Menemsha Coast Guard Station Faces Sequestration Cuts

But Dukes County's only Coast Guard station will remain open regardless of federal budget cuts, said officer in charge Jason Olsen.

The United States Coast Guard would see a direct impact if the automatic spending cuts under sequestration go into effect on Friday.

But the Coast Guard station on Martha's Vineyard won't close its doors, officer in charge Jason Olsen said Thursday.

"Station Menemsha will still be running," said Olsen, adding that there are 26 men living at the station. It is the only Coast Guard facility in Dukes County.

Lt. Paul D. Rhynard of the Coast Guard Office of Public Affairs said he is being cautious in discussing what effect sequestration might have on the service. However, he said that local officers like Olsen will be given "a certain amount of flexibility" in implementing bidget cuts if sequestration takes place.

"Nobody knows beter what needs to be done than the officer in charge of patrolling the area," Rhynard said Thursday.

The sequestration plan calls for a $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending over the next decade if Congress and the White House fail to come to a consensus on addressing the federal deficit by the end of the month. The White House recently sent out figures detailing the impact on each state, warning of “severe impacts” nationwide in areas such as education, law enforcement, and economic development.

“Though the reductions will have impacts across all Coast Guard activities, we won't speculate on how these reductions might impact specific units, programs or activities,” Rhynard said. “Our approach is to allocate funds and resources to prevent disruptions and preserve the most essential operations. That said, maintaining workforce training and operational proficiency is a major priority in our planning process.”

Rhynard said decisions regarding where sequestration cuts would occur have been made based on the goals of preserving the Coast Guard’s ability to perform its most critical missions and maintain operational efficiency; avoiding civilian employee furloughs; avoiding “irrevocable impacts” on the service; and mitigating any disruption to maintenance activities, workforce training, and acquisitions projects.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the service is anticipating $439 million in cuts. The report says the service’s budget increased 23 percent between 2006 and 2012, but that the cut would be the second budget reduction for the service in three years.

The report states that funding for the Coast Guard declined by $500 million between 2010 and 2012. Coast Guard officials have also expressed their frustration with the service’s aging cutter fleet, whose ships have experienced increasing non-operational time due to mechanical problems or other issues.  

In remarks to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Feb. 14, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said several Coast Guard operations would be affected by sequestration. Napolitano said the service would have to curtail surface and air operations by 25 percent, leading to reduced effectiveness of operations and a deferral of maintenance and training.

Napolitano also said the Coast Guard would have to reduce its patrols in the 3.4 million square mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, impacting the service’s effectiveness in areas such as fisheries enforcement.

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