Donald Trump has promised over and over that he will keep Americans safe. But many agree his policies will make our country less, not more secure. And now, with the release of his budget proposal, we are seeing concrete proof that the new Orange Emperor has no clue of what he is doing when it comes to national security.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the executive branch budget agency, is proposing a cut of 14 percent to Coast Guard funding. In addition, their draft budget proposal calls for 11 percent cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). But the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the parent agency of those three organizations, is the proposed recipient of a six percent increase in funding.
So, if three agencies are looking at drastic cuts, but DHS is receiving an increase overall, where is the extra money going? Why, to immigration enforcement, of course. Trump wants to reduce air and sea security to increase the number of border patrol officers, immigration agents, and to pay for that damned wall he told you Mexico was going to provide funds for.
A wall and increased enforcement to stop illegal immigration from Mexico is a solution in search of a problem. The number of Mexicans living in the U.S. Illegally has been declining for years. But oh, won't a shiny new wall look good as a backdrop for our Tangerine Tyrant's photo-op as he proclaims himself the savior of America?
A far greater danger than illegal immigration to national security is the threat of a nuclear or biological weapon coming into the country through a port. Science just offered such a scenario a week ago:
Under cover of night, a blacked-out fishing boat slips into Baltimore, Maryland’s Inner Harbor. A U.S. Coast Guard cutter moves to apprehend the intruder. But before officers can board, both boats and much of Baltimore disappear in an intense flash: A nuclear bomb hidden on the boat has detonated. As first responders rush to victims, nuclear forensics specialists scrutinize data on radiation and acoustic and seismic waves from sensors placed around the city in a breakneck effort to decipher the bomb’s design and perhaps determine who was behind the blast.
At a time when a bomb smuggled by terrorists is as big a concern as one from a foreign power, delivered by missile or airplane, an attack at a port is "definitely a more likely scenario," says Thomas Cartledge, a nuclear engineer with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
But hey, we'll be safe from all of those Mexicans while a major port city on one of our coasts is reduced to smoldering ruins!
Retired Coast Guard Admiral James Loy who served as TSA administrator and deputy DHS secretary under George W. Bush, spoke to Politico about the insanity of Trump's budget plan. “It is ignorant of what constitutes national security," he said. "They simply don’t understand the equation.”
Loy says that building a wall will make defending our sea borders even more important. Closing off the land border with Mexico increases the likelihood that undocumented immigrants will try other options to gain entry to the U.S. Currently, he says the Coast Guard doesn't have the resources it needs to fully carry out its mission of intercepting those who are smuggling illegal drugs and people into the country, in addition to providing port security.
The good news is that congressional Republicans are likely to balk at the proposed cuts. Republican Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, which just happens to be where Coast Guard cutters are built. His office said in a statement that any request to reduce Coast Guard funding "will receive careful scrutiny in Congress."
California Republican Duncan Hunter, who chairs the Transportation Coast Guard subcommittee, was not happy about the Trump budget proposal. He told Politico,
"The OMB treats the Coast Guard like a lunch fund to fund their other priorities within the Department of Homeland Security. Congress funds [through appropriations], and we’re not doing what they're doing. They’re off in la-la-land. If they want to be irrelevant they’re off to a good start."
Hunter is referring to the budget process, where the White House submits a budget to Congress, but it is Congress that actually decides what goes in the federal budget and in what amounts. Typically when the White House and Congress are controlled by the same party OMB and congressional committees work together to produce a document that tried to accommodate OMB's budget priorities. But Hunter makes it clear that Congress will not likely agree to Trump's demands when it comes to DHS funding.
This really is less about what happens to funding for the Coast Guard and other DHS agencies, and more about the fact that once again Trump and his cronies have no idea of what providing for national security actually looks like. Coast Guardsmen and women do much of their work out of the public eye, but they are the one military branch that, day in and day out, does much of the work of keeping Americans safe. But Trump promised his supporters that he would do something about immigration and that appears what he is determined to do, the actual safety of Americans be damned.