Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Russian diplomat under U.S. scrutiny in election meddling speaks

Go to Original

A Russian diplomat who worked in the Washington embassy left the country last August while federal investigators examined whether he played a key covert role in the alleged Kremlin-directed plot to influence last fall’s U.S. elections.
Two people with knowledge of a multi-agency investigation into the Kremlin’s meddling have told McClatchy that Mikhail Kalugin was under scrutiny when he departed. He has been an important figure in the inquiry into how Russia bankrolled the email hacking of top Democrats and took other measures to defeat Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump capture the White House, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Kalugin’s name – albeit misspelled ‑ first surfaced publicly in January in a former British spy’s jarring but largely uncorroborated dossier of intelligence collected for Trump’s U.S. political opponents. The 35 pages of opposition research quoted Russian sources claiming that Trump campaign associates had colluded with the Kremlin, including in the public release of Democrats’ emails that proved embarrassing to Clinton at a time when polls found her leading Trump.
Kalugin was “withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation . . . would be exposed in the media,” the former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele reported. “ . . . His replacement, Andrei Bondarev however was clean.”
Now back in Moscow, an indignant Kalugin recently denied the allegations in an email to McClatchy, saying he wanted “to stop once and for all the continuous stream of lies and fake news about my person.”
Kalugin was replaced by Andrey Bondarev, whose first name was spelled differently in the former spy’s dossier. Kalugin said in the email that his return to Russia had been planned and widely known for at least six months before he departed. He now occupies a senior position in the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Interviews with a half-dozen people who’ve met Kalugin elicited contrasting views about his activities and his character while in the United States.
McClatchy reported in January that several law enforcement and intelligence agencies, led by the FBI, are collaborating in the investigation of Russia’s influence on the election. Five congressional panels, including the House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence committees, are conducting their own inquiries.
Several members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, said Monday’s resignation of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser reaffirmed the need for investigations into Russia’s meddling. In resigning Monday, Flynn acknowledged that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador before Trump’s inauguration and had misled others about the nature of the conversation.
Flynn was mentioned in Steele’s reports as one of several U.S. citizens Russia cultivated. In December 2015, Flynn was paid an undisclosed sum to speak at a Moscow gala, where he sat beside Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although Steele began sharing what he’d learned with the FBI last July, it is not clear whether he alerted U.S. investigators to Kalugin or they already were scrutinizing his activities.
Steele, who built a strong reputation in the intelligence world, spent much of his career spying on Moscow and tapped a longtime network of Russian sources. He spent months gathering research about Trump for a Washington consulting firm. Last fall, Mother Jones magazine quoted him, before he was publicly identified, as saying he was so alarmed by what he found that he began sharing information with the FBI.
His dossier, which purports to detail conversations among Kremlin officials between last June and early December, alleges that Trump aides colluded with the Russians in the release of the hacked emails and other parts of the operation. It includes salacious accusations about Trump and impugns some of his associates. Steele’s reports have drawn skepticism for their apparent inaccuracies, especially from Trump and the Russians, who have dismissed them as lies and fake news. However, CNN reported last week that U.S. investigators have verified that some of the Kremlin conversations did occur on the dates Steele described.
Information from the dossier began to seep into news reports before the election. On Jan. 9, days after FBI Director James Comey advised President-elect Trump that the dossier suggested the Russians may have compromising information about him, the Internet news site BuzzFeed posted the entire document. Trump called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage,” and the news site drew other criticism for publishing the unsubstantiated accusations from murky sources. A Russian-owned tech firm named in the dossier has since filed a defamation suit against BuzzFeed.
Steele has not been seen in public since he was identified as the author of the dossier in January.
A Steele report, dated Sept. 14, 2016, said Kalugin was involved in moving “tens of thousands of dollars” to cyber hackers and other operatives through a system that distributes pension benefits to Russian military veterans living in the United States.
One of the sources familiar with the federal investigation gave credence to parts of that statement, saying: “The Russian embassy was known to funnel payments and make contacts with current Russian citizens, former Russian citizens who are now American citizens, and American citizens.”
Steele quoted his sources as saying Russia had used its consulates in New York, Washington and Miami as conduits to disguise money flowing to its operatives as pension payments. Russia, however, doesn’t have a consulate in Miami.
The possibility of such an arrangement didn’t surprise Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University in Virginia.
“Russian pension funds historically are poorly monitored, and vulnerable to manipulations by individuals who have been associated with the government,” said Shelley, who has written extensively about Russian corruption and money laundering.
