Mexico should start writing checks for our border wall — and soon. Because if we fund it, the money will be taken from federal services that are actually useful, like the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Trump administration’s draft proposal developed by the Office of Management and Budget would cut the Coast Guard’s budget by 14 percent — about $1.3 billion — to help pay for the wall.
Other agencies that would have substantial cuts include the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, both of which would see budget reductions of 11 percent under the Trump proposal.
We’re not too familiar with TSA and FEMA, but Ketchikan is an official Coast Guard city and long has been the base of most Coast Guard operations in southern Southeast Alaska. From that perspective alone, we don’t believe whacking the Coast Guard budget by 14 percent is a good idea under any circumstance.
We know firsthand that the Coast Guard takes its motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), quite seriously. As a maritime community, we are grateful that Coast Guard personnel and equipment are here and standing by around the clock to assist in times of emergency. All marine traffic in this region relies on aids to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard.
Like it or not, the Coast Guard enforces federal laws and regulations. That includes rules regarding fisheries, and in ensuring that foreign vessels aren’t harvesting seafood illegally in waters controlled by the United States. These enforcement efforts help protect American lives at sea, guard our fish stocks and economic interests, maintain a viable environment, and prevent the inflow of illegal immigrants and substances.
The Coast Guard accomplishes these things in Ketchikan and nationwide on an annual budget of $9.1 billion. That’s a lot of money. And we know that the nation gets its money’s worth and much more from the Coast Guard. So much so that it’s easy to understand how the agency would be hobbled by losing $1.3 billion from its annual budget.
Conversely, we know there would be value in boosting the Coast Guard’s annual budget — especially given its key roles in homeland defense and security, not to mention the need for an expanded Coast Guard icebreaker fleet and presence in the Arctic region.
When one hears that cuts such as these are being proposed for services like the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather operations, and the Sea Grant program that’s active in Alaska, one must wonder about the administration’s priorities and promises.
Americans were told time and again that Mexico would pay for the wall. Whether anyone believed that during the campaign is an open question. But if Mexico won’t be writing the checks, it’s becoming clear who actually will be paying and how that will affect places like Ketchikan across these United States.
— Ketchikan Daily News, March 10