President Trump wants to cancel a Coast Guard cutter now entering production at Huntington Ingalls Industries‘ shipyard in Mississippi, part of a larger effort to slash spending on coastal security.
The proposal, which is listed in draft budget documents, has already sparked opposition among Congress and other groups. HII received a $486 million contract in December to build the National Security Cutter at its Ingalls Shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss. It would be the ninth NSC to roll off the production line.
“The ship is well underway,” Ingalls spokesman Bill Glenn said in an email. Most material has been ordered and significant planning and engineering work has been done. The yard was scheduled to begin cutting steel this week, he said.
The financial fallout to the company of a contract cancellation could not be determined. An estimate released by a Mississippi lawmaker pegged the cost of terminating the contract at $250 million, which would ultimately be borne by taxpayers. The Associated Press reported the news last week, one day before Trump made a grandiose entrance at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding to lead cheers for his vision of a larger Navy. That would include an additional nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, built exclusively in Newport News. Ingalls Shipbuilding would also stand to benefit from the president’s push for a 350-ship fleet. Besides Coast Guard cutters, the the Gulf Coast shipyard builds guided-missile destroyers, “big-deck” amphibious assault ships and smaller, versatile amphibs that are prized by the Marine Corps.
Ingalls-built cutters are considered the flagships of the Coast Guard fleet. The NSC ships are designed to replace Hamilton-class cutters that have been in service for 40 years. The ships carry enough supplies to stay at sea for 60 days without being resupplied. They can launch helicopters and smaller watercraft, sweep the area with 3-D radar and come equipped with six 50-caliber machine guns and one 57-millimeter turret-mounted gun. The president’s move to cancel production is part of a plan to slash 14 percent from the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget, The Washington Post has reported. Cuts are also proposed for the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cuts to the Coast Guard and other agencies would free up funds to build Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, provide immigration detention beds, hire more border patrol agents and other moves related to a crackdown on illegal immigration, the Post said.
Last week, Ingalls christened NSC Kimball, its seventh cutter, in front of 1,000 guests. Rep. Steven Palazzo stood nearby as ship’s sponsor Kay Webber Cochran smashed a bottle of sparkling wine against the bow. Palazzo, a Republican, later expressed his concern about Trump’s stance on the Coast Guard in an email to the Daily Press.
“Despite waste, fraud and abuse occurring at every level of federal government, I don’t believe cutting our Coast Guard is the first and best option for our administration,” he said. He said the Coast Guard does more to stem the flow of illegal immigrants than any government agency except for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“To cut the Coast Guard to pay for border fencing would be inefficient and conflicting to the president’s homeland security mission,” he said.
Palazzo’s office also released the $250 million estimated cost to taxpayers that could be tied to a cancellation, including cost of material and other obligations. Sen. Thad Cochran, the Mississippi Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, helped insert funding for a ninth cutter into a 2015 spending bill. He also attended last week’s christening. At the time, a Coast Guard spokesman said it had not identified the need for a ninth ship. Cochran countered that a requirement of only eight NSCs was based on an outdated assessment.
Asked this week about Trump’s proposal, Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said in an email: “Chairman Cochran appreciates the Coast Guard’s important role in protecting U.S. national security interests. Any proposals to reduce support for the Coast Guard will receive careful scrutiny in Congress.”
Along those same lines, Palazzo noted that Trump’s proposal is “a recommendation at this point,” and the power of the purse belongs to Congress. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, was more direct. He penned a news column saying the “proposed Coast Guard budget is an insult. It undercuts the service to nearly the point of paralysis. It cancels a National Security Cutter, despite the need for as many as five to six more.”
Hunter chairs a subcommittee on the Coast Guard and maritime transportation. The Military Officers Association of America has also weighed in against cuts to the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Finally, 23 senators blasted the Coast Guard proposed cuts in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. Twenty of the signers were Democrats, three were Republican.
Lessig can be reached by phone at 757-247-7821.
Sewanee Police Chief Marie Eldridge, left, is presented with a Patriot s Award by Mary Sons, a representative of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, accompanied by Donnie Burnett, a Specialist with the Tennessee National Guard and Sewanee patrolman who nominated Eldridge for the award. The event took place at the Sewanee Police Station on Tuesday evening.
Photo provided. STAFF WRITER
philip j. Lorenz III
When Sewanee police officers and staff were gathering for a department meeting Tuesday evening, Police Chief Marie Eldridge was surprised to learn that she was to be the recipient of a Patriot Award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Eldridge had been told an award presentation would take place, but she did not know the details what it would be or who would receive it.
Mary Sons, a representative of Tennessee Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and county clerk, presented the award to Eldridge as Sewanee Patrolman Donnie Burnett, who had nominated the chief for her unwavering support of his Tennessee Army National Guard service, stood with them during the presentation. The award reads, For Contributing to National Security and Protecting Liberty and Freedom by Supporting Employee Participation in America s National Guard and Reserve Force. Burnett, who is an 88M (a lead truck driver) Specialist in the Tennessee National Guard, had nominated Eldridge recently during a briefing Sons had given at his 1175th National Guard unit in Tullahoma.
He said Eldridge has been very supportive of him and another patrolman who serve in the Tennessee National Guard. When the two men have reserve duty, Eldridge has ensured they still receive their overtime pay and helps them with scheduling. Sons said she is proud to have a role in supporting military service members in the community.
This is the exciting part of my job because I enjoy recognizing citizens who support our military and make their civilian jobs easier when they have to be off work for military leave, protecting my freedom, said Sons. Almost half of our military force resides in the National Guard and Reserve. Those who serve in the Reserve Component also have civilian employers. When employers like Chief Marie Eldridge support their military employees, they too take part in our national security. ESGR is a Department of Defense office, established in 1972, to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee s military commitment.
We educate our service members and their civilian employers regarding their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, Sons said.
Sean Gallagher is the Baltimore-based IT editor and national security editor of Ars Technica, the Cond Nast website covering technology news. In an earlier life, Sean was a naval officer whose computer skills landed him assignments as network administrator and computer security officer. He s plugged into the world of national security, cybersecurity and intelligence. Today, Dan and Sean discuss the Russian connection to Donald Trump and the 2016 Trump campaign for president, the resignation of national security adviser Mike Flynn, the president s frequent trips to Mar-A-Lago, and what people in security and intelligence think about Trump s use of an Android device for his many Tweets. Sean just wrote a story about all that: Trump s security faux-pas palooza.
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