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[H.A.S.C. No. 10637]
NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT
FOR FISCAL YEAR 2001H.R. 4205
OVERSIGHT OF PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED PROGRAMS
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
FULL COMMITTEE HEARINGS
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AUTHORIZATION AND OVERSIGHT
MARCH 23, 2000
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
One Hundred Sixth Congress
FLOYD D. SPENCE, South Carolina, Chairman
BOB STUMP, Arizona
DUNCAN HUNTER, California
JOHN R. KASICH, Ohio
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
STEVE BUYER, Indiana
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York
JAMES TALENT, Missouri
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
HOWARD ''BUCK'' McKEON, California
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
VAN HILLEARY, Tennessee
JOE SCARBOROUGH, Florida
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
BOB RILEY, Alabama
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARY BONO, California
JOSEPH PITTS, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
STEVEN KUYKENDALL, California
DONALD SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
IKE SKELTON, Missouri
NORMAN SISISKY, Virginia
JOHN M. SPRATT, Jr., South Carolina
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN PICKETT, Virginia
LANE EVANS, Illinois
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, Illinois
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
TOM ALLEN, Maine
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas
JIM TURNER, Texas
ADAM SMITH, Washington
LORETTA SANCHEZ, California
JAMES H. MALONEY, Connecticut
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
ROBERT BRADY, Pennsylvania
ROBERT E. ANDREWS, New Jersey
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
Robert S. Rangel, Staff Director
David Trachtenberg, Professional Staff Member
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAshley Godwin, Staff Assistant
Lisa Wetzel, Staff Assistant
C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Thursday, March 23, 2000, Fiscal Year 2001 National Defense Authorization ActU.S. Policy Toward Colombia
Thursday, March 23, 2000
THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2000
FISCAL YEAR 2001 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTU.S. POLICY TOWARD COLOMBIA
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Skelton, Hon. Ike, a Representative from Missouri, Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
Spence, Hon. Floyd D., a Representative from South Carolina, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
Beers, Rand, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Sheridan, Brian, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict
Wilhelm, Gen. Charles E., United States Marine Corps, Commander in Chief, U.S. Southern Command
[The Prepared Statements submitted for the Record can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Sheridan, Brian E.
Skelton, Hon. Ike
Spence, Hon. Floyd D.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWilhelm, Gen. Charles E.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Documents submitted for the Record can be viewed in the hard copy.]
1999 Coca Growing Areas in Colombia Map
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Questions and Answers submitted for the Record can be viewed in the hard copy.]
FISCAL YEAR 2001 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACTU.S. POLICY TOWARD COLOMBIA
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Washington, DC, Thursday, March 23, 2000.
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:37 a.m., in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Floyd D. Spence (chairman of the committee) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. FLOYD D. SPENCE, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM SOUTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will please come to order. This morning the Committee will take up the issue about United States policy towards Colombia. Our witnesses are Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Gen. Charles Wilhelm, Commander in Chief of United States Southern Command, and Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Gentlemen, thank you for agreeing to be here today, and I look forward to your testimony.
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Much has happened since the Committee last focused on the issue of counter-narcotic threats in Colombia and the Andean region. As we meet this morning, the Administration's proposed $1.3 billion military assistance package is pending before Congress.
Proponents of this proposal believe it is the correct solution to assist the Colombian government in reestablishing sovereignty over their southern areas of the country, where narcotic and guerilla activities are found.
However, critics believe that the plan is not well thought out and involves the risk of deepening United States Military involvement in the largely civil internal conflict that has plagued Colombia for decades.
It is my hope that this morning's hearing will allow full discussion of these competing policy perspectives. But it is also important that we fully review and discuss the proper role for the Department of Defense in the overall counter-drug effort in the region.
Due to legislation that originated in this Committee over a decade ago, the Department of Defense has been actively providing a supporting role for law enforcement agencies in the interdiction of illegal narcotics. Current law specifically establishes the Department of Defense as the lead federal agency for air and maritime protection and monitoring of drug traffickers outside the United States.
However, in recent years the Department has sought to expand its counter-drug role beyond detection and monitoring. The Department has actively provided direct military assistance to Colombia and other Andean nations, including the training and equipping of a new brigade and naval riverine units.
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To date, the Department has been able to avoid becoming entangled in Colombia's civil conflict that has raged for decades and killed over 30,000 people. However, the Administration's latest proposal will significantly increase United States military involvement in Colombia and may, as a practical matter, increase the number of United States military personnel on the ground.
