Drug Control

U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean Decline Gao ID: NSIAD-96-119 April 17, 1996

Budget reductions and a lack of resources among island nations have hampered efforts to intercept drug traffickers in the Caribbean--the transit route for nearly one-third of the cocaine now entering the United States. As a result, cocaine seizures in the Caribbean fell from a peak of 70,000 kilograms in 1992 to 37,000 kilograms in 1995. In recent years, drug traffickers in the Caribbean have increasingly relied on ships rather than planes to transport drugs. Traffickers are also using sophisticated technologies, such as global positioning systems, to counter U.S. efforts to monitor their activities. Although most Caribbean nations have cooperated in fighting drug trafficking, a lack of finances and effective law enforcement operations have stymied their efforts. Corruption has also been a concern. U.S. budget cuts have undermined the ability of the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies to track and intercept drug traffickers. Funding for drug interdiction declined from $1 billion in fiscal year 1992 to $569 million in fiscal year 1995. The executive branch has yet to develop a regional plan to implement the U.S. cocaine strategy in the transit zone, fully staff interagency organizations, or resolve issues on intelligence sharing. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Drug Control: Observations on U.S. Interdiction in the Caribbean, by Jess T. Ford, Associate Director for International Relations and Trade Issues, before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. GAO/T-NSIAD-96-171, May 23 (12 pages).

GAO found that: (1) U.S. officials believe that drug trafficking through the Caribbean is increasing; (2) drug traffickers have shifted their drug transportation operations from primarily air to commercial and marine transportation and are using advanced technologies to counter U.S. interdiction efforts; (3) the U.S.-Caribbean strategy attempts to strengthen host nations' political will and capabilities to support U.S. objectives, but most host nations lack the resources to conduct antidrug operations; (4) the United States has entered into agreements with several governments that give it authority to operate in their territorial waters and airspace; (5) widespread political and police corruption in the Caribbean hampers U.S. interdiction efforts; (6) budget cuts have reduced the Department of Defense's and law enforcement agencies' interdiction capabilities in the transit zone and the expected increases in funds for source country activities have not materialized; (7) lost radar and ship capabilities had the greatest impact on air and surface interdictions; (8) cocaine seizures declined by almost one-half from fiscal year (FY) 1991 to FY 1995; (9) the Administration has not developed a regional, antidrug implementation plan, adequately staffed interagency organizations with key personnel, or fully resolved intelligence-sharing issues; and (10) the two organizations with coordination responsibilities lack the authority to command the use of any agency's resources.


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