Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
Subcommittee on National Security, International
Affairs, and Criminal Justice
U.S. House of Representatives
October 1, 1996
Interdiction: an integral part of the drug control strategy
It is important to note at the outset that interdiction is an important component of our integrated, systems approach to drug control, as set forth in the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy. Interdiction is a vital complement to a balanced strategy that seeks to: motivate our youth to reject illegal drugs and substance abuse; to increase the safety of America's citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence; and to reduce the health, welfare, and crime costs resulting from illegal drugs. The 1996 Strategy has five goals, two of which focus on interdiction.
GOAL 4: Shield America's air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat.
Objective 1: Identify and implement options, including science and technology options, to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, especially along the Southwest Border.
Objective 2: Lead efforts to develop stronger bilateral and multilateral intelligence sharing to thwart the use of international commercial air, maritime, and land cargo shipments for smuggling.
Objective 3: Conduct flexible interdiction in the transit zone to ensure effective use of maritime and aerial interdiction capabilities.
GOAL 5: Break foreign and domestic drug sources of supply.
Objective 1: Destroy major trafficking organizations by arresting, convicting, and incarcerating their leaders and top associates, and seizing their drugs and assets.
Objective 2: Reduce the foreign availability of drugs through eradication and other programs that reduce drug crop cultivation and through enforcement efforts to attack chemical, money laundering and transportation networks that support trafficking organizations.
Objective 3: Reduce all domestic drug production and availability and continue to target for investigation and prosecution those who illegally divert pharmaceuticals and listed chemicals.
Objective 4: Increase the political will of countries to cooperate with the United States on drug control efforts through aggressive diplomacy, certification and carefully targeted foreign assistance.
Objective 5: Strengthen host nation institutions so that they can conduct more effective drug control efforts on their own and withstand the threat that narcotics trafficking poses to sovereignty, democracy and free-market economies. In the source countries, aggressively support the full range of host nation interdiction efforts by providing training and operational support.
Objective 6: Make greater use of multilateral organizations to share the burdens and costs of international narcotics control to complement the efforts of the United States and to institute programs where the United States has limited or no access.
Interdiction: A priority in principle and practice
The Administration requested $15.1 billion to implement the 1996 Strategy in FY97, $1.4 billion of which will go towards interdiction efforts. Combined with what we spend on source nation support, the amount we spend on preventing illegal drugs reaching our country is $1.8 billion. This is considerably more than the amount spent in the peak "cocaine epidemic" years of 1982-86, when we estimated the nation had 5.7 million cocaine users; today that number is approximately 1.5 million. The percentage of the total drug control budget spent on interdiction has remained steady since 1995, while the percentage spent on demand reduction has actually declined. There is no question that interdiction is an important component of the strategy. Our challenge is to get the most out of these dollars.
Presidential review of cocaine interdiction efforts
After he took office in 1993, the President directed a review of our international drug control efforts in the Western Hemisphere. The result of that seven-month review, completed in November 1993, is referred to as the "source nation" strategy. It is a three-pronged effort to: (1) create and strengthen host nation institutions to give them the wherewithal to fight narco-traffickers with their own forces and resources; (2) target the leadership of the powerful drug cartels; and (3) implement a gradual shift of emphasis in interdiction from the transit zone to the source nations in the Andean Region. This was the right policy decision at the time and it remains an effective strategy today.
Source Country Efforts
Prior to assuming my position at ONDCP, I was the joint military commander responsible for and the principal architect of the Andean Ridge strategy. We devised interagency operations to implement the drug interdiction strategy. Green Clover was a superbly executed military operation which focused on disrupting the Peru/Colombia air bridge. Subsequently, Operation Laser Strike expanded the focus to include operations aimed at disrupting the riverine and coastal criminal drug smuggling. These operations achieved enormous tactical successes because of the professionalism and courage of the U.S. military elements which deployed to support allied police and military forces. The cooperative efforts of the U.S. country teams, the DEA, the U.S. Customs Service, the CIA, and our magnificent U.S. Coast Guard were fundamental to these gains. Perhaps the most important outcome was the team work and confidence we engendered with our hemispheric partners.
