- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Republican congressman has upped the pressure on President Trump over proposed cuts to the Coast Guard budget, asking House appropriators to restore $500 million that the White House erased for a new national security cutter, the Coast Guard’s largest to protect the homeland.

In a March 13 letter to the president signed by 60 House members from both parties, Rep. Duncan Hunter said the White House will need a strong Coast Guard to intercept illegal drugs, especially once the southern border, where the president intends to erect a wall, becomes more secure.

“It’s likely that the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants offshore will only increase,” wrote Mr. Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on the Coast Guard. “In this respect, the Coast Guard should see a sizable budget increase to meet the president’s goal of eliminating the flood of illegal drugs.”

In a March 2 letter he sent directly to Mr. Trump, Mr. Hunter protested a proposed overall cut of $1.3 billion in the Coast Guard’s spending for fiscal 2018.

“It’s nonsensical to pursue a policy of rebuilding the armed forces while proposing large reductions to the Coast Guard budget,” Mr. Hunter wrote of the country’s fifth military branch, along with the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Joe Kasper, the congressman’s chief of staff, said the hope is that the White House Office of Management and Budget will reverse course.

“With the outcry coming from Congress, is OMB going to do the right thing and give the Coast Guard the money it needs to do the mission?” Mr. Kasper said.

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, christened the seventh Legend-class national security cutter this month. At 418 feet long and with technological advancements to enforce homeland security, the ship can stay at sea for at least 60 days.

Mr. Hunter, one of the first members of Congress to back Mr. Trump’s presidential bid, zeroed in on the White House plan to halt construction of the ninth national security cutter.

“The termination of this contract is especially disconcerting when considered alongside the operational successes these assets have demonstrated, not to mention the hundreds of good American jobs and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that would be lost,” his March 13 letter says.

He also wrote of a bureaucratic “bias” against the Coast Guard that has transcended administrations.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is an Armed Force at all times, operating both overseas and domestically to ensure America’s national security,” Mr. Hunter wrote.

The bipartisan members’ letter was sent to the chairman and the ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee.

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