The increasing cooperation among guerilla, paramilitary, and drug trafficking elements has raised the question of whether increased DOD support for the Colombian counter-drug activities could inadvertently pull the United States military personnel into the counter-insurgency campaign.
The Administration has stated that the United States policy is not to support Colombian counter-insurgency efforts. However, in some parts of Colombia, the distinction between drug traffickers and guerrillas simply does not exist. The situation in Colombia requires a clear recognition of its impact on the region. Colombia's increased drug production is fueling the vast criminal enterprises of drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary groups within and outside Colombia's borders.
Neighboring countries such as Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela are struggling to cope with routine detergents by such groups across their border. These developments pose new threats to regional stability and undermine United States interests in the area.
Therefore, in my mind the question is not if the United States should help Colombia, but how. The Committee and the Congress face fundamental questions in that regard. Does the program proposed by the President pending before the House provide the proper policy focus and resources needed? More fundamentally, if the Administration's proposal to significantly expand the legal authority of the Department of Defense to operate in Colombia necessary and justified. What is the rationale for thrusting DOD into a foreign assistance role traditionally carried out by the State Department?
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I look forward to receiving the answers on these questions from our witnesses this morning so we can better consider the Administration's proposal and make a more informed decision.
Before turning to our witnesses, I would like to first recognize the Committee's ranking member, Mr. Skelton, for any opening remarks he'd like to make.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Spence can be found in the Appendix.]
STATEMENT OF HON. IKE SKELTON, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MISSOURI, RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you. First, I welcome the witnesses. Mr. Chairman, I must tell you this is a very, very important hearing. It could very well, Mr. Chairman, end up being the most important one we have all year because we are embarking on new ground, and for which is extremely top of the list for us to review it if we wish to end that war.
It's my opinion the time to move forward is of utmost importance, and I've made my concern on this issue to the White House concerning my reservations I have about the direction of American policy in the Andean region.
Mr. Chairman, I take a back seat to no one on the issue of ending drug abuse in this country. No one. I've long been on record as supporting federal, state, and local counter-narcotic programs, and I'm particularly counting on some of the new programs of detecting and monitoring drug traffickers and interdicting the flow of illicit drugs.
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However, the counter-narcotics program directed at Colombia and the current emergency supplemental appropriations bill represent, I think, a tremendous waste of legal and non-legal military aid to that country. While our focus has been mostly directed toward the Colombian national police in the past and their appropriate civilian law enforcement role, we are now turning our focus to aiding the Colombian military. It's crucial to understand the context in which this aid is being offered. Colombia is mired in an intractable and longstanding civil war. They believe the war cannot be won militarily. And some U.S. policy-makers have said that the blurring of the line between the counter-narcotics effort and counter-insurgency effort is now too hard to be madeand inappropriate.
I ask these questions and hope our witnesses will hear me. Are we on the verge of committing our men and women to a major longterm military effort? Are we becoming involved in the counter-insurgency effort in the name of counter-narcotics? Are we choosing sides in a civil conflict that will only exacerbate that conflict and may do little to stem the flow of illegal drugs to this country? What happens when an American sergeant is kidnapped and ransom is demanded for his return? The people of our Country, America, deserve a thorough debate on this issue. We've not had one to date. That's why this hearing is extremely important, hearing these questions being discussed and answered. I am pleased that we are able to focus attention in this Committee on this issue. And Mr. Chairman, again, thank you for calling this hearing.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Skelton can be found in the Appendix.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Skelton. Without objection, the prepared statements of our witnesses will be submitted for the record. And Secretary Sheridan, the floor is yours.
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STATEMENT OF BRIAN SHERIDAN, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT
Secretary SHERIDAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased to be here today with Gen. Wilhelm and with Assistant Secretary Beers. I know this is a very difficult issue. It's a complicated problem. There are no easy answers. And I think the more time we spend in dialogue between the Executive Branch and the Congress, I think the better off we all are. And an informed discussion and debate I think is very helpful. And so I'm glad to be here today to answer all of your questions and concerns to the best of my ability.
I would make four quick points, if I could, Mr. Chairman. First, from a Department of Defense perspective, our purpose in Colombia is counter-narcotics. It is counter-drugs. Gen. McCaffrey has testified very eloquently frequently in recent weeks about the toll that illegal drug use takes upon our Country, thousands of Americans killed every year, whole communities damaged and destroyed, over $100 billion worth of damages to our economy, incarceration costs, treatment, productivity losses and so on.
