Interdiction cuts reduce seizures
Budget cuts have also seriously hurt the U.S. government's ability to seize and interdict drugs in the transit zone and at our borders. Transit zone seizures are down, street prices are down, and Cali traffickers are teaming up with Mexican drug barons to fly multi-ton loads of cocaine into Mexico aboard modified commercial jetliners. (Note 29)
Between 1993 and the first six months of 1995, the transit zone "disruption rate"-the ability of U.S. forces to seize or otherwise turn back drug shipments-dropped 53 percent, from 435.1 kilograms per day to 205.2 kilograms, as shown in Figure K. (Note 30) Over the course of a year, the lowered disruption rate means that as much as 84 metric tons (mt.) of additional cocaine and marijuana could be arriving unimpeded on the streets of the United States through the Eastern transit zone alone.
Interdiction in the transit zone is accomplished primarily by three federal agencies: the Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Customs Service (USCS), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Responsibility for ensuring adequate drug interdiction funding for these agencies currently rests with Admiral Robert D. Kramek, United States Coast Guard. Appointed by the Director of ONDCP to serve as an ombudsman for the entire interdiction program, Admiral Kramek's role is to fight for money and interdiction resource allocations from participating agencies and to coordinate policy implementation. (Note 31)
At a hearing before the National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on March 9, 1995, it was learned that Admiral Kramek had sent a memorandum to Lee P. Brown, Director of ONDCP, urging him to arrange a meeting with President Clinton. (Note 32) The purpose of that proposed meeting was to inform the President that a consensus had developed among interdiction agency heads that it was necessary to return to Bush Administration levels of interdiction funding. Director Brown, apparently ignoring the memoran-dum, declined to arrange a meeting. He has since acknowledged that he failed to relay Admiral Kramek's concerns to the President because he was unconvinced that interdiction spending produced sufficient "bang for the buck." (Note 33) Statistics, however, bear out what Admiral Kramek told Director Brown.
The overall proportion of the Customs Service budget devoted to drug control fell from 45.5 percent in fiscal year 1991, to a projected 33.9 percent in fiscal year 1996.(Note 34) As Figure L illustrates, Clinton Administration cuts to the Customs Service interdiction budget coincided with a 70 percent decline in Customs-supported cocaine seizures in the transit-zone, from 35.4 mt. of cocaine in fiscal year 1993 to 10.8 mt. in fiscal year 1995. The number of trafficker aircraft seized by Customs in the transit zone fell from 37 to 10 during the same period. Customs Service transit zone flight hours, a rough indicator of the agency's focus on interdiction, fell from 9,844 in fiscal year 1993 to 6,870 in fiscal year 1995. (Note 35) Total Customs Service flight hours are down as well, from 56,134 in fiscal year 1993 (Note 36) to a projected 41,800 in fiscal year 1996. (Note 37)
In budget terms, the Customs Service interdiction appropriation has been cut nearly 20 percent, from $588.8 million in fiscal year 1992 to $473.5 million in fiscal year 1995. (Note 38) Among other things, these cuts forced the agency to mothball 22 fixed-wing aircraft and five sophisticated UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, vital tools in the interdiction effort. (Note 39)
Department of Defense (DoD) interdiction assets have been cut back as well, a critical misjudgment, since lead agency responsibility for the aerial and maritime detection and monitoring of drug traffickers is reposed by statute within DoD. Between fiscal years 1992 and 1995, interdiction budgets (known as "optempo") were reduced by more than half, from $275.7 to $130.7 million. (Note 40) As Figure M illustrates, DoD airborne detection and monitoring assets were cut back from 3,400 to 1,850 hours during the same period.
The use of Navy vessels (measured in so-called "steaming days") was cut from 420 to 170 steaming days. The number of DoD ground-based radar sites increased from 11 to 18 between fiscal year 1992 and 1994, although a number of those sites are now slated for closure as the military's Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR) system comes on line. Despite excessive interdiction cutbacks, DoD has been providing enhanced support in other areas, such as a program to provide intelligence and related support to drug law enforcement agencies targeting major overseas trafficking organizations.
The Committee has been unable to establish other critical aspects of DoD's contribution to drug supply reduction, such as the priority level assigned to the drug control mission by regional DoD Commanders-in-Chief, because Secretary of Defense William J. Perry has not responded to repeated oversight requests over an eight-month period.
Interdiction efforts of the United States Coast Guard have also been curtailed significantly over the past two years. The Coast Guard operating expense budget for drug missions fell from $449.2 million in fiscal year 1991 to a projected $314.2 million in fiscal year 1996. Cutter and aircraft resource hours are projected to fall 23 and 34 percent, respectively, over the same period. (Note 41) The overall proportion of the Coast Guard budget devoted to drug control has fallen from 21 percent in fiscal year 1991, (Note 42) to a projected eight percent in fiscal year 1996, as the Coast Guard focuses on other missions deemed to be of higher priority. (Note 43)
Between fiscal years 1994 and 1995, the Coast Guard was forced to mothball the following drug interdiction assets: five 82-foot patrol boats, three surface effect ships, seven HU-25 Falcon aircraft, and one medium-endurance cutter. It makes little sense to mothball expensive hardware, bought and paid for by the American taxpayer for the war on drugs, while narcotics are flowing virtually unimpeded into the country.
Not surprisingly, Coast Guard seizures are off: Cocaine seizures fell more than 45 percent since fiscal year 1989, from 7.2 mt. in fiscal year 1989 to 3.9 mt. for the first 11 months of fiscal year 1995, and remain 73 percent below the peak of fiscal year 1991, when they hit 14.8 mt. Marijuana seizures fell even more dramatically, from 134.2 mt. to 13 mt. during the same period. The number of Coast Guard vessel seizures fell 88 percent, from 152 in fiscal year 1989 to 19 in fiscal year 1995.