The U.S. Coast Guard could be sailing into rough waters, and it's Washington's fault.

Internal documents obtained by the Washington Post indicate that the Trump administration plans to shift up to $77 million in funding from the Coast Guard to other parts of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is facing increased expenses on the U.S.-Mexican border.

That cut, if it goes through, will surely play havoc with the Coast Guard's plans to update its aircraft and helicopters and to replace aging vessels, some of which have been in service since the 1940s.

The Coast Guard's budget request for fiscal 2018 was roughly $10.5 billion, which is a fortune to mere mortals but a pittance in terms of Washington. (By contrast, the Coast Guard's oceangoing big brother, the Navy, is budgeted $191 billion.)

With nearly 41,000 officers and men and 7,000 reservists, the Coast Guard is a lean, mean organization.

Past administrations have often stretched their budgets and avoided uncomfortable tax increases by reaching in the Coast Guard's cookie jar. Well, not many crumbs are left.

And with threadbare resources, it's worthwhile to remember what the Coast Guard is doing out there. It's not just recovering stranded boaters (although that's really important, when one of those boaters is your grandpa or child.)

Yes, border security is important, but the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are our borders, too. The Coast Guard plays a major role preventing the smuggling of drugs and other contraband; last year, it seized and confiscated more than 450,000 pounds of cocaine at sea.

It wasn't too long ago that foreigners from Latin America, in large numbers, were bound for America in rickety boats. Boat traffic across the Mediterranean by migrants from Africa has become a major headache in Europe. If the southern land border hardens, it seems likely that nonlegal migrants will take to the waves again -- straining the Coast Guard's stretched resources.

Coast Guardsmen in Wilmington and elsewhere have key roles in maintaining port security -- helping ensure that foreign terrorists (remember them?) don't slip in the country by boat or try to strike at our shipping.

There's almost no fat left on the Coast Guard's budget so any cut will hurt.

The administration tried something similar in 2017, proposing to take 14 percent of the Coast Guard's budget to pay for the border wall. That notion was torpedoed when coastal congressmen and local interests put up a fuss.

It looks as if we'll have to do the same thing again. "Semper paratus" (always ready) is the Coast Guard's motto. Its friends had better be ready to fight.