Spokespeople for the FBI and the CIA declined to comment about Kalugin.
Trump tweeted harsh responses Wednesday to a cascade of news about Russia, including a New York Times report that U.S. investigators had listened to electronic intercepts of frequent conversations between several Trump aides and Russian intelligence officials during the election campaign.
“Fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred,” he wrote.
U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement that Putin ordered a broad operation to interfere with the election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and those of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
In an email exchange with McClatchy, Kalugin declined to answer specific questions. But he wrote: “In my capacity as the head of the Economic Section of the Embassy in the U.S., I had nothing to do with the distribution of retirement payments to the Russian citizens in the United States. It is done by the Russian consular service and the whole system is very transparent.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said in a recent Facebook posting that the reports about Kalugin are “garbage” and “incredible crap.” Moscow especially disputes the allegation that Kalugin was whisked out of the United States quickly; Zakharova said it had been known “half a year in advance” that Kalugin would be departing in August, at the end of a six-year tour.
“We completed our assignment in the U.S. in August 2016 as it had been scheduled in advance,” Kalugin wrote. “Our plans were very well known to our American colleagues and friends.”
Like diplomats worldwide, Kalugin had immunity that would have protected him even if he had stayed in the United States. If a diplomat is caught spying, U.S. authorities usually have little recourse beyond expelling him. But by returning to Moscow, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, Kalugin is out of investigators’ grasp.
The Cold War ended long ago, but the spying game never did. A former U.S. intelligence official said it wouldn’t be unusual for an officer in a Russian intelligence agency, or even an American one, to hold an economic post such as Kalugin’s.
“Everyone does that, but the Russians do it more than anyone else,” said the official, who declined to be identified because the issue is sensitive.
Indeed, when President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats as intelligence operatives on Dec. 28, weeks before he left office, they held a range of embassy titles, including at least one cook, said a person with knowledge of the expulsions, who wouldn’t be identified because of the secret nature of the work.
Those acquainted with Kalugin, who was chief of the embassy’s economic section, described him in different ways, from shy to arrogant.
Earl Rasmussen, a vice president of the Eurasia Center, a group that promotes trade with Russia and its neighbors, said Kalugin “knew issues of concern to him and of concern to the other side.” He said the diplomat had spoken of his planned departure for months and the two men had lunch a week before Kalugin flew home.
“I knew of his departure a minimum of six months prior,” Rasmussen said. “He was planning on taking time off to get his family settled before going back to work in September in Moscow.”
But Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian crime and security issues, said he “heard from government sources that Kalugin seemed to take some interest in more than just economic issues” at the embassy. The Russians “have a substantial intelligence role within their embassy,” said Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.
Anders Aslund, a former adviser to Russia and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, described Kalugin as “young, arrogant and with a red beard like (Emperor) Alexander the Third.”
Aslund, a prominent Swedish economist, said the Russian “was very different from the three previous officeholders . . . not very interested in the substance of the economy. One got the impression that he had other interests.”
Any suggestion that Kalugin was involved in the election plot is “totally absurd,” said Alexey Khripunov, a finance executive and a self-described “good friend” who has known Kalugin for years.
Several present and former U.S. government officials and Russia observers said it was likely that Kalugin and his wife, Maria, who worked in the embassy press office and later in the political section, had lived at the Russian Embassy compound.
A former Obama administration official who knew Kalugin called his mention in the dossier “a head scratcher” because Kalugin was so capable in his economic job.
“He was certainly present at a lot of events with the Russian ambassador,” said the official, insisting on anonymity to avoid damaging relationships. “Normally you don’t want to put somebody in a position to embarrass your government in those public positions.”
Kalugin spoke at an event organized by the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce of New England and to some other business councils. In a YouTube video, he was interviewed by China’s CCTV-America.
Kalugin’s LinkedIn profile says he began his service in Washington in the embassy’s U.S. political section. He later became economics chief. His four-year U.S. rotation was extended for two years.
The Kalugins have Facebook pages that show them in Washington but reveal little more. Maria Kalugin’s page displays a single photo of the couple posted on Nov. 8, 2013, at a Hawaiian beach in Maui wearing leis. Another photo, posted in May 2013, shows her smiling behind a White House podium and flashing a V for victory sign. Zakharova joked in a comment alongside the photo: “Well, finally the WH is in good hands.”
Kalugin said his activities in Washington weren’t a secret.
“I have no doubts that all my professional activities were well known to the relevant U.S. authorities,” he wrote. “They can prove my words.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpy

