Honorable Brian E. Sheridan

Department of Defense Coordinator for United States House of
Representatives Committee on Government Reform, subcommittee on
Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources

6 August 1999

Statement for the Record

Mr. Chairman, as always it is an honor to appear before this committee
to discuss the Department of Defense's role in United States
counterdrug activities as well as how these activities support our
national security interests. I particularly welcome the opportunity to
address these issues in conjunction with our interagency partners from
the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. I also want to
thank the members of the subcommittee for their support and interest
in the Department's counterdrug program as well as the guidance and
leadership of your committee. Congressional support is critical to
ensuring progress is made in our struggle against illicit narcotics,
especially cocaine. Colombia continues to be the world's leading
producer and distributor of cocaine, and over the past two years has
seen an explosive growth in cultivation. The importance of the
connection between Colombia, cocaine, and the U.S. drug problem cannot
be dismissed easily from our minds. The sad fact is that Americans
spend thirty-eight billion dollars each year on cocaine. Yet, the
threat posed by narco-traffickers in Colombia extends not only to
American lives but also to the national security of this nation. This
body recognized this threat when it passed legislation in 1989
directing the Department of Defense to aid in the war against drugs.
In this light, the Department has actively pursued a strategy that not
only addresses the on-going drug threat, but in fact has taken steps
to address the changing drug trafficking patterns.

Evolution of the Threat

The drug trafficking threat from Colombia has changed significantly
from the early 1990s to today. In the early 1990s, Colombian labs
processed most of the world's cocaine HCL. Peru on the other hand was
the major coca cultivator. For example, in 1993, Peru produced
approximately 450 metric tons, that was more than sixty percent of the
world's coca. The coca base was moved from Peru to Colombia for
processing by approximately 1,000 aircraft flights per year. Since,
aircraft are the most efficient way to move tons of HCL, the
traffickers would then fly the cocaine from southeastern Colombia to
Colombia's north and west coasts for transshipment to the U.S.

Today the picture is different. Colombian labs continue to process
most of the world's cocaine HCL and the airbridge from the interior of
the country to the northern and western coasts is still in use.
However, thanks to Peru's aggressive air-interdiction operations,
combined with an efficient coca eradication program, coca cultivation
in Peru has declined by fifty-six percent since 1995.

On the other hand, Colombian coca growth is surging. It is estimated
that more than 200 metric tons will be produced in Colombia this year,
doubling over the past few years. This recent explosion in coca
production in Colombia can be attributed to the successful air-bridge
interdiction efforts in Peru, which hampered the trafficker's ability
to move large quantities of coca base into Colombia. Consequently,
Colombian cocaine producers spurred farmers to develop new fields,
primarily in the southwestern region of Putumayo, and plant higher

coca crops. Despite an aggressive U.S. / Colombia aerial coca
eradication program, coca cultivation continues to increase.


The improved cooperation between the U.S. Government and the
Government of Colombia at the executive level has also been mirrored
at other government levels. The best example of this improved
cooperation is the greater emphasis by Colombia's armed forces on
combating narcotics trafficking while preventing human rights abuses,
and an increasing exchange of ideas, expertise and support between the
U.S. and Colombian armed forces. Colombia is now the third largest
recipient of U.S. security assistance. In 1998, Deputy Secretary
Harare and then-Colombian Minister of Defense Rodrigo Lloreda agreed
to form a Bilateral Working Group to broaden and deepen our military
to military relationships. This has contributed to a more synergistic
and productive relationship, which maintains full respect for
Colombian sovereignty, and continues to evolve within the context of
U.S. policy.

