Spending Cuts Hurting Cocaine Interdiction, Admiral Says

Spending cuts imposed by sequestration are devastating efforts to block the flow of cocaine into the US, the director of the Joint Interagency Task Force told the Defense Writers Group in Washington Wednesday. Some 38 metric tons of cocaine that otherwise would have been interdicted will make it to US shores, claimed Coast Guard Rear Admiral Charles Michel.

Some, including the analysts who wrote a major report on drug policy for the Organization of American States (OAS) last week, wonder if it even matters.

Joint Interagency Task Force South headquarters, Key West, Florida (jiatfs.southcom.mil)
Three South American nations -- Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru -- produce the world's coca and cocaine supply, creating about 1,200 metric tons a year of the marching powder. About 500 tons of that are estimated to head for the US.

Michel said the joint command interdicted or disrupted about a third of cocaine shipments to the US last year, but that he expected that figure to drop to between 20% and 25% this year. Both figures are unusually high; the heuristic is that interdiction normally accounts for about 10% of drug trafficking.

"It breaks my heart to see multi-metric-ton cocaine shipments go by that we know are there and we don't have a ship to target it," Michel said. "Once it gets on land, it becomes almost impossible to police up."

Michel blamed not only sequestration, but also a history of declining support within the Defense Department. The task force depends on the US Southern Command for support, and even though that has "always been an economy-of-force theater," more ships and aircraft were devoted to the mission in the past.

"With sequestration, as well as other Department of Defense cuts, those resources become scarcer," he said. At his interagency group based in Key West, Fla., resources have been on a "multi-, multiyear downward trend," Michel said,"particularly for aircraft and vessels. There is more intelligence out there on the movement of cocaine than there are surface vessels to interdict this product," Michel said.

The task force covers an areas 12 times the size of the continental US, but only has a handful of assets, Michel complained.

"Right now… on any given day, I’d estimate that for US capital ships I have about three or four" and a like number of major aircraft assets such as P-3 Orions, he said. "Go back 20 years and we would have multiple times the number of ships and aircraft. It is difficult to resource this mission set, and sequestration has been devastating to it," he said.

Not everyone sees interdiction as a panacea. In last week's OAS report, The Drug Problem in the Americas, while analysts noted that interdiction successfully stopped some drugs from making it to consumer markets, producer countries were more likely to want to use their limited resources elsewhere. They also scoffed at the resort to interdiction in general.

"Interdiction is a joke. At most it will net you 5% of the drug flows, and this is seen by the traffickers as just a cost of doing business," they say in an unattributed quote include in the scenarios section of the report. "They will find another route. It's like just stopping up one mouse hole -- there are not enough resources to stop all routes. "

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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You can get drugs any where at any time

All the money spent on interdiction is a huge waste of money and man power........if the american people had even half a clue about how much is out there on streets.....they would asking a lot of questions about how effective this really is and who is really benefitting from interdiction? That would be military industrial complex and drug dealers making the majority of money off interdiction......

Cocaine and Other Border Drug Interdictions are Meaningless

Arguments over how much cocaine gets through, versus how much gets seized by government agents, are all a worthless façade.

The cocaine market is like any other niche market, in that there are a set number of cocaine users in the United States.  Their market needs can be completely served by smuggling in enough coke to fill roughly thirteen railway cars.   The amount of opiates needed to meet the U.S. demand quota would fill only one railway car. [see Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf].  These are relatively small volume quantities of drugs that afford easy smuggling.  Once the yearly quota is filled, they’re done, game over for now, and with that quota met the DEA has effectively accomplished nothing for the entire year.

The DEA and ONDCP are agencies under constant public siege.  They and similar agencies must continually justify their existence, and they do so by any means they deem necessary, including lying.

Pity party

Well , cry me a river . People that choose to live their live`s running a fool`s errand are soon disappointed . The Obama administration has moved ships from the Caribbean to the " Asian Pacific " area . It was on CNN  months ago . The " just say no " Reagan garbage is dead . This is obviously an actual admission that the " Drug War " really is all about government jobs and money . The U.S.A. military needs that drug war $$$ so that they will have an excuse to intervene into the business of foreign nations . You know , something to do . The tears of Cannabis prohibitionists are a treasure to behold .

Good.

Keep cutting.

Too bad these clowns don't

Too bad these clowns don't care that all drug laws help finance terrorism . . . they're supposed to help and defend this nation, not give aid to Al Qaeda and the Taliban via the drug laws.  Your average soldier would like to see fewer to no wars . . . keeping dope illegal creates wars as seen in 9/11 and what followed.

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