border while cutting the budget for security at sea would push illicit traffic off shore,” said one.

“As you harden the land border, you open up the maritime border.”

The President’s budget proposal also calls for a 17 percent reduction in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Among its many other duties, the agency oversees the National Weather Service’s weather satellite division, which would suffer a 22 percent cut.

The satellite data is fundamental to its ocean weather modeling programs, which serve as the basis for virtually all the forecasts available to navigators in U.S. waters.