Recently, President Donald Trump asked for over $50 billion to be added to the American defense fund, which already sits at $600 billion per year, but now he plays to cut a billion from one very crucial military branch that is already underfunded. When you think of the armed forces, most think of the Navy or Army. We think of the people on the battle field getting shot and shooting at others. That is simply the idea that most non-military families have in their mind.
However, every branch in the armed forces does something very important that helps keep the United States safe. One that gets overlooked far more than it probably should is the Coast Guard. Some may assume that these men and women are only useful at helping to keep pollution down or random pirates at bay, but that may only be a slight part of their job. In fact, they are making a bigger difference now more than ever before….yet sadly President Trump’s budget does not see that.
According to Business Insider, President Trump’s new budget plan is calling for $1.3 billion total to be removed from the U.S. Coast Guard. This at time when this branch is doing more than it ever has in the history of the branch. The problem on top of this is that the Coast Guard is already considered to be vastly under-resourced, so losing any money instead of gaining was going to hurt them. However, over a billion being removed is terrible to hear for the branch.
The new Trump budget would cancel a new $500 million ship that is already in production. The budget would hit certain areas of the guard pretty hard, such as the ones that specialize in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping an eye on Russia and what they are doing in the arctic. Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, claimed the following.
“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total. With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events.”
He also added “We are really besieged down there,” when referring to operations off the coast of Columbia. For those wondering, there are various areas in which the Coast Guard acts across the nation and around the world. Columbia happens to be a highly known drug nation, which pushes out not only marijuana but also cocaine among other things.
In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard was able to haul in a record amount for cocaine just last year, which they were able to get from all over, but especially Central and South American nations. That said, knowing of other places to help and not being able to do anything because of the fact that there is not enough funding is terrible to know for any American citizen who wants to avoid problems in the United States that the armed forces can easily solve with the right funding.
The Coast Guard doesn’t stop at halting human trafficking or cutting off drugs from entering the nation, they are also a key part of the Arctic region with ice-breaking ships. Due to Russia liking the air because of the rich resources it happens to hold, the U.S Coast Guard is often having to keep the Russians away from the area. The Arctic has 13 percent of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas. Clearly Russia would want in on that, but so would China.
Admiral Zukunft claimed that “we’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” when referring to the Russians who have a fleet of 40 icebreaking ships, and could become a problem in the future. To compare, the U.S. Coast Guard only has two ice breaking ships, one medium and one heavy. The heavy one happens to be 40 years old in fact. The Admiral would go on to say the following.
“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers.”
He claimed that his service would ideally need a fleet of three heavy and three medium icebreakers to remain competitive with Russia or other nations, which makes total sense. This is especially true knowing that Russia does have the forty to contend with. Budget cuts will likely hurt other areas of the Coast Guard as well, with maritime security teams taking a huge hit as an example. They actually help to protect the President, in this case Donald Trump, when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago.
Meanwhile the service’s inland fleet maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways in ports. Of course, all of this is quite useful to the already underfunded Coast Guard. However, the Coast Guard does not stand out in comparison to others. The Admiral would claim that infrastructure in ports has been neglected for half a century. Yet this sees around $4.5 trillion of commerce pass through it. One would imagine that cuts like this would actually hurt National Security.
Yet President Trump wanted to improve this, which is why he called for more money to be added to the defense fund despite it being the highest defense fund compared to any country in the world today. California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter said in a recent letter to President Trump that such cuts to the Coast Guard would “egregiously” conflict with his goals to strengthen America’s national security. The Californian Rep. claimed the following.
“These proposed cuts… will guarantee negative consequences. It would create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”
Of course the new Trump budget plan has not been approved by Congress, but things come with a mixed bag of emotions. The defense fund could use the reported $54 billion, with the Coast Guard being one of the top branches needing the money. However, Trump wanting to cut the Coast Guard within the budget also hurts too. It will be interesting to see if recent calls to not cut from the guard affect President Trump and his idea to remove over a billion from the budget for this branch.
[Featured Images By Lynne Sladky/AP Images]