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Obama Administration's Coast Guard Budget: A Recipe For Disaster?

By The Maritime Executive 03-22-2012 04:04:24

The Obama Administration has again called for major funding cuts for the U.S. Coast Guard, proposing to slash over $600 million from the Service’s budget for next year.

U.S. Reps. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, today wrote to the House Appropriations Committee to express their concern that “President Obama’s reckless cuts to the Service will leave it unable to successfully perform its critical missions.”

This is not the first time the Obama Administration has proposed significant cuts for the Coast Guard. Just weeks before the Gulf oil spill, the Administration’s FY 2011 budget proposed eliminating more than 1,100 positions and additional Coast Guard assets. Prior to the disaster, Mica and LoBiondo called those cuts a “recipe for disaster,” and are once again urging rejection of the Administration’s proposal for a “second helping of Coast Guard budget cuts.”

The Administration’s budget proposal for next year includes reducing the Service’s capital acquisitions account by nearly 20 percent below current levels. This account provides for the acquisition, construction, and physical improvements of vessels, aircraft, facilities, and other assets essential to the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out its diverse missions.

“We strongly oppose President Obama’s proposal to slash this account,” Mica and LoBiondo wrote. “These cuts threaten the ability of the Coast Guard to protect lives and property, defend our borders, and secure our ports, waterways, and coasts.”

Mica and LoBiondo also noted their disappointment with the Administration’s proposal to cut over 1,000 servicemember positions, including servicemembers engaged in critical frontline operations such as intelligence gathering and airborne use of force operations. “We fail to see how a reduction in the size of the force will enable the Coast Guard to continue to successfully conduct its critical missions such as protecting life and property, defending our borders against drug and migrant smugglers, and securing our ports and waterways against terrorists,” the Congressmen wrote.

Mica added, “These proposed cuts will have a particularly negative impact on Florida and its 1,200 miles of coastline. The Coast Guard will be hamstrung in its efforts to combat illegal immigration and drug smuggling, protect our shores, and respond to any future oil spills.

“In 2010, the Coast Guard came to the rescue during the DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill, one of the nation’s worst environmental catastrophes. Offshore drilling is taking place now in Cuba, just 70 miles off Florida’s coast. Who does the Administration think will be called upon to lead a response in the instance of a spill there?

“The Coast Guard is tasked with enforcing our nation’s marine safety laws, ensuring safe transit of our waters, preventing illicit drugs from reaching our shores, and helping facilitate trade in a maritime industry that supports 1.6 million American jobs. Despite the challenges the Coast Guard faces in meeting its mission performance goals due to a lack of adequate resources, the Obama Administration is asking the Coast Guard to absorb further cuts that will compromise the Service’s ability to carry out its missions. This entire Coast Guard budget amounts to nothing more than a second helping of this Administration’s recipe for disaster.”

LoBiondo said, “This is the first time in over a decade that a President proposes to reduce funding for the Coast Guard. These cuts have me gravely concerned we will repeat the same mistakes we made in the 1990’s, when misguided cuts to the Service’s operating and acquisitions budgets left it entirely unprepared to meet the post 9/11 mission demand.”

Click here to read the Mica/LoBiondo letter.

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Source: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee