Despite the critical role the Coast Guard plays in defending our national security and the many challenges it must overcome in order to do so, under President Barack Obama’s FY 2011 budget proposal the Coast Guard’s budget will decline by 3 percent to $10.1 billion. This will mean that the Coast Guard’s entire budget will be smaller than some agencies in the Department of Defense like the Missile Defense Agency, which operates outside the Pentagon’s armed services. Although most missile defense programs have yet to be successfully tested under realistic conditions, missile defense will receive more funds in the proposed 2011 defense budget than the entire Coast Guard.
In order to confront threats to global security and stability most efficiently and effectively the Obama administration must first create a Unified Security Budget, or USB, to address the imbalance between key elements of our national power. A USB aggregates all categories of national security funding in order to enable policymakers to more readily identify the trade-offs necessary between the many agencies and programs devoted to national security. This is the best vehicle to prepare the U.S. government to confront the threats of the 21st century.
Under a unified budget, savings garnered by cuts in a defense program could be easily moved to finance a homeland security priority. For instance, part of the Navy’s $16.1 billion shipbuilding budget for 2011 includes an extra $2.7 billion for a second Virginia-class submarine, an arguably unnecessary expense in the post-Cold War world. That money could help the Coast Guard buy new ships before large parts of its current fleet are forced into retirement.
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