President Trump has proposed slashing the budget of several national security-focused organizations in an effort to fund a border wall with Mexico.
The Office of Management Budget’s (OMB) proposal calls for an increase in the Department of Homeland Security budget by 6.4 percent.
The Washington Post reported that the draft proposal said ““the Budget aggressively implements the President’s commitment to construct a physical wall along the southern border.”
However, cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency which responds in the wake of natural disasters, Transportation Security Agency in charge of airport security, and the country’s primary maritime security agency, the US Coast Guard, are outlined in the draft.
The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget could be cut by 14 percent, making it the organization facing the largest cuts in the plan.
The Pentagon’s former Assistant Secretary for Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Todd A. Weiler told The Independent that if the cuts to the Coast Guard were approved by Congress, the effects would be “devastating.”
Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, representing California in the House of Representatives, wrote a letter to the head of the OMB that such a large proposed cut to Coast Guard budget would “stand in dramatic contrast to the President’s stated goals of securing our border.”
The Coast Guard plays an important role in law enforcement of drug traffickers as Mr Weiler pointed out that the country does not just have land borders.
It also caught more than 6000 undocumented immigrants before they entered the country, another priority of the Trump administration.
Mr Weiler offered one possible explanation for the OMB’s “draconian” cost-cutting measures to the Coast Guard: their role in enforcing environmental laws in US waters, like protecting endangered ocean species, preventing the illegal dumping of harmful chemicals, stopping oil spills, and stemming invasive species.
“Maybe someone got into [Mr Trump’s] ear about that…[environmental protection] is certainly not a priority for this administration,” said Mr Weiler.
The plan would put “run ships harder and aircrafts longer” without money or manpower for proper maintainence, according to Mr Weiler.
From a security standpoint, he said this “negatively affects operational readiness and accident rates.”
The plan’s cuts to the TSA and FEMA are less severe but would impact monitoring of train stations and other transportation hubs for potential terror attacks as well as state grants for emergency preparedness.
Mr Weiler called the proposal’s reduction in spending coupled with the White House’s continued message of keeping security at the top of the national agenda, “stereotypical of the way things are done in Washington.”
He explained that the problem is the “do more with less” attitude puts people in harm’s way and makes the agencies less effective, especially in the case of the Coast Guard’s law enforcement operations.