WASHINGTON — White House plans to slash the Coast Guard budget by $1.3 billion sparked a protest letter from a bipartisan group of 58 House lawmakers to lead House appropriators on Monday — part of a growing chorus in Congress against the cut.
The lawmakers, led by Coast Guard and Maritime subcommittee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., sent a letter to leaders of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee to argue the Coast Guard must be included in President Trump's plans to rebuild the military. The letter targets a proposal floated by the White House Office of Management an Budget.
"It's nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the Armed Forces while proposing large reductions to the U.S. Coast Guard budget," the letter reads. "Without question, OMB's proposed cut targeting the Coast Guard directly contradicts the President's stated goals and should be dismissed."
There have been other letters on the topic — Hunter wrote the president and Trump's budget chief Mick Mulvaney last week calling for the Coast Guard cut to be reconsidered. Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker were the only three Republicans among 23 senators to sign another letter.
On Thursday, President Trump is expected to submit to Congress a 2018 budget, which will increase defense discretionary spending by $54 billion at the expense of non-defense discretionary spending. Part of that plan is to cut the Coast Guard to pay for a controversial wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Coast Guard, which is outside the Pentagon budget, operates with a $9.1 billion annual budget. The draft White House plan would cancel funding for a ninth National Security Cutter, which the Coast Guard did not request, and eliminate its top counterterrorism unit, the Maritime Security Response Team, and all of its regional Maritime Safety and Security Teams.
The chorus of lawmakers railing against the Coast Guard cut includes Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who said Sunday that a combined $2 billion cut for the Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard would "spell real trouble for security" for his state.
Joe Gould is the Congress and industry reporter at Defense News, covering defense budget and policy matters on Capitol Hill as well as industry news.