March 24, 2017 — Senators who pushed back against an early Trump administration idea for cutting the Coast Guard are still on guard for what the budget process may bring.
Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified Wednesday before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, stressing again the Coast Guard’s far-forward strategy for protecting the nation’s sea frontier.
“We push our maritime borders thousands of miles beyond Mexico,” Zukunft said, recounting a past year that brought in a record 201 metric tons of cocaine intercepted at sea. It was more than the total of all seizures on land by law enforcement combined, but admittedly a fraction of what gets through.
A deficit in surveillance, ships and aircraft assets resulted in just 30% of smuggling operations being pursued, while another 580 suspected operations could not be challenged, Zukunft said.
The commandant was talking to a friendly audience, lawmakers who beat back an early trial balloon from the Office of Management and Budget that sought a $1.3 billion cut in Coast Guard spending, including maritime security teams and axing the ninth National Security Cutter.