Confronting Transnational Drug Smuggling: An Assessment of Regional Partnerships
2172 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a joint hearing of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Hearing on “Confronting Transnational Drug Smuggling: An Assessment of Regional Partnerships”
April 29, 2014
(Remarks as Prepared)
We are meeting today to review the federal government’s efforts to confront transnational drug smuggling and stem the flow of illegal drugs to the United States. I want to thank and commend Chairman Matt Salmon and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for agreeing to explore this important topic in a joint hearing.
Illicit drug use remains a serious concern for the United States. Illegal drugs not only pose a strain on our nation’s health care and criminal justice systems, but their trade and transport cause significant safety and security concerns. The transport of illegal drugs affects millions throughout the country and the world. Some of the most notorious and violent criminals, cartels, and narco-terrorists are directly responsible for drug violence, crime, and corruption that are destabilizing foreign nations and risking the lives of American citizens here and abroad.
Representing Southern California, I am very aware of the harm violent drug-traffickers inflict on our communities. In recent years, violence stemming from the drug trade has spilled over the Mexican border and has led to the kidnappings and murders of numerous American citizens and law enforcement officers. A little over a year ago, Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne was killed while leading a boarding team in a counter-drug operation off the coast of Santa Cruz, California. Our thoughts and prayers go out his family.
Senior Chief Horne was carrying out the Coast Guard mission to interdict and apprehend illegal drug traffickers on the high seas. Stopping bulk drug shipments at sea before they are broken down into smaller packages is the most effective and efficient way to stop the flow of illegal drugs across our borders. The Coast Guard is the lead agency in maritime interdiction because it has unique military and law enforcement authorities which enable it to seamlessly disable a drug smuggling vessel, seize the drugs, and arrest the crew. But that only works when the Coast Guard, SOUTHCOM, and partner agencies and nations have the resources and assets to act on intelligence targets.
Unfortunately, however, cuts to the military’s budget, coupled with aging, and rapidly failing Coast Guard assets, are undermining mission success. SOUTHCOM and the Coast Guard were only able to interdict roughly 20 percent of the cocaine bound for the United States in recent years. That is half of the national target. Since 2009, the Coast Guard has only achieved its cocaine interdiction target once.
I hope today’s hearing will help clarify the direction we need to take in the future to ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources and assets they need to carry out this and other critical missions.