Trump Considers Cutting Airport Security Funding to Build Mexico Border Wall
President Donald Trump's administration has proposed deep cuts to the funding of both the TSA and the Coast Guard in order to pay for his planned border wall along the boundary with Mexico.
The proposal for cuts was revealed in an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) document shared with several newspapers, including Politico, who broke the news Tuesday.
This plan would cut the Coast Guard's budget by 14 percent down to $7.8 billion and that of the TSA by 11 percent, down to $4.5 billion. It would also decrease the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA, which provides relief after natural disasters, by 11 percent to $3.6 billion.
“It’s a little bit like putting an extra lock on the front door and none on the back door,” Michael Chertoff, who led the Homeland Security Department for four years, told the New York Times. “You are not really protecting the house.”
The Coast Guard has played a central role in cracking down on the drug trade and piracy, while the TSA has been on the first line of defense against 9/11-style attacks.
“Airlines and the air transportation industry has always been a prime target for terrorists," Ozzie Nelson, national security expert for think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and former counter-terrorism official, told Travel + Leisure. "So diverting resources away from the industry that is probably arguably most targeted by terrorists groups just doesn’t make a lot of sense."
These cuts would eliminate several programs within the TSA that have been central to the U.S. counter-terrorism effort, including training for pilots in the event of an armed takeover, a grant program for law enforcement patrols at airports, and a program that sends undercover and visible agents to conduct sweeps of airports and train stations, according to the same Times report.
"We’re cutting to the bone, in my opinion, on both of these organizations,” Nelson said, noting that the Coast Guard in particular serves a vital role in national security as it can act both as law enforcement and as an agent of the Department of Defense.
“The role of the Coast Guard is continuously underestimated and we do so at our peril,” he said.
Money for these programs and others would instead be diverted to beefing up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as building the wall on the southern border with Mexico. Around $1.9 billion would go to ICE and $2.9 billion would be dedicated to building the wall, the Washington Post reported.