Cuts proposed to FEMA, Coast Guard, airport security

Budget document redirects those costs to border wall, immigration crackdown

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WASHINGTON — A federal agency that poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Cedar Rapids to help it recover from the historic 2008 flood is among those that face budget cuts as the Trump administration searches for ways to pay for a multibillion-dollar border wall with Mexico and a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Under a proposal drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget, the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides relief after natural disasters, and the Transportation Security Administration, which provides security at airports, would each be cut about 11 percent. That would reduce FEMA’s budget to about $3.6 billion and TSA’s budget to about $4.5 billion.

Additionally, the Coast Guard’s budget would be cut 14 percent, to about $7.8 billion.

The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees all of them, grows 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion, according to the draft obtained by the Washington Post.

Some $2.9 billion of that would go to building the border wall. About $1.9 billion would be for “immigration detention beds” and other enforcement expenses; and $285 million would go toward hiring 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and staff.

“The Budget aggressively implements the President’s commitment to construct a physical wall along the southern border,” the draft states.

A White House spokesman cautioned the Trump administration still is early in the process of working on the budget, which will go to Congress this month.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R.-Calif., who supported Donald Trump’s run for president and oversees the House Transportation subcommittee on the Coast Guard and maritime transportation, questioned whether budget officials and Trump are on the same page.

“If the president is serious about getting after the cartels and getting after drug networks, this makes no sense,” he said.

At the TSA, the proposed budget cuts, first detailed by Politico, would eliminate four programs that have been considered a vital piece of airport security and preventing a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Training for what is known as the “armed pilot” program would be eliminated. The training was intended to prepare pilots and crews for an attempted armed takeover of an aircraft.

TSA programs also on the chopping block, according to the draft, are one that sends armed teams of trained, uniformed agents to sweep airports, train stations and bus terminals; $45 million in grants that local law enforcement uses to patrol airports; and a program that deploys specially trained agents to airports to monitor passenger behavior.

At FEMA, the proposed cuts would slash some programs whose effectiveness have been questioned — like research into bio threats.

But the plan also eliminates or reduces the federal commitment to helping states and local governments prepare for natural disasters through training, salaries and equipment.

And homeowners in flood-prone areas would be levied a surcharge on their flood insurance, although officials have been asked to come up with a plan to limit it for “lower-value” homes.

After the 2008 flood, FEMA pumped more than $643 million into Cedar Rapids to help recovery efforts.

The Washington Post and B.A. Morelli of The Gazette contributed.

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