An essential mission

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 9:15pm

It may seem that the partial government shutdown that has been in place for the past two weeks or so is nothing more than some sort of abstract policy fight between the White House and Congress, with no real tangible effects to our local lives or economy.

But the U.S. Coast Guard is very much part of the fabric of life here in New England, as we have seen in a most critical way in the past few days.

And as part of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is right in the path of direct impact if the shutdown continues for longer periods of time. According to Petty Officer 3rd Grade Andrew Barresi, the Coast Guard was paid on Dec. 31, and is due to be paid on Jan. 15 — if the shutdown comes to a halt. If it doesn’t, no pay.

Despite that, the Coast Guard “will continue to report for duty and to make sure these critical missions are completed,” said Barresi to The Block Island Times — much like the critical mission that was undertaken to valiantly search for two fishermen who went missing off the coast of Block Island on Jan. 1.

This is the job of the Coast Guard, and their presence is critical to the health and well being of Block Island, whether it is for medical emergencies or any other event that may occur in the cold, unfriendly Atlantic winter.

That policy fight in Washington may seem like an ideological battle only, but it is not. The fact that the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard don’t let political infighting impact their work is a testimony to their dedication and the importance of their mission. Even so, we hope that dysfunction in Washington will not interrupt this essential mission for much longer.