A US Coast Guard National Security Cutter -- likely to be a rare sight in the Caribbean
WASHINGTON, USA -- US President Donald Trump's budget proposal reportedly includes a $1.3 billion cut to the US Coast Guard, which would significantly reduce the already minimal national security presence in the Caribbean.
The administration's 2018 financial year budget proposal plans to boost the Department of Homeland Security's total budget by six percent, to $43.8 billion. That increase would primarily go to land border security and would be paid for with the Coast Guard cuts and reductions to other agencies.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, said the planned cuts would "severely undermine national security”.
"Such a drastic reduction in Coast Guard funding would not only diminish the Coast Guard's standing and mission," Hunter wrote in a letter to Trump, it "would severely undermine US national security."
"A cut to the Coast Guard of $1.3 billion will effectively paralyze the service and create unnecessary risk and exposures to the homeland," Hunter's chief of staff, Joe Kasper, added.
"As Trump builds the wall on the southern border, it's going to push more migrants and smugglers to the water -- and the only entity there to stop all of it is the Coast Guard," Kasper said.
The Coast Guard has played a big role in drug and illegal migrant interdiction, issues Trump has pointed to as the rationale for why a border wall is needed.
“This is insanity to leave the Caribbean Sea open for drug traffickers to operate with impunity like the 70s and 80s. The Colombians and Venezuelans must be very happy and thanking President Trump for according them a free trade route to transport their drugs to North American markets,” a senior US intelligence source told Caribbean News Now
In March 2015, General John Kelly, then commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and now ironically the new head of Homeland Security, which will benefit from the proposed budget increase, complained about the lack of naval assets in the Caribbean.
“I don’t have the assets [in the Caribbean]. I have two navy ships right now, that will go to zero for ever by the summer,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee two years ago.
Kelly also stated then that SOUTHCOM had insufficient airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets available in the area.
Although the US Coast Guard had made a commitment to double the number of Coast Guard cutters in the region, Kelly pointed out that this represented an increase from just three to six.