Trump Budget Slashes Coast Guard, Recruits Agents For Remote Maine Border Posts
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Thursday, March 16, 2017 9:46 AM
An early peek at the president’s budget, which is expected to arrive in Congress on Thursday, March 16, indicates Trump wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion, including boosting border and immigration efforts by $5 billion.
Isolated outpost: The Coburn Gore U.S. border station in Franklin County, Maine, is surrounded by woods. (Photo by David Greenwood, Jones and Stokes. 2006)
He plans deep cuts to the Coast Guard budget, security and surveillance at airports and train stations, and community-level national disaster readiness for hurricanes and floods to help pay for it, according to internal White House documents that were first reported on by Politico last week.
The increases include almost $3 billion to build Trump’s “impenetrable wall” on the Mexico-U.S. border, plus another $1.9 billion to build immigration detention centers and transport illegals back to the border, according to the Washington Post.
The U.S. Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, would be cut by 14 percent — a proposal that critics say will undermine coastal security and open up opportunities for increased drug smuggling and other organized criminal activity.
Maine, with 3,480 miles of coastline and roughly 3,000 islands, is home to over 600 active and reserve Coast Guard personnel and 55 staff, according to 2016 data available from Governing, a trade magazine for state and local government officials.
Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sen. Angus King joined Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate who are opposed to the cuts.
Pingree said the president’s proposal was reckless and vowed she would not stand for cuts to either the Coast Guard or to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). King joined other senators in signing a letter to Trump budget officials expressing concern that the Coast Guard, which has seen budget cuts since 2010, would be unable to respond to individual and national emergencies or protect the nation’s economic and environmental interests if further cuts are made.
Rep. Bruce Poliquin said he will wait to make a decision on whether to support cutting the Coast Guard budget. Sen. Susan Collins did not respond to a request for her position by press time.
While cuts proposed to the Coast Guard loom, incentives are already in place to lure border patrol recruits to far-flung Maine border crossings. New hires with no experience can land $33,000 a year, plus a 25-percent locality increase and the opportunity for $35,000 in additional overtime pay, at only two locations in the Northeastern U.S. — Jackman, Maine (population 862), and Coburn Gore, Maine (population 61, when all the 13 townships are included).
Sleepy Coburn Gore has a prominent place in Maine history. A pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold led an inept military expedition through its buggy woods and a 12-mile canoe portage. Some of his men survived on candle wax and shoe leather before they arrived in Quebec after Arnold’s bungled communications had tipped off the British. Arnold later switched allegiance and led the British in battle against Revolutionary troops he once commanded, which is why his name is now a byword for treason.
Trump’s budget proposes to spend $285 million to hire about 10 percent of the 15,000 new border agents and immigration officers he ultimately wants to put in place, according to Politico.
Some of those jobs could be at Coburn Gore.