Customs Service

Drug Interdiction Efforts Gao ID: GGD-96-189BR September 26, 1996

This is the last in a series of GAO reports on the U.S. Customs Service. As one of more than 50 federal agencies involved in the War on Drugs, Customs is responsible for stopping the flow of illegal drugs across the U.S. border. In addition to routine inspections to detect illegal drugs, Customs' drug interdiction program includes national initiatives, investigations, and other activities unique to specific ports. This report identifies and describes the key elements, personnel and equipment resources, budget and operational costs, enhancements of Operation Hard Line (Customs' current effort to address border violence and drug smuggling), and measures of effectiveness of Custom's national drug interdiction program, as well as its Special Agent-in-Charge offices and selected ports in the Miami and San Diego areas.

GAO found that: (1) the Offices of Field Operations and Investigations are the key organizational elements in Customs' drug interdiction program; (2) these offices employ about 11,000 inspectors, special agents, and other staff to conduct inspections and investigations at and between ports using canines and various types of equipment; (3) Customs' Operation Hard Line emphasizes reducing border violence and drug smuggling by intensifying inspections, improving facilities, and using the latest technology; (4) the Operation has been expanded to encompass the southern tier of the United States; (5) between 1990 and 1997, Customs' drug interdiction budget has averaged about $500 million per year; (6) in 1995, Customs' drug interdiction budget comprised about 38 percent of the federal drug control budget; (7) most of these funds were spent on employees' salaries and related benefits and new detection equipment; (8) Customs uses both traditional and nontraditional methods to measure the effectiveness of its interdiction efforts; (9) although Customs has developed eight nontraditional measures to track the impact of its drug interdiction efforts, only one has been fully implemented; (10) Customs is designing a program that will measure compliance with all laws it is responsible for enforcing; and (11) Customs plans to implement the program at major air and land ports and use the program as a baseline for measuring how effective inspectors target smugglers entering these ports.

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