For some time, it has been known that drugs from out of the United States have been flowing in managing to get away from the Coast Guard, and now it appears that the military or the U.S. cannot keep up with the amount. For years, drugs have been coming in from various places, mostly from places like Cuba and South America. Numerous types of drugs come through, such as cocaine and every pain killer type you can think of.
For years, marijuana was a popular import for the drug cartels, but due to the legalization of it happening across the U.S., it is now more uncommon for them to push in. The problem with stopping drugs has been a major issue for years, as mostly the United States Coast Guard are the ones in play to stop it. However, of all military branches, it appears the Coast Guard is given the least amount of money and support. The Coast Guard is simply under-resourced.
According to Business Insider, both U.S. Southern Command, which oversees all military operations beyond Mexico’s southern border, and the U.S Cost Guard have been hurting a lot by the scope of their duties. The main issue is the limitation on budget and more is needed. Sadly, it does appear that despite billions being added to the armed forces by President Donald Trump with his congressional budget, he actually plans to cut some of the funding from the Coast Guard.
As a result of being under-resourced, the Coast Guard units can only confront one-third of the drug shipments that make their way through to the United States. Admiral Kurt Tidd, who is the SouthCom Chief, provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week.
“We continue to have these shortfalls We continue to be able to see a significant amount of traffic towards the Central American peninsula. Unfortunately we only have the resources to be able to intercept about 25 percent.”
When Tidd was asked by Committee Chairman Senator John McCain what he needed to boost the number to 100 percent, Tidd laid it all out for him. He said that the Coast Guard needs “simply put: more ships, more aircraft.” This certainly would help them get the job done faster and more efficiently. It is obvious that more to use on their end, and especially more Coast Guard members, would only be useful in the end to helping end drug trafficking to the United States.
What Tidd said was not abnormal. It echoes the remarks he made last year on the very same subject. He told lawmakers then that his units did not have the resources to interdict their goal of 40 percent of the illegal traffic coming in from Central and South America to the United States. He told them the following at the time.
“I do not have the ships, I do not have the aircraft, to be able to execute the detection-monitoring mission to the level that has been established for us to achieve.”
Of course, Tidd is not the only one who believes there is a problem. Vice Admiral Charles Ray, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, said a lot of the same things recently. Ray spoke to the House Homeland Security Committee in mid-February of this year.
“However, resource constraints and a lack of capable surface assets allow the US Coast Guard to only attack our target [in] 30 percent of the known cases that we have good intelligence, really high-confidence intelligence. As a result of the lack of resources, last year, we were prevented from getting after 580 known smuggling events, and those shipments made their way north.”
Money going to the Coast Guard has become quite a political process. Commanders have an interest in underlining in stark terms the challenges they face in order to secure resources. This is especially true in the case of Southern Command, which vies with other high-profile units out there, like Central Command. They clearly are doing a lot and yet cannot ever do enough to stop problems totally, no matter what they do. More men and material could certainly help, however.
Tidd’s naval elements and the Coast Guard are facing an especially active challenge when it comes to drug trafficking. In 2012, around 80 percent of the drugs smuggled into the United States were thought to have come via maritime routes, according to the U.S. Foreign Military Studies Office data. Out of that amount, 30 percent was thought to have come in aboard very difficult to detect narco submarines. It is not as if the Coast Guard is not stopping big amounts of drugs, either.
Last year, they actually set a record for both the amount of cocaine seized, which was about 208 tons and the number of suspects apprehended, which was 585 people. The Admirals face a lot of constraints when it comes to men and material, and it has left both Tidd and Ray’s commands at a huge disadvantage. Tidd told the Senate Committee the following.
“We’re seeing some significant improvement on the part of some of our partner nations in their ability to be able to intercept [drugs], but we still watch far more go by than we can actually act on.”
Due to the major lack of sustained Navy presence in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific over the last four years, the Coast Guard has really struggled when it comes to stopping drug trafficking into the United States. Ray claimed the following.
“Our Coast Guard has doubled down our presence in the region, and we are the armed force in the maritime approaches to the US…. [And] as I’ve said, we just don’t have the assets to address all the intelligence that we have.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the United States continues to see a rise in drugs coming into the country. If this continues, one has to wonder if Congress will put more money into the Coast Guard in an effort to stop this. Most do not assume much of the Coast Guard due to what others do, but their service is quite valuable and they want to help. They just need the funds in order to make that happen, and if they don’t get it, the U.S. will have a big drug trafficking problem soon.
[Featured Image By Arnulfo Franco/AP Images]