Tags: Coast Guard, Commandant, Counter drug operations, interdiciton, Maritime Security, Thad Allen
I just posted this over on my official blog, thought it might be interesting for reading/discussion here:
This post provides more detail following the meeting at the White House today per my earlier post.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy released an interesting report today on illegal drug use in the United States. Of particular interest to you would be pages 10 and 11, discussing the impact of increased seizures and their correlation to a dramatic increase in price.
We are just one part of this critical effort, but it is an important part. Campaign Steel Web is the Coast Guard’s overarching drug interdiction strategy to reduce the supply of drugs to the U.S. by denying drug traffickers access to maritime routes in the six million square mile transit zone. The National Drug Control Strategy sets a 2014 target to interdict 40 percent of the cocaine en route the United States. The Coast Guard and our interagency partners have diligently worked to achieve this goal, producing significant interdiction successes in the transit zone (Eastern Pacific, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) in recent years. Working with our interagency and international partners, the Coast Guard removed 369,833 pounds (167.8 metric tons) of cocaine in FY 2008—the most in our history. The Coast Guard has removed, on average, 328,964 pounds (149 metric tons) of cocaine from the transit zone each year between fiscal years 2004-2008, the five highest removal years on record. These record removal rates can be attributed to three primary factors:
(1) More actionable, tactical intelligence: Through interagency cooperation, the Coast Guard benefits from the joint Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice investigative task force known as Panama Express (PANEX), which provides real-time, actionable, tactical drug-related intelligence to the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South in Key West, FL.
(2) More capable interdiction assets: The Coast Guard has more capable assets in its armed helicopters and faster over-the-horizon cutter small boats. Through employment of Airborne Use of Force (AUOF) by the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Tactical Interdiction Squadron (HITRON) and the United States, Dutch and British Royal Navies with Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) embarked, the Coast Guard is able to stop the small, fast, 45-plus knot vessels carrying multi-ton loads of cocaine.
(3) Negotiation of international agreements with our partner nations: Since 1981, the Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Departments of Justice and State, has negotiated 27 bilateral agreements with our drug interdiction partner nations in and around the transit zone. The value of these agreements is seen every day in the U.S. government’s ability to gain jurisdiction over interdicted smugglers. The result is more prosecutions in U.S. courts and longer sentences under U.S. law for those convicted of drug trafficking. Most importantly, successful prosecutions in the U.S. provide investigators the ability to acquire actionable intelligence about drug movements and the illegal drug trade.
As a I posted on earlier, we are extremely appreciative of Congress’ passage of the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act to counter the growing SPSS threat.
It is worth highlighting the great cooperation we have received from Mexico and Colombia.
This May I signed a joint Letter of Intent with Admiral Saynez, Secretary of the Mexican Navy, and General Renuart, Commander NORTHCOM. This letter paved the way for US/Mexico bilateral development of standard maritime operating procedures that have significantly enhanced our collective ability to share information and coordinate operations. These procedures, which are less than six months old, have facilitated the seizure of an SPSS and fishing vessel carrying over nine metric tons of cocaine, while also setting the foundation for closer cooperation across a broad range of law enforcement and security missions. The United States and Mexico will continue to fight together the scourge of drugs and narco trafficking that so terribly damages our common border and both of our countries.
I visited Cartagena last month and participated in the Colombian Navy and SOUTHCOM sponsored Counter Narco trafficking Symposium of the Americas. More than 30 flag officers from Navies and Coast Guards from around the region attended this event and discussed opportunities to improve cooperation in the fight against illicit drug smuggling.
Maritime counter-drug cooperation with Colombia is superb; the Government of Colombia (GOC) continues to be one of the closest partners the USG has in the battle on drugs and continued cooperation is critical to ensuring continued success. The USG and GOC have an agreement to suppress illicit traffic by sea, which is used extensively to counter the large flow of cocaine that is trafficked north from Colombia. The Colombian Navy/Coast Guard (COLNAV/COLCG) has been very responsive and can be counted on to provide vital interdiction support. U.S. and Colombian Operational Commanders meet regularly to have tactical discussions and identify initiatives that improve our cooperative efforts. JIATF-South and COLNAV/COLCG routinely conduct combined operations. The USCG has both an Attaché and a Liaison Officer (LNO) at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, and Colombia has a liaison officer at JIATF-South.
Maritime drug smuggling still remains a major challenge. A large majority of the cocaine that reaches the U.S. travels via maritime means, for at least part of its journey, all by challenging conveyances—self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels, go-fasts via littoral routes that require the Coast Guard to shoot out the engines to stop them, secreted in sophisticated hidden compartments, and hidden among large volumes of legitimate commerce using containerized maritime cargo. We could not have achieved and cannot sustain this success by ourselves.