Thousands of members of the U.S. Coast Guard did not get paid yesterday. They are among the estimated 800,000 federal employees whose checks are being withheld because of the partial government shutdown.
CBS News reports that about 42,000 Coast Guard members are working without pay during the shutdown because they are deemed “essential” employees. About 10,000 civilian Coast Guard employees have been furloughed.
One of the primary missions of the Coast Guard is to guard the nation’s coastlines. According to the Coast Guard’s website, every day it seizes on average 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana. It also intercepts on average 17 illegal migrants trying to enter the country.
So let’s put this in perspective. The fight in Congress over border security has resulted in the federal government not paying some of the very people who are responsible for stopping illegals and drugs from entering the country.
The Coast Guard has many other responsibilities. On the average day the Coast Guard conducts 45 search and rescue operations, saves ten lives, conducts 24 security boardings at U.S. ports, screens 360 merchant vessels for security threats and investigates 35 pollution incidents.
The Coast Guard has been around since the founding of the country. President George Washington signed the Tariff Act in 1790 that created the agency. Today it serves as “both a federal law enforcement agency and a military force,” according to its website. So while Washington has funded the defense department, an important division of the military—the Coast Guard—is not funded.
CBS News reports that the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club in Alameda, California held a food drive to help cash-strapped Guard families. “It allowed them not to worry about a grocery bill this week,” said Nicole Lauer, club vice president.
What kind of government requires people to perform essential duties—and in some cases put themselves at risk—and does not compensate them? Yes, I know they will all get paid in full when the shutdown ends, but when will that be? Are members of the Coast Guard and dozens of other federal agencies pawns in this fight?
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson says she is working with the White House and Congress to pass a bill to fund the Coast Guard during the partial government shutdown. “Like the other branches of the U.S. military, active duty (Coast Guard members) should be paid for the service and sacrifice to this nation,” she wrote on Twitter.
Well, we’ll see what happens on that. In the meantime, the Coast Guard remains on the job, as it has been for the last 229 years. You would think that one of the oldest and most reliable organizations in this country would be treated with more respect than it is currently receiving from the political class in Washington.