The more immediate concern we have in Colombia is the explosion of drug production in southern Colombia, in particular in an area called the Putumayo and Caqueta, which, as I understand it, the staff has made maps available to you. But if you look at the southernmost portion of Colombia on the border of Ecuador, we have seen over the last several years an explosion in cocaine production capacity. That cocaine, unchecked right now in southern Colombia, is headed to the United States. It ends up on our streets. It ends up destroying our families, our communities. And that's what this package is all about.
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The second point I would make is to emphasize again that the focal point of this effort is the destruction in the south. I would also note that the Department of Defense has been running about a $900 million a year counter-drug effort for a number of years. And we've always had very strong support from this Committee. And we have very rigorous programs in South America, in the Caribbean, in the United States, and we view the current effort in Colombia and the supplemental as an additionalin addition to what is already a very broad base and what we think is a very successful counter-drug program, which leads to the seizure of about 100 metric tons of cocaine a year, cocaine that otherwise would have ended up on the streets of the United States.
In Colombia in specific, the Department of Defense has been working with the Colombian military and police since 1989. This is not new. In the last couple of years in particular, we have been working with the Colombian police and military, and with very good support from this Committee, we've been working on developing interdiction programs, ground, river and air, designed to disrupt the massive flow of precursor chemicals that go into Southern Colombia, and then disrupt the flow of cocaine products coming out.
Again, when I look at the supplemental, when I look at the DOD portions of the supplemental, I see some additional funding. I see more resources, but they are intended to support the same types of programs we've been running for the last number of years there. The DOD portion of this supplemental over two years is $140 million, some of it for ground operations, a good amount of it to support the air interdiction. And again, we've been running air interdiction operations in Colombia and in Peru now for many years. And so I think it's important to understand that at least from our perspective there's not something fundamentally new going on here. This is a continuation of the types of programs we've been running in the past and programs that we think are successful.
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The third point I would make very quickly is simply to note that I do not believe the Department will be dragged into some kind of a counter-insurgency Vietnam-type campaign. Why do I say that? First, the guidance from the Secretary of Defense is very clear. Gen. Wilhelm and I had a tank session with the Secretary just a week or two ago. The General laid out for the Secretary and the service chiefs and the Chairman what the plan is, what we're doing. And the Secretary is fully on board with the program but is also equally clear as someone who's been to Colombia in the past. He's had frequent meetings with his defense minister colleague that we don't want to get involved in a counter-insurgency campaign, and we don't intend to.
Again, I would remind you we've been there since 1989 without getting dragged into a counter-insurgency campaign. So I'm highly confident that we can do that. Later on this morning, I think Gen. Wilhelm and myself can both give you in more detail the steps we take to make sure that we know exactly where our folks are, that they're as safe as they can possibly be, and we know what they're up to.
The last point I would make, there have been many questions raised, and I think they're very legitimate questions raised, about human rights and the Colombian military. Let me say that this is a subject of concern, and I think very legitimate concern. The human rights situation in Colombia is complicated. Colombia is a very, very violent country. Over 20,000 people get murdered there a year. They get murdered on all sides for all reasons. Political killings are actually a small fraction of the total number of killings and homicides in Colombia every year. When I talk to the Colombian military about human rights, I take this very complicated subject and I break it into three components. One, how is the Colombian military doing currently on human rights grounds? Two, how is the Colombian military in doing in bringing to justice members of the military who may have been guilty of crimes committed in the past? And three, how are they doing on links or alleged links to these paramilitary organizations, which I think are a rightful source of concern?
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On the first count, current conduct by the Colombian military, I think even the sternest critic of the Colombian military would give them great credit for the dramatic improvements that they have made on those human rights grounds in the current framework. And the statistics by the Colombian Government I think speak for themselves. Human rights complaints against the Colombian military brought to the Colombian Attorney General's Office went from about 2,000 in 1996 down to about 100 in 1999, a 95 percent reduction.
The political killings in Colombia, which aren't in any way attributed to the security forces, at one time in the early 1990s over 50 percent of those were in some way attributed to security forces. Last year, according to the State Department Human Rights Report, that number is down to less than 2 percent. So the Colombian military has made dramatic progress in its current conduct.
On the second issue of bringing past actions, bringing those to justice who may have committed crimes any number of years ago, this is very difficult, but the Colombian Government is also making progress in that area. It is also important to note, because many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and others have seized on the issue of having military personnel tried in civilian rather than military courts. And it is important for people in an informed discussion to understand the Colombian military does not decide where a human rights case gets tried. There is an independent judicial body in Colombia called The Supreme Judicial Council that makes that decision. Over the last three years, the Colombian military has referred over 560 cases to that body for a decision. Some The Supreme Judicial Council returns to a military court; some they put into a civilian court network. The military is in the middle of its own internal structural review of the military judicial system. They propose and had legislation passed last summer by the Colombian Congress. The Colombian Congress is now studying the implementing legislation that the Colombian military provided. If we get speedy action by the Colombian military, by the Colombian Congress rather, we hope to start soon a training program and help the Colombian judicial military authorities bring about the reform that we're currently waiting on the legislation for.
