Lawmakers urge appropriators to reject Coast Guard cuts

Lawmakers urge appropriators to reject Coast Guard cuts
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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging appropriators to reject a reported proposal from President Trump to slash the Coast Guard’s budget.

“It’s nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the armed forces while proposing large reductions to the U.S. Coast Guard budget,” the lawmakers wrote Monday in a letter to the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee’s leaders. “The U.S. Coast Guard has, for years, operated under the realities of severe budget limitations. Preserving and strengthening America’s security interests and protecting American jobs demand a fully funded U.S. Coast Guard.”

The letter was penned by Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and John GaramendiJohn GaramendiNRCC uses digital ads to target California Dems who opposed Water Act bill Do we really want to give Trump a new nuke? Plans for Space Corps survive House debate MORE (D-Calif.), the leaders of the House Transportation subcommittee on the Coast Guard. It was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 56 lawmakers.

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Trump is reportedly weighing about $1.3 billion in cuts to the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The money would reportedly be redirected to other parts of the department to help pay for more immigration officers, border agents and a wall along the southern border.

Trump is expected to send his budget outline to Congress on Thursday.

The reported cuts to the Coast Guard have prompted bipartisan backlash, with 23 senators from both parties sending a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney last week.

In their letter Monday, the House lawmakers said the OMB appears to be dismissing the Coast Guard’s role as a branch of the military, which Trump promised to build up. 

Further, they said, the Coast Guard is critical to counternarcotics operations and intercepts more cocaine at sea than all other domestic counternarcotics efforts combined. 

Strengthening security on the southern border means more drugs and illegal immigrants will move offshore, they wrote, meaning the Coast Guard’s budget should increase.

“The concern with OMB’s financial outline is that is that it severely discounts the value and effectiveness of the U.S. Coast Guard in drug interdiction and maritime security, and its standing as an armed service,” they wrote.

In particular, the lawmakers highlighted the proposal to cancel a roughly $500 million new ship, which they say is presumably the ninth National Security Cutter currently under construction.

“The termination of this contract is especially disconcerting when considered alongside the operational successes these assets have demonstrated, not to mention the hundreds of good American jobs and hundred of millions of taxpayer dollars that would be lost,” they wrote.

The Coast Guard is experiencing the same readiness issues as the rest of the armed forces, they added. 

“Our recommendation is that OMB’s financial outline, specific to the Coast Guard, be rejected on the ground that, if implemented, it would serve to the detriment of U.S. national security,” they wrote, “and create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”