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Coast Guard Avoids Proposed Budget Cut

The U.S. Coast Guard has apparently sailed around a proposed billion-dollar budget cut after an outcry from advocates and lawmakers.

The Homeland Security Department, of which the service is a part, recently released additional details into the White House's budget amendment for fiscal 2017 and budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, also known as the "skinny budget."

While the latter -- a 62-page document released Thursday -- doesn't mention the Coast Guard, the department's release from the same day states the proposed spending plan "sustains current funding levels for the U.S. Coast Guard, which allows for the continuation of day-to-day operations and investments in the acquisition, construction and improvements account."

A spokeswoman for the Coast Guard referred questions about the matter to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which first proposed the reduction.

The news was nevertheless welcomed by Coastie enthusiasts, from Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California and a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure's Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

"Everything that was released was pre-decisional," Zukunft told reporters, according to an article by Christopher Cavas of Defense News. "Normally that [debate] doesn’t hit the public domain, but it did. When it did there was an avalanche of support for the Coast Guard. Bipartisan support."

In a letter Friday to President Donald Trump, Hunter recommended moving management of the Coast Guard from the Homeland Security Department to the Defense Department to better shield the service from potential spending reductions. (Notably, both departments are currently headed by retired Marines -- John Kelly at Homeland and Jim Mattis at the Pentagon.)

Hunter wrote, "Over time, the Coast Guard's mission importance has not been properly recognized or advocated for -- as demonstrated by years of underfunded budget requests, and perhaps most clearly, by this year's grossly inadequate proposed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) funding guidance."

The office had proposed a $1.3 billion cut to the Coast Guard in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1. The service's total budget authority for fiscal 2017 is $10.3 billion, according to service budget documents. The reduction, if approved by Congress, may have forced the Coast Guard to cancel a contract for a new national security cutter.

"First and foremost, the Coast Guard is a military force," Hunter continued. "It deserves to be housed in a department that recognizes the importance of its mission, and has the capabilities to properly advocate for greatly needed resources. And the Coast Guard's mission set, acquisition needs and national security role provide a strong case that our country would be best served by housing the Coast Guard at DoD."

The commandant may agree. During his annual State of the Coast Guard address last week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Zukunft reminded folks that the service is a branch of the military.

"The Coast Guard is an armed service," he said, according to a copy of his remarks. "Yet we are not postured to benefit from vital national security investments because our funding is classified incorrectly. Our men and women are military members who operate on the front lines to secure our nation and our borders. Our service must be categorized and funded accordingly."

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