1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Robert Newberry

Director of Drug Enforcement Policy and Support
Defense Department
09 July 1997
House National Security Subcommittee

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak before you today. Our nation's drug problem is a serious one that affects the lives of millions of Americans. Crime and health problems associated with illicit drug use continue to have an adverse effect on our communities and among our young people. Meanwhile, illicit drug trafficking poses a serious threat to our national security.

Addressing this problem, the President's National Drug Control Strategy has articulated five strategic goals in our collective American effort to reduce illegal drug use and its consequences in America. The Department of Defense, with its unique resources and capabilities, plays a critical supporting role in two of these goals: shielding America's air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat; and breaking foreign and domestic drug sources of supply.

In support of this mission, the Drug Enforcement Policy and Support office has aggressively explored the use of new ideas and state-of-the-art systems unique to the Department, and employed those that had practical application. Moreover, we have regularly assessed the effectiveness of our existing counterdrug program, emphasizing cost-effective, high-impact projects that support the President's National Drug Control Strategy.

Today, I would like to talk about two areas of our counterdrug support: our efforts in the primary source nations of cocaine -- specifically, Peru and Colombia -- and the support that we provide in the Transit Zone areas of Mexico and the Eastern Caribbean.


The Department is a key player in assisting foreign and domestic counterdrug forces to break the foreign supply of cocaine into the United States. DoD provides three categories of support to foreign counterdrug forces: training; command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence support (C4I); and interdiction support. The focus of our efforts, as prescribed by Presidential Decision Directive, is on Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, where nearly all of the world's cocaine is cultivated and produced. Our objective is to attack trafficking organizations in the region by disrupting their activities and imprisoning their leaders. These efforts also serve to strengthen the democratic institutions in source nations and encourage national resolve and regional cooperation.

In the last two years, we have seen both Peru and Colombia achieve a number of tactical successes against drug traffickers. DoD personnel played an integral part in training and providing intelligence information to Colombian and Peruvian counterdrug forces, thereby enhancing their interdiction efforts against air smugglers. Capitalizing on early successes against air smuggling, the Department engaged in two successful operations, GREEN CLOVER and LASER STRIKE -- which modestly increased the level of personnel and detection and monitoring assets dedicated to source nation interdiction efforts. During these operations, the United States for the first time, worked side-by-side with countries throughout the region to assist them in developing and implementing operational plans against drug traffickers. The most encouraging results of GREEN CLOVER and LASER STRIKE have been an unprecedented cooperation among countries of South America in the drug interdiction effort; and the involvement of countries that had heretofore been uninvolved in attacking the drug threat.

As a result of Peru's aggressive efforts against air smugglers, we initially saw a dramatic decrease in the price of coca base that traffickers were unable to move out of Peru. The monthly incidence of narco-trafficking by air in the source zone remains 50-80% below rates observed in 1994 before more aggressive interdiction efforts were instituted. Furthermore, the prices paid to coca farmers for their leaf remain severely depressed. Coca farmers are having great difficulty making a profit, and an increasing number are looking at alternative development opportunities. Moreover, recent intelligence reporting indicate that because of Peru's successful air interdiction efforts, traffickers-are making greater use of river and land transport.

To address the changing drug trafficking threat, the Department is working in conjunction with the State Department and law enforcement agencies, to assist countries in the region to enhance their riverine capabilities. During LASER STRIKE, we began to increase our level of training support to enhance military and police riverine interdiction capabilities in both Peru and Colombia. For FY98, the Department has proposed legislation that would assist Peru and Colombia in developing their riverine interdiction capability. Specifically, this authority would allow the Department to procure equipment and supplies and provide associated maintenance support to enhance counterdrug riverine initiatives in these countries.

We are at a unique moment in time where we can take advantage of the impact we have made in the air by impacting the traffickers shift to the rivers. We must take advantage of the current declining coca producing activities in Peru by enhancing interdiction efforts. This is the leverage Peru needs to encourage alternative crop development. This is what we have been striving for these many years. The time to act is now.


As the lead agency for detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime drug traffic into the United States, the Department plays an active role in shielding America's frontiers from the drug threat. Over the last several years, the Department sustained an efficient detection and monitoring capability in the Caribbean. Our capability was maintained by phasing out costly, low-impact, fixed systems, which were easily evaded by drug traffickers, in favor of more modern, cost-efficient, flexible, and agile assets (e.g., Relocatable Over-The-Horizon Radars (ROTHRs), E-3s, P-3s, E-2s, and refitted TAGOS radar picket ships).

Recently, we have seen an increased use of maritime smuggling through the Eastern Caribbean. The narco-traffickers are taking advantage of the economic decline and limited law enforcement capabilities in the region to island-hop cocaine using small non-commercial maritime vessels through the region to Puerto Rico, where the cocaine is then smuggled into the U.S. DoD's proposed legislation would allow us to provide limited amounts of support to enhance the maritime law enforcement capabilities of these nations.

Furthermore, the Department has taken aggressive steps in shielding our southern border, through which an estimated 70% of the cocaine enters the United States. The Department has worked closely with the Mexican military to enhance their counterdrug interdiction efforts. In October 1995, Secretary Perry became the first Secretary of Defense to travel to Mexico. As a result of this trip, a bilateral working group was established with counterdrug cooperation as a particular focus. During this time, President Zedillo broadened his military's counterdrug mission, directing their involvement in counterdrug interdiction efforts: in the past, Mexico's military only participated in eradication operations. As a result of extensive consultations, DoD and the Mexican military together developed a comprehensive counterdrug initiative for enhancing Mexico's interdiction capability. This initiative involves the training and equipping of counterdrug rapid reaction groups and providing these groups with the air mobile capability necessary to successfully carry out their counterdrug missions. The work of the rapid reaction groups will be focused on the activities of the major drug traffickers in Mexico. There will also be a strong focus on Mexico's northern border, where the drug trafficking threat is most serious.

By the end of this fiscal year, we will have trained 1500 military personnel. Moreover, we are transferring 73 UH-1H helicopters to Mexico in support of their drug interdiction effort. Last year, Congress granted us one-year authority to spend up to $8 million to procure counterdrug equipment in support of the initial 20 helicopters we had transferred to Mexico. We used this authority to help the Mexican military acquire larger spare parts for these helicopters. In order to ensure the Mexican military's ability to stand up a viable air mobile capability in support of their counterdrug rapid reaction groups, we have requested an extension of the FY97 Mexico authority. This authority would likely again be used to procure additional necessary spare parts for the helicopters, as well as other necessary equipment.


There are no easy solutions to the problems of illicit drug use or trade. Nonetheless, our government cannot and has not shirked its responsibility to attack the Nation's drug problem on all levels. Countering the flow of cocaine and other illicit drugs into America requires a multi-year effort with comprehensive supply and demand reduction programs, substantial resources, enormous energy, and creativity. During the last several years, the Department of Defense has continuously strived to improve our program management and effectiveness ensuring that the maximum operational impact is achieved with the funds available. While DoD's support to foreign and domestic law enforcement in and of itself will not solve the Nation's drug problem, we have made steady progress in running a cost-effective, high-impact program. Our program has provided desperately needed support to law enforcement. We look forward working with you as we continue to seek high-impact ways to support the work of law enforcement agencies both domestically and internationally. (end text)