Despite interdiction funding below that requested, we have, over the past years, begun to see the initial signs of success with our source nation strategy. That source country strategy, of course, cannot be fully effective without the cooperation and commitment of host nations. In Peru we have seen a full-scale commitment to interdiction which resulted in the destruction of over 20 narco-trafficking aircraft in the past two years, many with intelligence or tracking assistance from the U. S. military forces coordinated by JIATF-South at Howard Air Force Base in Panama.
In Colombia, the Colombian Air Force has forced down and/or destroyed on the ground approximately 25 trafficker aircraft. Colombian law enforcement agencies have also seized almost sixty suspected narco-trafficking aircraft. The Colombian Police and Armed Forces have been superb partners in the past year despite enormous casualties and sacrifice.
Throughout the region, in the past year we have greatly increased our support to host nation interdiction efforts. On any particular day there are about 20 U.S. Coast Guard, Customs, and DOD aircraft involved in source country counterdrug operations. Approximately 300 additional military personnel are deployed in South America supporting Operation Laser Strike. These military personnel operate ground based radar sites in remote Andean locations, fly detection and monitoring aircraft, and provide operational and intelligence support to our allies participating in this regional operation. Our AWACS, P3B's, SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), PHOTINT (Photographic Intelligence), and FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) aircraft all operate in complete prior coordination with regional governments and military authorities.
The results of this multinational, cooperative effort have yielded stunning tactical results. The so-called "air bridge" between Peru and Colombia saw a greater than 50 percent temporary reduction of flights as aircraft were intercepted and, in some cases, shot down. The cost of shipment increased fivefold as pilots demanded more money as their personal risk increased dramatically. Movement was reduced so drastically that there was a glut of coca base on the market and the price of the product being shipped fell by 50 percent overall and by as much as 80 percent in some areas.
Our challenges now are to: further restrict the movement of illegal drugs by air between Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia; block drug traffickers from developing alternate ground, river, and maritime routes; and to assist our South American partners in building the air and military capabilities necessary to defend their sovereign air, land, and sea space from incursion by international criminal drug organizations.
Conducting smarter interdiction operations in the transit zone.
In the transit zone, we continue to operate against well-funded, well-equipped, and increasingly sophisticated adversaries. Over the years we have maintained a robust capability in the transit zone through the cooperative efforts of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, Customs, the CIA, DEA, and allied nations. We orchestrate operations that are based on "cued" intelligence. We develop collaborative intelligence on drug smuggling activities which alerts us to probable drug movements and enables us to target specific ships, aircraft, and containers. Our tactical successes are forcing this criminal empire to move smaller shipments with greater cunning by new patterns.
Drug traffickers have shifted routes and become more sophisticated.
Seventy percent of the cocaine entering the United States comes across the Southwest Border; DEA estimates that the remainder comes through the Caribbean. Following our brilliant air and sea interdiction successes in the 1980s in the western Caribbean, criminal traffickers changed their modes of operations. They used to be able to fly twin-engine civil aviation aircraft from Colombia to small islands in the Bahamas and then air drop drugs into either Florida or our coastal waters for subsequent pick-up by fast boats. Their success was predicated on the "big sky" or "big ocean" theory and on our inadequate detection and monitoring capabilities. In response to this challenge, we developed extensive detection and monitoring capabilities to sort legitimate air and maritime traffic from illicit drug traffic. As our interdiction organizations and strategies became more effective, drug traffickers changed their routes and modes of transportation in response. The contributions of the ROTHR (Relocatable Over the Horizon Radars) elements in Texas and Virginia have been vital, as have been the U.S. Air Force Ground Based Radars in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. We need an additional ROTHR unit in Puerto Rico to complete the long range net. In addition, we rely heavily on the success of the CBRN (Caribbean Basin Radar Network).
We have, as a result of the combined efforts of the Armed Forces, Coast Guard, Customs, DEA, and cooperating governments in Central American and the Caribbean, mostly sealed the western Caribbean approach to drug aircraft and now face a new and perhaps even more complex problem. Cocaine traffickers are challenging our interdiction agencies by approaching the United States indirectly through the eastern Caribbean, and then into Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Mexico land route, and the eastern Pacific, or by hiding their drugs in commercial sea cargo shipments.