Kalugin was “withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation . . . would be exposed in the media,” the former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele reported. “ . . . His replacement, Andrei Bondarev however was clean.”
Now back in Moscow, an indignant Kalugin recently denied the allegations in an email to McClatchy, saying he wanted “to stop once and for all the continuous stream of lies and fake news about my person.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpyKalugin was “withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation . . . would be exposed in the media,” the former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele reported. “ . . . His replacement, Andrei Bondarev however was clean.”
Now back in Moscow, an indignant Kalugin recently denied the allegations in an email to McClatchy, saying he wanted “to stop once and for all the continuous stream of lies and fake news about my person.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article132761149.html#storylink=cpy

Marine Le Pen and the Existential Stakes In France’s Election

Go to Original

No book has been as prophetic as Camp of the SaintsFrench writer Jean Raspail’s 1973 epic meditation on Western identity, masochism and the extinction of our culture through mass migration. But now Raspail’s claim to be the pre-eminent prophet of Western suicide is being challenged by another French novelist: Michel Houellebecq and his 2015 novel Submission. Submission posited that the French Establishment would do anything to prevent a National Front victory, even if it meant acquiescing to the overthrow of all of French civilization. And that’s precisely what’s happening today, as both the French and the European political classes are using legalistic legerdemain to block Marine Le Pen and leave the Islamization of La République intact.
The hateful gangsters of the European Parliament removed Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity earlier this week, opening her up to charges which could put her in prison for three years. The action came at the request of the French judiciary.
Le Pen’s crime? She tweeted images of Islamic State atrocities, including the beheading of James Foley by the “British man” Mohammed Emwazi.( “Jihadi John.”) [EU Votes To Strip French Presidential Hopeful Le Pen Of Parliamentary Immunity From Prosecutionby Chris Tomlinson, Breitbart, March 1, 2017]
This is apparently a crime in the “free” nation of France—showing that the French government is far more concerned about its citizens finding out about acts of Islamic terrorism than the terrorism itself.
The French government is also taking action at home against Le Pen. Police raided the National Front’s headquarters ostensibly as part of a “fraud” investigation. Le Pen has characterized the action as a “unilateral and illegal decision taken by political opponents… without proof and without waiting for a judgment from the court action I have started”. [Marine Le Pen’s Front National headquarters raided by policeby Kim Willsher, The Guardian, February 20, 2017]
Le Pen is a threat because a Presidential election victory by her National Front would almost certainly mean the end of the European Union. As former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta put it, if Le Pen wins, “it will be game over” . [Former Italian PM: Le Pen Victory Is ‘Game Over’ For The EUby Donna Rachel Edmunds, Breitbart, February 28, 2017]
Marine Le Pen has accused the European Union as it currently exists of being “the problem, not the solution” and speaks in existential terms about the main issue in the election.
“What is at stake in this election is the continuity of France as a free nation, our existence as a people”, she believes. “The French have been dispossessed of their patriotism. They are suffering in silence from not being allowed to love their country … The divide is no longer between the Left and the Right, but between the patriots and the globalists.”
[Le Pen: “It’s Time To Do Away With The EUby Jack Montgomery, Breitbart, February 24, 2017]
Le Pen is also a threat to those who want to start a war with Russia over Syria. The National Front leader says leaving President Bashar al-Assad in power is the more “reassuring” outcome for France in the Syrian Civil War [Le Pen Says Assad May Be Lesser of Two Evils for Syria’s Futureby Dana Khraiche, Bloomberg, February 20, 2017].
