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Congress to Coast Guard: Waste More Money

Congress to Coast Guard: Waste More Money

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Wednesday, 16 March 2016 07:19 AM Current | Bio | Archive


The United States has over 12,000 miles of coastline. The U.S. Coast Guard ably patrols and defends our shores.

As government agencies go, the Coast Guard is more cost-effective than most. Its 42,000 men and women help those in maritime danger while also deterring smugglers and terrorists. They serve the nation well.

Surprisingly, given all they do, the Coast Guard’s 2017 budget request was only $10.3 billion — pocket change by Navy or Air Force standards. It was near that level in 2015 and 2016, too. The brass seems to think it is enough to get the job done.

Some members of Congress disagree.

When Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee to discuss his budget this month, members pestered him for not spending ENOUGH money.

You read that right. They aren’t spending enough of your money, says Congress. 
Contractors are currently building or planning nine new “National Security Cutters.” Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, asked Admiral Zukunft if he wanted a tenth one.

The Commandant’s reply: No, we would rather use any additional funding on other important programs, like new Arctic icebreakers.

It gets worse.

The Coast Guard didn’t even want a ninth cutter, much less a 10th one. The ninth one appeared in last December’s gargantuan $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochrane inserted language directing the Coast Guard to order an additional $640 million cutter. Not coincidentally, a shipyard in Mississippi will build it.

On the bright side, this mess gave us possibly the most honest statement ever made by a government spokesman. Chief Warrant Officer Chad Saylor told the New York Times: “If we are funded for it and Congress says you are going to have a ninth cutter, I guess that is how it goes. But we are good with eight.”

Let’s recap.

The Coast Guard needs eight new ships to achieve its mission. Congress added a ninth one. Now, three months later, at least one member wants to spend $640 million for yet a 10th ship.

The Commandant of the Coast Guard, maybe the sanest person in this whole discussion, says he has higher priorities. Yet Congress persists in trying to give him ships he doesn’t need.

This isn’t just about money. It means the kind of ships the Coast Guard does need must wait. People could die because the Coast Guard won’t have the kind of ships it needs to rescue them.

Is this crazy? Yes.

It’s also normal behavior in Washington, where bringing home the bacon is the highest priority.

Patrick Watson is an Austin-based financial writer. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickW

To read more of his insights, CLICK HERE NOW.

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People could die because the Coast Guard won’t have the kind of ships it needs to rescue them. Is this crazy? Yes. It’s also normal behavior in Washington, where bringing home the bacon is the highest priority.
Congress, Coast Guard, Waste, Money
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2016-19-16
Wednesday, 16 March 2016 07:19 AM
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