Puerto Rico is a natural point of entry because of its central location amidst major lines of communication in the Caribbean and the absence of customs inspections of what is, for all practical purposes, domestic cargo traffic between the island and the continental United States (CONUS). As a result of this increased drug trafficking activity, approximately seven tons of cocaine are smuggled each month into Puerto Rico, 80 percent of it destined for CONUS. Colombian drug traffickers find willing accomplices in the 200,000-300,000 illegal Dominican aliens residing in Puerto Rico. These traffickers charge only 20 percent of the cocaine they smuggle in payment, compared to the 50 percent often demanded by Mexican traffickers.
The consequences of this drug trafficking have been devastating to Puerto Rico. Cocaine sold in Puerto Rico is cheaper than anywhere else in the United States. Violent gangs control almost 1,000 drug distribution points throughout the island and victimize more than 300 public housing areas. The mean age of gang members is 14-17 years. Puerto Rico has a higher per capita murder rate than any other state or territory in the United States, and money laundering is big business there. Officially declared transactions by Dominican couriers in Puerto Rico in 1993 totaled $1.2 billion -- 17 percent of the Dominican GNP.
To meet this challenge in the eastern Caribbean, the Customs Service recently began Operation Gateway, an interagency operation which features expanded maritime and air enforcement, heightened cargo examinations, and more frequent small vessel searches. The program is designed to close the U.S. back door to illicit drug smuggling. We also continue to conduct superb multinational counterdrug operations in the eastern Caribbean through agencies such as the Coast Guard and JIATF-East.
ONDCP recently established the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) to confront the threat posed by international drug trafficking. The HIDTA program has formed 10 task forces and a supporting intelligence coordination center. The effort involves 26 agencies and over 600 Federal, State and local personnel who work to combat drug trafficking and related crimes (e.g. money laundering). The goal is to significantly disrupt drug trafficking and transshipment.
Although this HIDTA effort has only been in operation for eight months, several initial successes indicate that this interdiction effort will make a measurable impact on drug trafficking in the region. During FY96, this HIDTA reported that HIDTA participants arrested 417 individuals, confiscated 14,500 kg of cocaine, 11 kg of heroin, and 13,598 lb of marijuana, and seized $8 million in assets and currency. The leadership of Governor Rosell¢ and his senior prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and the National Guard have been instrumental to our growing successes. We have much more to do and will need more resources in coming years.
Along the critical Southwest Border, we have beefed up our presence to confront the growing challenge of increased overland shipment. We have hardened physical barriers, such as with Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego. We are adding over 1500 personnel in the Border Patrol, Customs, DEA, FBI and the Department of Justice. We will continue to bolster our joint interdiction efforts along the Southwest Border. We will continue to work with Mexico to return the rule of law to our common border. To that end, we would hope to see the Border Patrol double by the year 2000.
The U.S. Armed Forces provides enormous support to this effort. More than 3,500 National Guard personnel are committed on a given day. Last year more than 10,000 active duty military personnel also joined in this interagency effort.
Our interdiction efforts are paying off. I would like to briefly review some of the results of our interdiction efforts.
Drug cartel leaders have been effectively targeted.
In the past year, the top seven leaders of the Cali cartel have been arrested in Colombia. Six remain incarcerated; one was killed by Colombian police resisting arrest after he escaped from prison. Jose Castrillon Henao, a major Panamanian cocaine trafficker, was arrested this summer and awaits trial in Panama. These arrests were the result of exhaustive, cooperative investigations conducted by multiple U.S. and Colombian agencies. Drug trafficking organizations are feeling the effects of the loss of this leadership. These successes also underscore that our international counterdrug programs represent an across-the-spectrum attack on drug trafficking operations. We are not only going after the leadership of these organizations, but we are hitting them where it hurts -- attacking their profits. We are going after narco-kingpins in the source countries, in the transit zone, and here at home.
