Editorial: Coast Guard cuts — Dumb idea

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In a sea of preposterous proposals to surface lately, the notion of cutting the Coast Guard, in part to help pay for a border wall, is in a league of its own.

President Tump has proposed just that — a 12 percent cut in a Coast Guard budget that is already so tight that key parts of the mission are compromised. This while he pledges to boost spending on the military — “It's gonna be so strong, nobody's gonna mess with us.”

Forget the fact that we were told over and over that Mexico would pay for this wall, as a security tradeoff this is a most shortsighted idea.

The wall will allegedly keep some ‘bad dudes’ out of the United States. The Coast Guard does that and so much more.

It is a first line of defense against drug smuggling, human trafficking, and growing coastal threats … studies warn that among the most obvious ways to import terrorists and weapons of mass destruction is within the shipping containers that enter US ports in vast numbers every day.

And if a border wall is actually built, what better way for smugglers of any sort to skirt it than an end run along either coast.

The Coast Guard’s mission of protecting mariners is stretched thin. Stations are closing and important navigational buoys off Sakonnet Point, Westport and many other places are to be removed … the Coast Guard simply cannot afford to maintain them.

The Coast Guard fleet is ancient — Of 35 ships, 25 are more than 50 years old, the oldest is 73.

Cuts would be especially painful here — Bristol is home to a buoy maintenance station, Newport is home base to ocean-going cutters, Warwick is home to the Northeast’s civil engineering division, and Woods Hole has one of the busiest Coast Guard stations.

And the South Coast and Narragansett Bay are among the country’s foremost boating and fishing destinations — those mariners routinely require Coast Guard help, often in the worst of weather.

Meanwhile, the President himself needs non-stop Coast Guard patrols every weekend off his Mar-a-Lago waterfront retreat — one more new drain on Coast Guard resources.

The Coast Guard provides very real protection from a wide and growing variety of threats. That wall will merely serve to steer intruders to other routes — diminished Coast Guard presence suggests that the water will be a favored choice.

Congress, for once, needs to take a unified stand for the sake of common sense.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.