From today's Miami Herald-
KEY WEST - The U.S. Coast Guard, one of the key lines of defense in the Florida Straits on homeland security, drug smuggling and migrant interdictions, took eight of its 10 Key West-based patrol cutters out of action indefinitely Thursday because of structural problems.I just can't see how an 80% loss in Coast Guard cutters won't effect the security of the US' southern border. Florida has hundreds of miles of coastline and people and drugs are smuggled in regularly when the CG is at full strength.
The decision, announced by the Coast Guard's top commander, Adm. Thad Allen, who flew to Key West to tell crews personally, will create a hole in surveillance and law enforcement of the Florida Straits at a potentially critical time, with the failing health of Fidel Castro.
''I would say there is no good time for this,'' said Commander Brendan C. McPherson, a spokesman for the admiral.
Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard and former commander of District 7, which includes Key West, said a contingency plan is in the works to ensure that the hole is filled.
''We know we require a credible presence in the Straits of Florida,'' he said. ``No matter what happens [with the fleet], there will be a credible presence in the Straits of Florida.''
The eight cutters -- the Atty, Manitou, Matagorda, Metompkin, Monhegan, Nunivak, Padre and Vashon -- were tied up at the Key West Coast Guard base Thursday. Allen said he did not know if the cutters will sail again.
Their crews -- the cutters normally carry 16 -- will be reassigned, many to double up with crews on other boats, Allen said.
''These are really proud sailors and to have their cutters tied to the dock is a hard thing to take,'' said Chris O'Neil, Coast Guard spokesman for District 7. 'But we are a military organization and take our orders, say `Aye, aye' and press on. We're there to save lives and protect the country and we're going to do that regardless of the platform available to us.''
Allen said he knows firsthand that under normal circumstances there can't be a drop in patrolling of the waters between the United States and Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. A sudden mass migration, he said, would be a ''totally different scenario'' and the Coast Guard and other agencies would deploy all necessary resources to the area.
This story should be getting a lot more press. It's buried in the Key West section of the Herald. The cutters being out of service have far more reaching effects than just on that one part of Florida. I would have to think there are national security implications from the Coast Guard cutters being out of service.
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