On current form, Le Pen will likely make it through the first round of the election, maybe even winning it. She is being targeted now because it appears she has a significant chance to take the second round as well. And even a milquetoast professional token conservative like R oss Douthat suggests she may “deserve to win it”. [Can Populism Take Paris? New York Times, March 1, 2017]
But the preferred candidate of the System is still expected to beat her in the second round. And that man is Emmanuel Macron, a supposed “independent” who represents the EU consensus. Macron is picking up endorsements from both centrists and far-Left figures such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit. [Macron forges ahead as rivals wrestle with legal troublesby Mark Deen, Irish Independent, February 28, 2017] Thus, we have the former street fighters of the hard Left falling into line behind a former investment banker.
Macron is also using the same Russoparanoid strategy currently being employed against American patriots such as Senator Jeff Sessions, accusing Russia of targeting him and calling for a “strong Europe” to counter Russia [France’s Presidential Front-Runner Says Russia Is Hacking Him Nowby Mark Deen, Bloomberg, February 14, 2017]. Needless to say, as with Open Borders fanatics in this country, Russia is the only country Macron isn’t willing to prostrate himself before.
Unlike Barack Obama, who at least managed to win office before beginning his Apology Tour, Macron has already distinguished himself during the campaign by trashing his own country on foreign television, denouncing France’s colonial legacy in Algeria [‘Colonization was a crime against humanity’: French presidential favorite Macron sparks firestorm, RT, February 17, 2017].
Yet what’s far worse were Macron’s casual comments about immigration.
“We have entered a world of great migrations and we will have more and more of it…France will not be able to stem it, and Europe will be affected immediately. We will see a migratory phenomenon far greater than what we have seen [with migrants from] Syria.”
[Emmanuel Macron: Europe faces ‘unstoppable mass migration’ says French PM hopefulby Belinda Robinson, Daily Express, February 26, 2017]
If this is so, then why does France bother having a government? Why even bother discussing issues such as the budget, health care, transportation or energy when every single program is going to be exacerbated by dumping an unlimited African and Arab population on top of it?
The exponential growth of Third World population, especially in Africa, ensures that there will always be an economic rationale for migrants to come to Western countries until the very moment they successfully transform European countries into duplicates of the failed societies that spawned them. Macron’s nihilist liberalism in the face of such an existential threat is almost unfathomable treason.
Yet the European Union, already buckling under the migration crisis and the upsurge of nationalism, is doubling down on the plan to dispossess its own population. The EU is now threatening member nations with heavy fines if it does not take in tens of thousands of refugees [EU prods members to take in the refugees they promised to, ABC News, March 2, 2017].
All too obviously, an emotional attachment to the “European ideal” is still compelling to the political class and the Main Stream Media, and even to some particularly brainwashed populations: it’s driving the possible victory of Martin Schulz in Germany.
But what good is European unity when it is only a means to destroy the existence of Europe itsel f?
The central question in the French election confronts all Western nations, including the United States: Does any European or European-derived nation have the right to prevent itself from being subsumed entirely by the Third World?
Those who deny this right are becoming increasingly comfortable in saying so openly. It is no longer possible to claim those who want more immigration for Europe are arguing in good faith and sincerely believe it will benefit the European people. If current trends continue, it means the Death of the West.
In Europe and America, those who are pushing this know exactly what they are doing.

