What others say: Defend the Coast Guard

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014 8:34pm
  • Opinion

The U.S. Coast Guard rescues Alaskans. Now, it’s the one that may need rescuing.

On Nov. 25, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, creating the largest reorganization of the U.S. government since the creation of the Department of Defense. As part of the Homeland Security Act, authority over the U.S. Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.

Twelve years on, we can safely say that this move has been a mistake.

In recent years, we’ve seen the Coast Guard’s budget slashed even as its duties increase. It must now patrol an entire additional ocean — the Arctic — and it must do so with fewer ships, fewer aircraft, fewer personnel and less support from other government agencies.

We have seen the Coast Guard’s ships suffer from deferred maintenance, and programs to replace the Coast Guard’s fleet have been repeatedly reduced to levels below what Coast Guard commanders have said they need.

Juneau is home to the headquarters of Coast Guard District 17, which means we have been granted a front-row seat to a tragedy. The men and women of the Coast Guard are as good as ever, but the support they receive — or in this case, are not receiving — is pitiful.

The number of “cutter days” in Alaska — the days a ship works at sea — has fallen, according to statistics provided by the Coast Guard to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. So has the number of flight hours for the Coast Guard aircraft assigned to fisheries patrols.

The Coast Guard desperately needs icebreakers for its Arctic and Antarctic missions, but seeking funding for new tools seems like a fool’s errand when the Coast Guard can’t even get the funding it needs to pay for its existing ones.

Something must change.

Congress seems intent to make immigration an issue in the coming year. Early this week, the U.S. Senate approved a House-created bill that funds government operations through September. The Department of Homeland Security wasn’t included in that timeline — it’s been funded only through February.

With a Republican-dominated House and Senate beginning work in 2015, Congress wants to make immigration a political issue. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, will be its focus. That puts the Coast Guard in the crossfire.

Alaska’s interests are best served by a strong and stable Coast Guard. The Department of Homeland Security can’t provide that security.

Where, then, should the Coast Guard go? It belongs in the Department of Defense.

Under the Defense Department, the Coast Guard would be assured of stable funding and a reliable network of support. The Coast Guard already works closely with the U.S. Navy, and it makes sense in terms of efficiency to move the two organizations closer together.

Congress has been reluctant to cut funding for the U.S. military, even during the recent recession, and within the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard would be assured of financial stability — something long lacking.

We doubt Coast Guardsmen would be fans of any move to put their agency within the Department of the Navy, but efficiency and security should take no back seat to inter-service rivalries.

If the Department of the Navy is not a suitable home, the Coast Guard should be named a coequal service alongside the Army, Navy and Air Force. It already performs a job of equal importance, and it’s time that the Coast Guard received the credit it’s due.

— Juneau Empire,

Dec. 16

More in Opinion

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Alaska Voices: Restore our strong campaign donation limits

Without campaign spending limits, the ideal of one person, one vote is no longer really true.

The Final Redistricting Map approved for the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna area is seen on Nov. 9, 2021. (Map via akredistrict.org)
Alaska Voices: The Alaska Redistricting Board’s last-minute gerrymandering failed Alaska

Our Constitution outlines rules for a redistricting process designed to uphold public trust.