Drug Czar "Sends a Message" to the Pentagon Over Anti- Drug Budget: Military Reluctant To Expand Drug War Involvement 11/15/97

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Retired four-star general and current Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey last week publicly threatened the Pentagon that he would not "certify" their 1999 budget unless $141 million was re-directed from other operations to fight the Drug War. McCaffrey has statutory authority to carry out this threat, but his ultimatum was not met with enthusiasm by officials at his former agency.

Specifically, McCaffrey demanded the following:

  • An increase to $150 million, from $75 million, to carry on the anti-drug fight in the Andes, where U.S. and local officials are working together to interdict traffic in cocaine.
  • An increase to $162 million, from $132 million, to support the anti-drug activities of the National Guard, which inspects goods and monitors traffic on the Mexican border.
  • An increase of $24 million for a program that trains Mexican officials to locate and arrest drug traffickers and money launderers in the border region.
  • An increase of at least $12 million for a program that attempts to intercept traffickers in the Caribbean basin, which includes southern Florida.

Kenneth Bacon, chief Pentagon spokesman called the amounts "excessive" and disputed either the necessity or the wisdom of each of them, noting that in some cases, the proposed increases would be greater than the military could productively employ. Of particular interest is the $12 million that McCaffrey wants to see go to the program in the Caribbean, currently under the purview of Customs and the Coast Guard, where Bacon says there is "no clear defense role."

An unidentified staff member at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) of which McCaffrey is director, told the Los Angeles Times, "We're doing this to make a point: that the director is serious about his job."

[Source: LA Times, 11/7]

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