President Donald Trump has proposed dramatic increases in defense spending, but his amplified budget could also slash $1.3 billion from the US Coast Guard’s quota.
On Thursday, Trump stepped on board the soon-to-be commissioned aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to promote his plan for rebuilding the military. Trump has stated that he plans to add a “historic” $54 billion, or a 10 percent budget increase, to the Department of Defense.
In order to pay for the increase, Trump’s proposed budget would slice the same amount from non-defense spending and the US Coast Guard.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is proposing to cut roughly $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard, or 10 percent of the 2017 $10 billion budget.
In a letter to the president, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-California) warned that such steep cuts could cripple what he considers an already underfunded military branch, leaving Americans less safe.
“It’s nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the Armed Forces while proposing large reductions to the U.S. Coast Guard budget,” wrote Hunter, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, according to the Washington Times.
“Such a drastic reduction in Coast Guard funding would not only diminish the Coast Guard’s standing and mission next to its service counterparts, it would severely undermine U.S. national security,” Hunter added.
Currently, the Coast Guard protects the 95,000 miles of American coastline, as well as 4.5 million square miles of ocean.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security authorized greater powers to the Coast Guard, including protecting the ports, guarding against terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and aiding the military in countering threats.
The proposed budget for 2018 would also eliminate funding for a $640 million state-of-the-art Coast Guard cutter ship that is a priority for Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi).
“There are responsible ways to reduce spending,” Stephen Worley, a spokesman for Cochran, said, according to the Associated Press. “Weakening our nation’s first line of defense against drug cartels and human trafficking isn’t one of them.“
The problem is the ship was already approved and is currently being built by Ingalls Shipbuilding at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Beci Branton, a spokesperson for Ingalls, said in an email that “We have already purchased long-lead materials and have begun production,” according to the Associated Press.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is also wary of Trump’s new budget proposal, and has said it will be “dead on arrival.”
“It’s not going to happen,” said Graham, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster.“