They Can Only Watch as 74% of Drug Smugglers Get Through
By Harold Hutchison
Nearly three out of every four drug smuggling runs headed towards the United States via maritime routes can only be watched. The stunning revelation about the insecurity of our nation’s maritime borders came during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, General John Kelly, United States Marine Corps and commander of United States Southern Command, outlined how resource-starved the regional command has been. Kelly revealed that he has one ship from the United States Navy and four Coast Guard cutters to interdict drug smuggling against a requirement for sixteen vessels able to operate helicopters.
“I simply sit and watch it go by,” Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He explained that while surveillance and reconnaissance assets enable him to track smugglers, “I just don’t have end-game assets.” Even then, Kelly estimated he had one-twentieth of the surveillance and reconnaissance assets he needed.
The shortage of assets has meant that there is a greater likelihood of drugs getting into the Unted States. “If bulk shipments are not interdicted before making landfall, there is almost no stopping the majority of this cocaine as it moves through Central America and Mexico and eventually lands on street corners across America, placing significant strain on our nation’s health care and criminal justice systems and costing American taxpayers an estimated $193 billion in 2007 alone, the most recent year for which data is available,” Kelly said during his testimony.
Terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Hezbollah have reportedly engaged in drug trafficking, with FARC having earned over $500 million from its involvement. The Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is also involved in drug trafficking.
“I remain concerned … that U.S. Southern Command’s limited intelligence assets may prevent full awareness of the activities of Iranian and terrorist support networks in the region,” Kelly told the Senate Armed Services Committee.