Well it seems things are heating up over Obama’s proposed 3% budget cut for the U. S. Coast Guard. While, the president’s 3.6 Trillion dollar budget proposal for 2011 includes increases for most federal agencies, many were caught unaware that the multi-mission capable Coast Guard will be forced to make asset reductions at a time that they believe the service should be expanding.
White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told a House subcommittee on March 3rd that they were not consulted about the proposed cuts to U.S. Coast Guard personnel and resources in the Homeland Security Department’s proposed fiscal 2011 budget.
When asked directly by Rep . John Mica (R-FL) if he was consulted on the proposed cuts to the Coast Guard Mr. Kerlikowske responded with “no”.
“Actually, both sides of the aisle were just stunned at the administration’s proposal,” Mica said of the proposed cuts.
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the chairman Senate Homeland Security Oversight Committee, also expressed concern “The Coast Guard is already stretched thin, it is responsible for carrying out a range of missions, from port security to disaster response, drug smuggling interdiction, and the protection of our maritime resources,”
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was quick to note that the president’s proposed budget for Homeland Security Budget included over 200 millions dollars to provide funding for security operations in metropolitan areas for the upcoming trials of suspected terrorist now held at Guantanamo Bay.
“These terrorists could be tried on military bases before military tribunals, without incurring this unnecessary expense and security risk. Given all the demands on the budget, why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to move the trials to vulnerable locations within the United States when there are safer alternatives?” Collins said.
“An attack on a major port would have devastating consequences, causing widespread loss of life,” Collins said. “Because the ports are vital economic centers, an attack would also send ripple effects throughout our economy. As we look forward, it is clear that the Coast Guard’s role in homeland security missions will only expand.
“The extraordinary performance of Coast Guard men and women in response to the earthquake in Haiti stands as the most recent reminder of how much we need this vital service,” Collins said.
Incoming Coast Guard Commandant Vice Admiral J. R. Papp brought national attention to the issue when he released a memo suggesting a reduction in force of 1,100 personnel, the decommissioning of several cutters and aircraft and a reduction in the number of Maritime Safety and Security Teams assigned to protect our nation’s seaports and waterways.
The admiral’s memo may be having an impact as some have proposed cutting the headquarters staff at the Department of Homeland Security in order to provide the needed funding to maintain the Coast Guard.
We should not forget just how important the Coast Guard is to our nation as a multi-mission capable military service. Of all the things that went wrong on 9/11, the response by the U. S. Coast Guard was one of the only bright moments on one of our darkest days.
Whether responding to national disasters like hurricane Katrina, or the recent earthquake in Haiti, or taking military actions in theaters of War, the Coast Guard shows up, stands up and performs the missions it is uniquely capable of.
The Coast Guard’s performance in Iraq is outlined in a Naval Proceedings Article ‘What Was The Coast Guard Doing In Iraq’.
U.S. NAVY (WILLIAM POLSON)
In spite of increasing responsibilities in homeland security, Coast Guard forces remain committed to and equipped to support expeditionary operations. Here, the Coast Guard cutter Boutwell leads the Tarawa (LHA-1) Battle Group through the Persian Gulf leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Actions taken to reduce the safety and security of nation should not be taken lightly. The fact that Obama made these decisions without the input of his top aides on security and drug interdiction causes one to wonder just who is he listening to?
While there is always some fat in the budget to cut, making cuts that result in the permanent loss of talented personnel are always the most costly and inefficient. The Coast Guard offers more bang for the buck than any federal agency. Making cuts to the Coast Guard is not only foolish, it is a waste, that history has taught us, will only end up costing us more.