North Korea says missile launches were training for striking U.S. bases in Japan

Go to Original

In an unusually overt threat to Japan, North Korea said Tuesday that firing a barrage of missiles a day earlier was training for a strike on U.S. military bases in the country — a type of saturation attack that experts say could leave Japan vulnerable.
Monday’s exercise, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe characterized as “a new level of threat,” involved artillery units from the North’s “Strategic Force tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.
Pyongyang demonstrated its growing military capabilities with the apparent simultaneous launch of four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, three of which fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Japan’s Defense Ministry said they flew about 1,000 km and reached an altitude of about 260 km.
KCNA reported that the four missiles were fired at the same time, quoting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying that they were “so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation.”
The report said Kim had personally supervised and ordered the drill.
It added that Kim had ordered the North’s military “to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out anytime.”
The Korean-language version of the KCNA report said the missile launches demonstrated the North’s readiness to “wipe out” enemy forces with a “merciless nuclear strike.”
Observers said the undisguised threat to U.S. bases in Japan was rare, even for Pyongyang, which routinely serves up colorful invectives.
“North Korea provokes but typically with some room for denial,” said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS think tank.
“This removes that space. This is likely a signal in anticipation of the U.S.-ROK exercises. One of Pyongyang’s most important goals is to deter Japan from getting involved in any way in a Korean Peninsula contingency. This is one way of getting that message across.”
ROK is an acronym for South Korea’s formal name, the Republic of Korea.
Meanwhile, Abe said Tuesday that he held talks with U.S. President Donald Trump over the phone, during which the two leaders agreed that the North’s “threat has entered a new phase.”
A day earlier, Abe told a Diet committee session that the test-firing “clearly shows that North Korea is now a new level of threat.”
Experts believe the apparent simultaneous launch represents a potentially dangerous new chapter in the crisis, beyond the Korean Peninsula.
“North Korea is clearly upping the stakes with this new form of ballistic missile testing — a saturation type of test aimed at stoking fear in the U.S. and its allies,” said J. Berkshire Miller, a Tokyo-based international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.
“As Abe noted, this ‘new level of threat’ is both a result of the saturation missile testing and referencing the significant reduction in timing between missile tests,” Miller added.
Japan, despite its deployment of a multilayered missile-defense program in conjunction with the U.S. consisting of sea-based Aegis systems and ground-based Patriot Advanced Capabilities-3 systems, remains vulnerable to saturation attacks.
According to Daniel Pinkston, an East Asia expert at Troy University in Seoul, Japan’s defenses could likely take out some missiles in the event of such an attack, though some could get through.
Pinkston, however, offered the caveat that under that scenario, the North “would focus those salvos on U.S. military bases in Japan” and not civilian sites.
In particular, Pyongyang would likely target bases that would be used in support of the United Nations Command if the armistice that ended the Korean War were to collapse and the peninsula were to return to wartime conditions.
Japan and the U.S. have designated seven existing U.S. bases as being available to support UNC activities, according to the UNC Rear, based at Yokota Air Base in Western Tokyo.
While the North has touted its increasingly advanced missile program, experts analyzing photos released by state media Tuesday believe the missiles launched a day earlier were not longer-range weapons, but rather souped-up versions of a Scud short-range missile. This extended-range (ER) Scud can reach distances of about 1,000 km, putting parts of Japan at risk, according to the country’s 2016 Defense White Paper.
The North also possesses a number of other missiles capable of striking Japan, depending on the target and the launch site. These include Nodongs and others such as the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that was successfully tested last August.
“Missiles that put Japan at risk would be the SLBM (and its land-based variant, the Pukkuksong-2), ER Scud, Nodong, Musudan and up,” said David Schmerler, a researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.
But perhaps most disconcerting for Tokyo is the ER Scud, which a 1999 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report said has “a range comparable to the Nodong, but (is) cheaper to construct.”
Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables have also described the ER Scud as capable of carrying payloads greater than 500 kg — equivalent to a nuclear-weapon sized payload — to a range of approximately 1,000 km, according to the nonprofit U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative.
The uncertainty spurred by the latest missile threat and the effectiveness of defending against salvo attacks is likely to provide momentum to bolster defense capabilities in Japan — including through Aegis ground-based systems and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Washington began to deploy the first elements of the THAAD system in South Korea on Tuesday, U.S. Pacific Command said.
Monday’s test “certainly boosts the case for THAAD or Aegis Ashore or even pre-emptive capabilities, although that last is worrisome on several levels,” the Pacific Forum’s Glosserman said. “The key is to increase uncertainty in North Korean calculations.”
Glosserman, however, noted that while Pyongyang has the ability to launch a barrage of missiles at Japan, such a move would undoubtably spell doom for Kim and his cohorts at the hands of a massive retaliation by U.S.-led forces.
“I think of the North Korean option as ‘one and done,’ ” Glosserman said. “They get one shot at an adversary with a WMD warhead and then success or failure, that is the end of the regime as it currently exists.”

