Funding cuts would hit Coast Guard's counter-drug operations - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Funding cuts would hit Coast Guard's counter-drug operations

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

President Donald Trump is considering significant cuts to the Coast Guard's budget to help pay for the controversial U.S. Mexico border wall and various deportation efforts.

However critics are concerned his proposal would impact the Coast Guard's fleet and counter-terrorism and counter-drug operations.

Here in Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard performs hundreds of search and rescue operations every year and even helps combat illegal drug trafficking all over the world.

The crew of the Honolulu-based Coast Guard Cutter Sherman returned home Thursday after a 92-day deployment to the coasts of South and Central Americas. They seized almost seven tons of cocaine worth more than $205 million from smuggling vessels.

"The amount that we took off the streets is not going to make its way to the United States. Ships like the Sherman are able to go far offshore and get to the networks in their most vulnerable locations, which is in the transit zones as they're starting to leave the country," said Captain Steven Wittrock. 

Just last year, the Coast Guard set a new record in counter-drug operations, intercepting nearly 222 tons of cocaine. 

Now the Trump Administration could slash the Coast Guard's budget by $1.3 billion -- which is about a 14-percent cut. The White House says the President and his cabinet are working together to create a budget that keeps the President's promises. 

"Immigration officers are finding the gang members, the drug dealers, and the criminal aliens - and throwing them the hell out of our country," said President Trump. 

When asked about the cuts to national security, administration officials say they believe it's too soon to comment since an updated budget will be released later this month. 

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, says this issue has gotten the attention of members on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. He says Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan from Alaska have joined Democrats in opposing these cuts. He added the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee -- Senator Thad Cochran -- has also expressed major reservations. 

"We need the Coast Guard. We do not need this wall. I'm relatively confident that we're going to be able to push back on a bipartisan basis and make sure that the Coast Guard gets the funding that it needs," said Schatz.

Coast Guard officials here in Hawaii say they are still in talks with the administration. Other national security programs that face cuts under the draft proposal include TSA, FEMA, and the Secret Service.  

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