Congressman LoBiondo Promises to Fight Coast Guard Budget CutsReports Say Trump’s Budget Would Slash Service’s Budget By 10 Percent
President Trump’s first preliminary budget proposes increasing the Department of Defense’s budget by $54 billion, approximately a 10 percent increase. He would pay for increased defense spending by concurrently slashing “non-defense” spending the same amount. There have been many news stories over the past week reporting huge proposed cuts in areas such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of State budgets. More unnoticed, however, was the reporting that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget is proposing to cut $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard’s budget, approximately a 10 percent decrease.
Not on Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s watch!
LoBiondo, whose 2nd New Jersey Congressional District includes all of Southern Ocean County save Barnegat and the western part of Stafford Township, and, more importantly to this story, all of Cape May and Atlantic counties, is a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. He blasted Trump’s proposal to gut the Coast Guard budget on Saturday.
“We cannot defend our homeland and continue critical security missions without the U.S. Coast Guard,” said LoBiondo Saturday. “It is as simple as that. The men and women of the Coast Guard are doing an outstanding job, stretching the limited resources they receive now to keep our waters and ports safe. From traditional search and rescue to maritime security and drug interdiction, there is no other dedicated or capable force as the U.S. Coast Guard. Whomever is advising President Trump that the service could do more with even less is detached from the facts and reality on the ground.”
LoBiondo’s went on to say, “According to the service, from 2002 to 2011 Coast Guard interdictions and subsequent intel resulted in the extradition of nearly 75 percent of all Columbian drug kingpins, including a Honduran drug lord who led law enforcement to the second capture of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. As reported by Business Insider, ‘Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history – well over 200 metric tons – and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to as least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,’” according to Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard.
The details of the $1.3 billion cut in the Coast Guard’s budget, including whether they would impact Coast Guard Training Center Cape May and Air Station Atlantic City, are not known at this time. But LoBiondo warned hands off in advance.
“Let me be absolutely, 110 percent clear – if President Trump seeks to reduce operations and Coast Guard personnel at Air Station AC or TRACEN Cape May, I will do everything in my power, rallying my colleagues in the New Jersey delegation and across Congress, to sink his misguided and dangerous plan.”
Located at the William J. Hughes Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township, Air Station Atlantic City was formed in 1998 as a result of a merger of former Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn and Group Air Station Cape May. It provides mission support services such as search and rescue, law enforcement, port security and marine environmental protection in the coastal region between Connecticut and Virginia, and houses 10 MH-65D Dolphin helicopters, 60 pilots and 300 enlisted and support personnel. Air Station Atlantic City also provides air crews and multiple aircraft to protect the airspace of Washington D.C. as part of Operation Noble Eagle, a Department of Defense mission.
Training Center Cape May has been the Coast Guard’s only basic training center (boot camp) since 1982. The service’s fifth-largest base, it also provides Direct Entry Petty Officer Training for candidates with prior military service or civilians with similar experience, has a school for Coast Guard recruiters, and another for company commanders, the Coast Guard equivalent of a drill sergeant.
And then, right here on Long Beach Island, there is Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, with 40-plus enlisted active duty personnel.
— Rick Mellerup