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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 1:18pm

Coast Guard Plans Ga. Cuts

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.