DoD's Role in Counterdrug Activities in Colombia

For six years, counterdrug operations in the cocaine producing regions
in South America have served as the focus of this administration
supply reduction programs. The dramatic success of the Peru air
interdiction program serves as an example of the merit of this
approach. Consistent with this source zone focus, the Department
Defense developed a Colombian strategy designed to attack the
Colombian portion of the cocaine threat. The Department's integrated
Colombian strategy consists of four strategic efforts. These efforts
form a responsive, flexible and integrated interagency campaign that
engages the narco- trafficker across the whole spectrum of the illegal
narcotics trade. Let me discuss the Department's integrated Colombian


The Department's air interdiction effort recognizes that the movement
of cocaine within Colombia is highly dependent upon air
transportation, primarily via non-commercial flights. Consequently,
the interagency is focusing on means to increase the risk to
traffickers who utilize this means of transportation to move their
illegal drugs from the production regions in the south and east to
debarkation points along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. While there
are several elements to developing a productive counterdrug aerial
interdiction program, the modernization of the Colombian Air Forces'
A-37 aircraft is key. The Department of Defense, along with the State
Department, has embarked on a Multi-year initiative to up- grade these
Colombian aircraft which will enhance their air intercept capability
and improve overall readiness. In FY99, the Department will spend
slightly over five million dollars upgrading Colombian aerial
platforms used for interdiction and an additional two million dollars
on A-37 training for Colombian pilots.


The second strategic effort, riverine interdiction, resulted from the
congressionally authorized program to acquire equipment needed to
develop and support counterdrug riverine operations in Colombia, with
a parallel initiative in Peru. This counterdrug program became
necessary as the drug traffickers reacted to successful Peruvian air
interdiction efforts by shifting to smuggling routes that utilized the
vast Amazon River network. Colombia currently fields 18 counterdrug
Riverine Combat Elements (RCEs) made up of four boats each. The
eventual goal is to deploy a total of 45 RCEs. In FY99, the Department
will spend almost five million dollars on boats and equipment for the
counterdrug riverine program and an additional two and one-half
million dollars for riverine infrastructure development.


U.S. Southern Command's support of the formation of the Colombian
counterdrug battalion constitutes the Department's critical element in
the ground interdiction effort. U.S. Southern Command is currently
training and providing non-lethal equipment for the battalion, which
will be stationed at Tres Esquinas. The training of professional
Colombian soldiers began in April 1999 and field exercises are
scheduled to be completed in December of this year. All of the select
soldiers in the counterdrug battalion have been screened for human
rights compliance, in accordance with section 8130 of the Department
of Defense Appropriation Act for FY99. This battalion will participate
in joint military/CNP counterdrug interdiction and endgame operations
in the drug producing regions of Colombia. Approximately seven million
dollars will be expended in FY99 and FY00 in support of the
counterdrug battalion.

To further enhance counterdrug-interdiction operations, the Department
is supporting an interagency effort to establish a Colombian Joint
Intelligence Center (JIC) which will be collocated with the
counterdrug battalion at Tres Esquinas. This center is ideally located
in close proximity to one of the major coca growing regions in
southern Colombia. The Colombian JIC personnel will be trained and all
of the selected soldiers will be screened for human rights compliance,
in accordance with section 8130 of the Department of Defense
Appropriation Act for FY99. Information disseminated from the JIC will
focus joint interdiction operations executed by the CNP and supporting
elements of the Colombian military.


The fourth strategic effort, maritime interdiction, is designed to
increase support to the Colombian maritime forces that combat
traffickers who move their drugs via boats and fishing vessels through
the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific transit zones. U.S. Navy ships and
aircraft, in conjunction with U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Service,
and other nations' assets, patrol the region, passing valuable
information to Colombian end-game forces positioned along the coast.
These efforts are coordinated through the Joint Interagency Task Force
in Key West, Florida.

Regional Systems and Programs

These four strategic efforts are girded by numerous Department systems
and programs that provide cueing information for follow-on ground,
aerial and maritime interdiction efforts in Colombia and throughout
the source nation region. Critical counterdrug systems include ground
based radar systems; Re- locatable Over The Horizon Radar (ROTHRO)
systems; P-3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, including the Counter Drug Unit
(CDU) variant; and airborne early warning aircraft such as AWACS and
the E-2 that support the interagency's air interdiction effort,
fulfilling the Department's Detection and Monitoring (D&M) mission.
The U.S. Army's Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) aircraft and
Tactical Analysis Teams programs play pivotal roles in the effort to
collect, analyze, and distribute critical intelligence information to
Colombian National Police (CNP) and military units engaged in
counterdrug operations in the field. These supporting systems and
related programs are part of a total Department source nation effort
of approximately two-hundred and forty seven million dollars in FY99,
much of which will be directed towards the Colombian drug threat.

