No part of the federal government is more at risk in Washington’s mindless approach to budget cutting than the U.S. Coast Guard. The administration is more concerned with spreading the cuts than making smart reductions. Targeting the Coast Guard for cuts may make the least sense at all. By every responsible measure, the service is blinking red when it comes to the challenge of matching vital missions to capability. Now, as one commentary notes, “By every analysis done since the early 1990s, the USCG needs at least 8 national security cutters and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters. Without these ships, critical law enforcement and environmental protection are simply lost.” Yet, “the FY12 funding for the sixth National Security Cutter is up in the air.”
Slow rolling Coast Guard modernization makes absolutely no sense. Yet, Congress appears ready to gut the service to preserve funding for “pork barrel” grants, like the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. As one report from the Heritage Foundation noted, “Despite this lack of effectiveness, the SAFER grant program continues to receive large budgetary commitments—including a FY 2011 request of $305 million in funding. These funds could certainly be used elsewhere to increase the effectiveness of other response programs.” Nowhere would that money be better spent than on the Coast Guard’s ship building program.
Yet, Congress and the administration seem intent on funding what have essentially become pork barrel programs rather than acting as real stewards of the nation’s homeland security. No wonder the Coast Guard is singing the blues.