International drug trafficking organizations are being broken up in the U.S.
A recent successful multi-agency case that was headed by the DEA and the FBI along with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, and included 52 state and local police departments and other Federal agencies. This Southwest Border Initiative called Operation Zorro II, clearly illustrated the direct relationship of the international drug cartels in our violent domestic crime problem. In the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Southern California Drug Task Force and 36 police departments synchronized their efforts as a team of task forces to focus on this complex operation centered in their area. In May of this year, the eight month investigation culminated in 156 arrests, the seizure of almost 56,000 kilograms of cocaine, and over $17 million.
U.S.-backed Colombian interdiction and eradication efforts are succeeding.
In Colombia this summer, in conjunction with Operation Laser Strike, the Colombian Army and National Police began aggressive operations in the coca and opium growing and production regions aimed at reducing cultivation, processing, and the introduction of precursor chemicals to the areas. Initial Colombian reports indicated over 150 cocaine labs destroyed and the almost total temporary disruption of the supply of precursor chemicals to the region. Press reports also indicated the exodus of many out of work cocaine laborers from cocaine producing regions and other signs of significant disruptions in the cocaine economy. The most significant indication that the cocaine industry in Colombia has been hurt is the large scale protests of cocaine workers. In some areas, as many as 20,000 protestors have been reported in the streets. Unfortunately, these efforts have also generated violent responses from narco-guerrillas. In the past month, rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have conducted sophisticated and deadly assaults on military bases, police units, and infrastructure in the Guaviare Province in response to the eradication campaign.
The Colombian Armed Forces and National Police have clearly demonstrated their commitment to protecting their nation and its democratic institutions from the corrupting influence of narco-traffickers. We have been consistently impressed by this commitment and by the honesty of the Colombian Armed Forces, the National Police, and its director, General Serrano. These organizations deserve our continued support.
IDA Draft Study
During the 19 September 1996 hearing before this Subcommittee on heroin, concerns were raised regarding a draft study conducted by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) for the Department of Defense as part of its ongoing review of drug interdiction efforts. This draft study, "An Empirical Examination of Counterdrug Interdiction Program Effectiveness," is a work in progress to analyze the cost effectiveness of U.S. international interdiction efforts.
During a briefing for ONDCP staff on the draft study by the authors, serious concerns were raised regarding the methodology used. ONDCP expressed strong doubts and recommended that IDA involve an economist in the analytical process. In addition ONDCP widely distributed the draft document to major research institutions for their comments on how the analysis might be improved. This is the same open peer review process employed by most academic journals prior to publication. Upon receipt of the draft study in May, ONDCP sent the paper to noted researchers in the field for a peer review at John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University/BOTECH; Carnegie-Mellon Institute, University of Pittsburgh; University of Maryland/Rand Corporation, and Evidence Based Research.
The peer reviewers individually reached the same conclusions that the draft
(1) contains serious methodological flaws; (2) reflects a poor
understanding and use of drug-related data; (3) demonstrates an inadequate review of the literature; and (4) ignores the impact of the increased sentences for drug-related crime, and other law enforcement measures reflected in the various omnibus Federal crime and drug legislation over the past decade. It is worth noting several comments in particular:
It turns out that IDA conducted its own internal review of the draft study
after receiving the peer reviews conducted for ONDCP. IDA concludes that:
IDA's internal review finds much of the peer review conducted for ONDCP to
be right on point:
And IDA's internal review finds that the draft study's authors lack an adequate
economic analysis of the issue:
Rather than having "suppressed" the IDA draft study ONDCP has shared the report widely to provide feedback on the draft, and to ensure that it was subjected to the kind of peer review necessary for an analysis to have credibility. IDA is a good analytical institution and the authors well intentioned. It is unfortunate that the frank scholarly discourse which is routinely generated during the preparation of a complex study such as this has been publicized before the researchers were able to take critical peer reviews into account to improve their work.
We need your partnership and support.