The recent crash of the ARL aircraft on July 23, 1999, and the tragic
loss of its seven member multi-national crew, highlights the inherent
danger posed in the conduct of counterdrug operations and is
indicative of the risk that our military personnel take in an effort
to enhance Colombia's counterdrug capability. We must continue to
ensure that our interagency personnel who willingly take such risk are
provided the best equipment and our undivided support.

The final element that is instrumental to the success of the
Department's overall assistance program is the fall establishment of
the planned Forward Operating Locations (FOL). These FOLs support
counterdrug operations that had previously staged out of Howard Air
Force Base in Panama. The importance of the Department's counterdrug
support operations and the need for a forward-staged U.S. presence to
sustain them led Southern Command to develop the current FOL concept.
The FOL concept seeks to take advantage of existing airport facilities
owned and operated by host nations that are made available under
bilateral agreements. Indeed, the concept has already proven its value
as U.S. aircraft have continued their detection and monitoring
missions on an interim basis from the newly established FOLs in the
Curacao/Aruba and from Ecuador. The value of U.S. military presence
options afforded by FOLs for this mission, specifically the additional
location at Manta, Ecuador which is geographically ideal to support
D&M missions in southern Colombia, cannot be overstated. We need your
support to develop these FOLs fully in order to execute the
Department's congressionally directed D&M mission in the Southern
Hemisphere. As an aside, Customs P-3 aircraft operating out of Manta
on counterdrug missions initially participated in the search for the
downed counterdrug ARL aircraft that crashed in Colombia on July 23,

DoD's Role in non-Operational Activities in Colombia

The first U.S.-Colombia Defense Bilateral Working Group (BWG) took
place in March of this year in Bogota, Colombia. This BWG proved to be
an important milestone in our bilateral relationship, offering
participants a clear break with the Samper years, and clearing the way
for specific progress on human rights, military justice reform, and
military institutional reform as well as counternarcotics issues. The
Colombians were pleased with their interaction with the broad range of
Department representatives at the BWG. Both the General Policy and
Modernization/Proliferation sub-working groups addressed such areas as
military justice reform and disaster relief, on which we will work
cooperatively over the next few months. The Counternarcotics Working
Group also identified several areas for further exploration. Finally,
the Defense Ministry, recognizing that its military may not be
optimally structured to address the current threat, is studying
far-reaching reforms that would streamline the military command
structure and improve inter-service coordination.

With respect to human rights, there have been measurable Colombian
improvements across the board. According to the State Department's
Human Rights Reports for the last several years, military involvement
in human rights violations has dropped dramatically, from half the
total in 1993 to less than three percent last year. The Colombian Army
has begun to take steps to discipline officers accused of links to the
paramilitary groups. These paramilitary groups are credited with the
largest percentage of human rights violations in Colombia. The
Colombian Congress has also passed a military justice reform bill.
This new law will require military personnel accused of human rights
violations to stand trial in civilian courts, and it is expected to be
signed into law by President Pastrana shortly.


We face a difficult challenge in Colombia. As in the past, the
Department will continue to focus on supporting a coordinated
interdiction capability that holds the narcotrafficker at risk
throughout the entire drug cultivation, production and transportation
process. The establishment of the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center
and the fielding of the Counterdrug: battalion will allow engagement
of the critical Putumayo coca growing area and cocaine producing
laboratories. The riverine program will furnish Colombia with the
capability to engage river smuggling activity effectively. Further,
U.S. programs are in place for effective air interdiction. Support of
north coast maritime operations will ensure that go-fast boats used
for drug smuggling are impeded in their routes. Lastly, the newly
formed military bilateral- exchange provides a mechanism for potent
U.S.-Colombian cooperation and program development. Even with these
initiatives, there is, however, no near-term solution. Success will be
achieved as a result of the coordinated, flexible and sustained
strategic efforts directed against all facets of the drug trade in
Colombia -- cultivation, production, and transit. With congressional
support, I am confident that the Department will continue to play an
appropriate supporting role in the U.S. counterdrug effort in