Trivia time. How long is our border with Mexico verses U.S. borders surrounded by ocean? Times up. The number: 95,471 miles of ocean front property vs. 1,989 miles with Mexico. And that is often left out of our national security and immigration discussion.
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere for his Midnight Ride is said to be given the signal by lantern, “One if by land, and two if by sea.” As seen in the steeple of Boston’s Old North Church relating to Colonial Militia taking up arms against King George’s Red Coats and how they would arrive.
Today that “signal” can be related to our coastline’s foaming porous borders, with a world in disarray that an underfunded and undermanned U.S. Coast Guard is mandated to protect.
Again and again, people argue a “wall” is the be all, end all, answer to the U.S. border problem; yet, how many of us have stood barefoot in the wet sands of that other border making up the Manifest Destiny of America?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the official estimate of U.S. shoreline/border is 95,471 miles. And every single mile comes under the smallest arm of the U.S. military, the least manned, oldest equipped, and even with an increase in budget 2017, is still the least funded branch of service. Welcome to the United States Coast Guard, America’s oldest continuous seagoing service, today seeing 40,000 active-duty personnel and 5,000 Auxiliary.
Some attempt to get to the United States by paying drug smugglers called “coyotes,” who promise illegal immigrants they know the “best way” to get into the United States. As we tighten the land border, entry via our water border is growing. And with thousands in the Middle East moving across North Africa already tempting the waves of the Atlantic, the Coast Guard, already having to do more with less, is getting ready to do just that.
Annually, for years now, the budget of the Coast Guard has rested near the $10 billion mark; just 6- percent of the Naval Department’s budget, not much more than in 2016 and 2017. A bean-counter somewhere in the past two years made available an additional $1.6 billion in acquisition funds to the Coast Guard for more ice breakers and one offshore patrol cutter.
When considering added resources to protect critical port infrastructure, including defense assets, and responding to potential security threats in U.S. ports and waterways, $1.6 billion is hardly enough to the nation’s Homeland Security defense arm that since 9/11 has stepped up a long-standing role in port security.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft delivering the 2016 State of the Coast Guard Address in Washington, Feb. 23, 2016, said, “Looking at the challenges we’re facing in the world today: ladies and gentlemen, you’re going to need a bigger Coast Guard.”
We can build a wall of 1,000 miles, implement immigration reform, and put in place a plan to defeat ISIS. Yet, all that is short sighted unless we provide the Coast Guard with additional personnel and funding for a more modern, bigger fleet. It’s time to focus on the Coast Guard and double its budget over the next five years.