Our comprehensive interdiction efforts are effective. Interdiction clearly works. It is an important element of a comprehensive balanced counterdrug strategy. In the past four years, U.S. agencies alone have seized 475 metric tons of cocaine. These seizures are expensive to the traffickers. Our successes hurt them. The sobering news is that only about a third of the cocaine in the pipe-line is seized by international law enforcement. This has been the consistent trend for the past several years. We also face other emerging challenges. According to Interpol, global production potential of heroin reached a record high last year of 450 metric tons; however, only 37 tons were seized worldwide in 1995. The U.S. demand for heroin is currently about 10 tons, approximately two percent of the global production potential.
Our strategy is sound.
It is critical to implement the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy with its balanced approach to the supply and demand aspects of the problem. The FY97 counterdrug budget increases our interdiction resources by 7.3 percent, and increases our international programs by 25.4 percent. These increases provide for meaningful reinforcement of our agencies and bureaus serving on the Southwest Border and will strengthen our already effective efforts in South America and in the Caribbean.
We should be optimistic.
ONDCP is optimistic about our interdiction posture. The Federal effort is better organized. Federal, State and local enforcement cooperation has never been better. Our agents and officials have been learning by doing. As a nation, we are finally paying adequate attention to the problems created by the illegal drug trade along our Southwest Border. Our Allies, in particular Peru and Mexico, are clearly dedicated to protecting their people and democratic institutions from this terrible criminal threat.
We should also be realistic.
We should also be realistic about the magnitude of the challenge of shielding our air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat. Drug traffickers will probe any weakness along our 5,525 mile-long borders with Canada or our 1,933 mile-long border with Mexico. They will seek to introduce drugs over our 12,000 miles of coastline. They will consider using our 13,228 airports and hiding couriers among the more than 60 million air passengers that enter the U.S. each year. They will attempt to hide drugs in the more than 400 million tons of imports that enter the U.S. through our 50 busiest seaports each year -- the cocaine they traffic represents less than one millionth of that volume. They will also seek to use the nine million containers that enter the U.S. to hide their drugs.
Demand reduction as a partner of interdiction.
We cannot protect the American people by relying principally on interdiction to solve the drug problem. We must coordinate our demand reduction efforts with domestic law enforcement, international cooperation, and interdiction efforts. We must take the profit out of narcotics trafficking through asset forfeiture and attacks on money laundering. We must confront domestic and foreign corruption caused by drug money. We must reduce the cost of drug abuse to America. This is why the first priority goal of the Drug Strategy will remain: to motivate America's youth to reject illegal drugs and substance abuse.
We have seen enormous success in persuading Americans to reject drugs. Overall drug abuse in America is down by 50 percent in the last 15 years. While the number of cocaine users in America has dropped by 75 percent, the amount of cocaine produced worldwide and entering America has remained relatively constant. Therefore we continue to see great tragedies of addicts using more cocaine with its terrible personal and social consequences. The good news is that there just isn't that large a market in the number of cocaine users anymore. The bad news is that a significant number of Americans remain chronically addicted to cocaine and heroin, and many are incarcerated for reasons related to drugs.
If we can motivate America's youth to reject cocaine and other drugs, our interdiction programs will be enhanced. Fewer drug smugglers will be willing to run the interdiction gauntlet for a reduced payoff. Every shipment we seize will hurt the smugglers that much more.
We Need Your Help
The National Drug Control Strategy is not a partisan plan. It needs your bipartisan support to enable the nation to sustain a concerted effort against illegal drugs and their consequences.
The Strategy relies on partnerships between the United States and our allies, among various Federal agencies, and between State and local agencies and the Federal government. For the Strategy to succeed, we must achieve a partnership among the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the American people. Together we can protect our children.
There are no quick fixes to this problem. ONDCP looks forward to working with Congress to develop comprehensive, long range plans to deal with drug abuse. We need to develop a five-year budget, and a ten-year strategy to both sustain and expand our successes. Most importantly, we need to work together.
It is an honor for me to continue to serve the United States national security interests as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I have been wounded in combat three times serving America in three conflict situations. During my 36 years in uniform, I have not encountered a greater threat to the health of the American people than that posed by illegal drugs. I ask for your support and wisdom.