Wed., April 7, 2010 5:18pm (EDT)

Coast Guard Plans Ga. Cuts
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 4 years ago

ST. MARYS, Ga.  —  
A Navy helicopter from the U.S.S. Vincent delivers humanitarian supplies to the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk off the coast of Port-au-prince Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.  Several Coast Guard vessels experienced mission-altering mechanical problems during the Haiti mission.  A nationwide reorganization puts a high priority on new ships, not marine safety units, like one in St. Marys.  (photo U.S. Coast Guard)
A Navy helicopter from the U.S.S. Vincent delivers humanitarian supplies to the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk off the coast of Port-au-prince Friday, Jan. 15, 2010. Several Coast Guard vessels experienced mission-altering mechanical problems during the Haiti mission. A nationwide reorganization puts a high priority on new ships, not marine safety units, like one in St. Marys. (photo U.S. Coast Guard)
Residents in coastal St. Mary's are defending a U.S. Coast Guard security team destined for cuts under a nationwide reorganization.

The Coast Guard is downsizing to meet President Obama's call for belt-tightening in the federal government.

Part of the plan calls for cutting five of the nation's 12 marine safety and security teams, including an 85-person unit in St. Mary's.

Sheilla McNeil heads a local group heading to Congress this week to lobby against the cuts.

"To start this downward trend and cut them, in what is essential, is a disaster," McNeill says. "At a time when we're spending unspeakable amounts for jobs bills, we're laying them off in an area we desperately need more."

The unit provides high-level specialized security and is the only one of its kind in the South Atlantic.

Officials guage its local economic impact at $9 million.

The Commandant in charge of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Thad Allen, says, he's had to make hard choices.

His priority is replacing a fleet of obsolete ships.

About 1,100 Coast Guard crew could be cut nationwide.