Trump's draft budget proposes billion dollar cut to Coast Guard

Go to Original
By Ryan Browne

President Donald Trump's budget proposal includes a $1.3 billion cut to the US Coast Guard, congressional sources told CNN Tuesday.
The cuts would be applied to an operating budget of about $9 billion, which hawks on the Hill were quick to slam as too deep a reduction to the military branch's funding.
Two sources familiar with the administration's FY2018 budget request told CNN the plan is to boost the Department of Homeland Security's total budget by 6%, up to $43.8 billion. That increase would primarily go to border security and would be paid for with the Coast Guard cuts and reductions to other agencies.
    Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and one of Trump's earliest backers, said the Office of Management and Budget's planned cuts would "severely undermine national security."
    "Such a drastic reduction in Coast Guard funding would not only diminish the Coast Guard's standing and mission," Hunter wrote in a letter to Trump Thursday, it "would severely undermine US national security."
    "A cut to the Coast Guard of $1.3 billion will effectively paralyze the service and create unnecessary risk and exposures to the homeland," Hunter's chief of staff, Joe Kasper, told CNN. "The OMB proposal is a joke, frankly, and it should be treated that way by the President and Congress."
    A different congressional source was skeptical such a proposal could even pass Congress, given the Coast Guard's important role in security. The Coast Guard has played a big role in drug and illegal migrant interdiction, issues Trump has pointed to as the rationale for why a border wall is needed.
    A Coast Guard official told CNN that the service interdicted 6,346 undocumented migrants and 201 metric tons of cocaine and 52,613 pounds of marijuana in 2016.
    The Coast Guard's annual seizures at sea amount to more than three times the quantity of cocaine seized at US borders and within the country combined, the source added.
    "As Trump builds the wall on the Southern Border, it's going to push more migrants and smugglers to the water -- and the only entity there to stop all of it is the Coast Guard," Kasper told CNN.
    "To cut one to pay for the other makes no sense," retired Coast Guard Cdr. Stephen Flynn told CNN.
    A congressional aide familiar with the OMB proposal told CNN that it sought a $43 million cut to the "Maritime Safety and Security Teams" which among other duties, conduct the boarding of vessels during law enforcement actions such as drug interdictions.
    The draft also proposed the cancellation of the acquisition contract for the Coast Guard's ninth National Security Cutter.
    The commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Paul Zunkuft, tweeted Saturday about the new 418-foot armed cutter class ship.
    "When provided the proper tools USCG members exceed expectations. One of those tools is the National Security Cutter."
    Zunkuft has been vocal about the Coast Guard's relative lack of funding when compared to the other military services.
    "We've always prided ourselves as punching above our weight class," he told an audience at a naval conference in San Diego while appearing last month alongside the heads of the Navy and Marine Corps.
    The proposed cuts come as the Coast Guard is increasingly seen as playing an important security role with regard to US interests in the Arctic and Western Hemisphere.
    Russia has been rapidly ramping up its military presence in the Arctic, building new installations and holding large-scale exercises, and the Coast Guard is charged with ensuring US access to the region via its operation of America's only icebreakers.
    "Russia has 40 icebreakers, I've got two," Zunkuft told the conference last month.
    The Coast Guard commandant has accused Moscow of "saber-rattling" by conducting unannounced military drills involving thousands of troops in the Arctic arena.
    And the Coast Guard conducts operations to help secure Mar-a-Lago when President Trump is in residence, helping to safeguard the nearby waters.
    Asked about the proposed cuts, the Coast Guard declined to comment.
    "The Coast Guard is engaged in discussions with DHS and OMB as part of the normal process to finalize the President's budget request to Congress. As these discussions are pre-decisional, we do not comment on these deliberations," Lisa Novak, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, told CNN in a statement.
    An Office of Management and Budget spokesman said any numbers were "premature."
    "The budget blueprint will be released in mid-March. It would be premature for us to comment -- or anyone to report -- on the specifics of this internal discussion before its publication," John Czwartacki said. "The President and his Cabinet are working collaboratively as we speak to create a budget that keeps the President's promises."