Moulton, lawmakers: Proposed Coast Guard cuts 'cause for concern'

Opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed slashing of the Coast Guard budget to pay for the Mexican border wall continues to grow, with members of Congress arguing cuts would contradict the president’s goal of rebuilding the nation’s armed forces.

Nearly 60 bi-partisan members of the House of Representatives, including 6th District Congressman Seth Moulton of Salem, signed a letter Monday highlighting the folly of cutting about $1.3 billion, or about 14.3 percent, from the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion annual budget.

The letter, addressed to the chairman and ranking member of the House subcommittee on homeland security, stated the Office of Management and Budget’s financial outline for the Department of Homeland Security — which includes the Coast Guard — is a “cause for serious alarm.”

“It is nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the armed forces while proposing large reductions to the U.S. Coast Guard budget,” the letter stated. “Without question, OMB’s proposed cut targeting the Coast Guard directly contradicts the president’s stated goals and should be dismissed.”

The letter points to the pivotal role the Coast Guard plays in the interdiction of illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants and its direct impact on border security and law enforcement. It said the proposed cuts severely discount the value and effectiveness of the U.S. Coast Guard in both areas.

“In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicts more cocaine at sea than what is interdicted at ports of entry and among all other elements of domestic law enforcement combined,” the letter to Chairman John Carter and ranking member Lucille Roybal-Allard said. “Given the administration’s efforts to strengthen our southern land border, it’s likely that the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants offshore will only increase.

“In this respect, the Coast Guard should see a sizable budget increase to meet the president’s goal of eliminating the flood of illegal drugs.”

The signatories said they especially were concerned the proposed cuts include the cancellation of a contract for a new $500 million vessel “which presumably is the ninth National Security Cutter” currently under construction in a U.S. shipyard.

“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 hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that would be lost,” the letter stated.

The House letter follows a similar letter from 23 U.S. senators opposing the cuts to the Coast Guard budget.

“We strongly urge you to refrain from any such cuts,” the senators wrote to OMB Director John Mulvaney. “The Coast Guard budget has suffered a steady decline since 2010, which resulted in negative impacts to Coast Guard missions, infrastructure, delays in necessary recapitalization efforts, and has generally constrained Coast Guard operations.” 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanGDT