Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) joined a bipartisan group of 23 senators urging Office of Management and Budget Administrator Mick Mulvaney not to make a devastating $1.3 billion cut to the budget of the United States Coast Guard. According to reports, the Trump administration’s FY 2018 Presidential Budget Request will suggest a wholesale slash amounting to almost 12 percent of the service’s budget.
Throughout his campaign and time in office, President Trump has committed to stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country, protecting our borders, investing in national security, and improving support for our armed service members and their families. The Senators note that the Coast Guard plays an outsized role in all of these areas and that the Coast Guard budget should be increased rather than gutted.
“We are concerned that the Coast Guard would not be able to maintain maritime presence, respond to individual and national emergencies, and protect our nation’s economic and environmental interests. The proposed reduction… would directly contradict the priorities articulated by the Trump Administration,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to restore the $1.3 billion dollar cut to the Coast Guard budget, which we firmly believe would result in catastrophic negative impacts to the Coast Guard and its critical role in protecting our homeland, our economy and our environment.”
There are more than 375 uniformed Coast Guard members and civilian personnel based in Rhode Island. Among many other accomplishments and missions, the men and women of the Coast Guard:
- Seized a record 469,270 pounds of illegal drugs in 2016;
- Secured 95,000 miles of American coastline, preventing thousands of cases of illegal immigration;
- Maintained active and vigorous anti-terrorism and national security operations around our nation’s oceans, rivers, and ports through the Maritime Safety and Security Team and Maritime Security Response Team; and
- Protected American ships, boundaries, and interests in the melting Arctic, where Russian and Chinese influence is rapidly expanding.
The Senators note that Coast Guard funding has already been allowed to slip well below the levels necessary to fulfill its mission and maintain its equipment and infrastructure. Between 2010 and 2015, the service’s acquisition budget fell by some 40 percent. The fleet of cutters and patrol boats that intercept drugs and guard our nation’s waterways are aging at an unsustainable rate with no prospect of replacement. The situation is particularly dire in the Arctic, where the U.S. will be without a heavy icebreaker for eight years (the only Arctic nation without such a resource) if no action is taken to correct the problem.
The budget cut will also have a dramatic effect on Coast Guard members and their families. The Coast Guard has struggled to keep pace with the other Armed Services when it comes to family and support services such as education and training, childcare, and on-base support facilities such as commissaries and housing. Coast Guard families in rural areas often do not have adequate healthcare access and investments in family support services nationwide have been far below acceptable levels.
The letter was spearheaded by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Gary Peters (D-MI). The text of the Senators’ letter is available here.