Donald Trump, and his zealot supporters, believe that the greatest security threat to America is a Southern border with Mexico without a wall; even though there have not been any terrorist attacks launched from our ally directly to the South. There have, however, been terror attacks from the air and due to America’s expanse of coastlines, they are a favored means of smuggling everything from illegal weapons to illegal drugs into America. One might think that protecting the skies and seas from terrorists and deadly contraband would qualify as crucial to national security, but that is not the case with the Trump and there are plans in the works to trade away national security protections for a border wall with Mexico.
Since the Trump lied about “forcing” Mexico to fund his East German-style multibillion-dollar border wall he claims is crucial to protecting national security, he wants to slash funding for agencies that really protect America’s national security. The Trump plan is a rash of very significant, and dangerous, funding cuts to the United States Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies that actually focus on defending against national security threats. Some of the details of trading national security for a political vanity wall were revealed by the Washington Post.
The Trump proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would slash the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural and man-caused disasters. The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget would be cut by roughly 14 percent, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be cut by 11 percent each. Apparently in the Trump brain trust, it is prudent to slash funding for real national security agencies that actually serve to protect Americans to partially fund a border wall that serves no other purpose than making a political statement.
It is curious that the Trump’s proposed cuts are being planned even as the budget plan for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees all of the agencies set for reductions, is set to grow by about 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion. Some of the increased DHS funding, about $2.9 billion, will be applied to the cost of building Trump’s wall to keep Mexicans out, and trapped Americans inside of the nation’s borders. The coastal borders will be freer to infiltrate and escape through because there will be substantially fewer Coast “Guard” assets due to Trump-Bannon’s lust for a Mexican border wall. In fact, the Trump OMB’s draft proposal spends billions taken from real national security agencies, to pay for “immigration detention beds” and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) costs to fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge to purge Mexicans from “America the great.”
Some of the cuts are just beyond comprehension and as California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter said, “This makes no sense.” Duncan noted that the Coast Guard is crucial to stopping illegal immigration and the flow of drugs into the United States from South America, “if the president is serious about getting after the cartels and getting after drug networks.”
Included in the proposed cuts is canceling a contract for a “national security cutter” (big boat with weapons), and “deactivating” Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT) that are actually keeping Americans safe and protecting national security. The MRSTs are tasked with carrying out “counterterrorism patrols in ports and sensitive waterways,” but they are set for deactivation so Trump will be a big beautiful wall on the Mexican border. Who needs counterterrorism patrols and national security cutters to keep out water-borne terrorists when there is a wall in the desert to keep migrant farm workers from planting and harvesting the fields.
A national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, former Navy helicopter pilot Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, said that these decisions would effectively sideline the service in missions in which it could be the most effective. Mr. Nelson said:
“If they’re not there to do it, who is there to do it? We’re not going to put destroyers and frigates off the coast to protect those ports. That’s a Coast Guard mission and capability.”
As first reported over at Politico, the TSA budget cuts will eliminate four specific programs that are universally considered “a vital piece of airport security” meant to prevent a repeat of the terror attacks on 9/11; especially a hijacking after passenger jets are in the air. The former TSA administrator, John S. Pistols, said, “To me, it’s a relatively small investment for the potential for the risk-mitigation value. It’s all about how much risk do you want to take on.”
Additional cuts will be to a program that sends armed teams of highly trained, uniformed agents to sweep airports, train stations and bus terminals commonly known as the VIPR teams (for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response). Those VIPR teams were crucial in guarding against terrorist attacks in late January during the inauguration and were deployed to Reagan National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, Amtrak’s Union Station and D.C.-area subway stations.
The cuts also include eliminating grants that fund local law enforcement officers to patrol in and around airports, as well as scrapping a program for specially-trained TSA agents to observe passenger behavior in airports. The highly-trained “observers” are able to single out people who “appear to behave oddly.” And no, being dark-skinned or wearing a head scarf does not qualify as “appearing to behave oddly.”
Officials with FEMA noted that the cuts will undermine a long-promoted and refined national response system requiring local communities to follow “the same emergency response strategies,” and will result in an “unsophisticated response to national emergencies.” The first vice president of the International Association of Emergency Managers, Nick Crossley, said pouring money cut from FEMA to border security, like a Mexican wall, would be “catastrophic.”
“When you propose not just cuts but draconian cuts, your ability to respond to a disaster can cause lives to be lost and property to be damaged. Defense and security at the border are important. But you’re damaging the national system that makes us the strongest country when it comes to being prepared for disasters.”
Look, it’s painfully obvious that being prepared for disasters, natural or manmade, like preventing terror attacks by air and sea, are unimportant to Trump. However, building a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants from Mexico who are likely crossing the border to do backbreaking agricultural work is of monumental importance to not just Trump, but his xenophobic acolytes and white supremacist support group as well. What is glaringly apparent is that Trump will have no issue cutting agencies responsible for protecting national security to fund a political pledge to nativism because that is what a Southern border wall really is; a monument to Trump’s bigotry.