President Trump wants to take money away from the Coast Guard, which performs vital, lifesaving functions — and use it mainly to finance a wall between the United States and Mexico, which wouldn’t.
To recap some key reasons why the wall is a silly idea: 1) Even before the recent plunge in illegal immigration from Mexico — which Trump is welcome to take credit for — more Mexican nationals were leaving the United States than were coming in. 2) Sections of the border that are easily accessible to illegal immigrants already are patrolled and fenced. 3) Border patrol agents don’t want a wall, they want a fence that they can see through. 4) The sections of the border that aren’t fenced are pretty much inaccessible, which makes a wall not only unnecessary but hideously expensive to build.
The Coast Guard, on the other hand, routinely provides life-saving functions, including rescuing both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters. It also plays a key role in the nation’s defense, including anti-terrorism operations and in reducing drug smuggling and illegal immigration — the ostensible purposes for building the wall. In the last fiscal year alone, the Coast Guard intercepted more than 6,000 undocumented immigrants and 200 metric tons of cocaine, The New York Times reported.
While the Coast Guard would suffer the largest cut under Trump’s proposal — 14 percent, or about $1.3 billion of its $9.1 billion budget — the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, two other key players in national security, also are facing the prospect of cuts.
The cuts aimed at the Coast Guard are particularly puzzling, given Trump’s recent avowed commitment to beefing up military spending. It’s possible that the president is not aware that the Coast Guard is part of the military (a Coast Guard employees’ blog lists it as No. 1 on a list of the top 10 things they wished people knew about the Coast Guard).
A bipartisan group of 23 U.S. senators — including Oregon Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden — is strongly opposing the proposed Coast Guard cuts, news of which leaked out before the president’s official presentation of his budget later this month.
In 2014, a proposal to remove the Coast Guard helicopter stationed at Newport was soundly defeated because the next closest helicopter was an hour or more away, which was considered too far for life-and-death situations.
And that’s just the removal of one helicopter, not a large, across-the-board cut of funding for the Coast Guard.
There is still time for Trump to backtrack on this ill-thought-out proposal. Oregonians should let him, and Congress, know that’s what they want.