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Last, on severing links to the paramilitaries, this is an extremely difficult area. In some cases, we're asking the Colombian military to disprove a negative.
It is very clear that President Pastrana, Defense Minister Ramirez, and Gen. Topias have been outspoken in their condemnation of paramilitary activity in Colombia. It is very clear that they have given guidance to the Colombian military that there is to be no collusion and no cooperation between the security forces and the paramilitaries in Colombia. The military has taken military action against paramilitary units. And I can give you those statistics at a later point if somebody has an interest in those.
But clearly there is more work to be done there. I don't think anyone would disagree that in out in some of the remote areas of Colombia, on a local basis there may be some of this collusion. I don't doubt that. But it is not a matter of policy. The Colombian military is working vigorously on this problem. And I think we have to give them credit for those efforts.
Let me close, Mr. Chairman, by thanking you again for having me up here today. Let me again note that Plan Colombia was developed over the last number of months by the Colombians and by us on an interagency basis, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) people, the judicial people, the State Department, the military, with Colombian counterparts. This is the best program that we could come up with designed to address the explosion in drug production in Colombia. I don't think this plan is perfect. I think there's plenty of room for different view. But I do believe that this is the best effort. People with years of experience put this together. And my fear is if it gets voted down, what next? And how do we cap that explosion in drug cultivation?
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Those drugs are coming to the United States, and that's what this program is all about. And if this gets voted down, I'm not sure what the next act is. I'm not sure what Plan B is; we've been dedicating all of our time to Plan A. With that, let me turn it over to Gen. Wilhelm, and I look forward to the questions and comments of the members today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Sheridan can be found in the Appendix.]
The CHAIRMAN. General.
STATEMENT OF GEN. CHARLES E. WILHELM, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS, COMMANDER IN CHIEF, U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND
General WILHELM. Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, I welcome this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss matters of concern and interest in the United States Southern Command area of responsibility.
In keeping with your guidance, in my opening statement, I will concentrate on Southern Command's regional counter-drug activities and its support for Plan Colombia. But Chairman Spence, before beginning, I would like to publicly thank you and the other members of your bipartisan delegation who very recently undertook a wide-ranging 14-day trip throughout our Area of Responsibility (AOR) to learn firsthand about the situation in Colombia and six other pivotal countries in South America.
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The counter-drug struggle provides the underpinning for most of our military engagement activities in Colombia and the rest of the Andean region. With regard to Colombia, I am encouraged by the progress that is being made.
During 1999, we created a first of the Colombian counter-narcotics battalions. This 931-member unit is composed of professional soldiers, all of whom have been vetted to eliminate human rights abuses. The battalion has been trained by members of the U.S. Southern Special Forces Group and is designed to interact with and provide security for elements of the Colombian National Police conducting counter-drug operations.
Tactical mobility has long been the achilles heel of Colombia's armed forces. This battalion will be supported by an aviation element consisting initially of 18 refurbished UH-1N helicopters provided under a cooperative effort involving Mr. Beers and his people at International Narcotics and Law (INL) and United States Southern Command. These new units will focus their operations in the southern departments of Colombia which have been the sites of recent wholesale increases in drug cultivation and production.
To assure that combined police and military units conducting counter-drug operations with the best, most recent and most accurate intelligence, we can work closely with Colombia while developing the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center, or COJIC, as we refer to it. This facility is located in the Tres Esquinas military complex that abuts the southern departments. This computerized facility obtained its initial operating capability on the 22nd of December of last year.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Deliberately, and without much fanfare, these new organizations have already commenced operations. Their initial forays in drug cultivation and production areas near Tres Esquinas resulted in arrests, seizures of drugs, destruction of laboratories, identification of cultivation sites, and confiscation of precursor chemicals. The initiatives that I have just described we refer to collectively at Southern Command as Action Plan 1999.
The follow-on effort, Action Plan 2000, will build on these first day's efforts. If additional funds are provided through the supplemental, during the coming year, we will build two additional counter-narcotics battalions and a counter-narcotics brigade headquarters.
With a well-trained and fully equipped counter-narcotics brigade consisting of more than 40,000 professional soldiers, the Colombian armed forces will be prepared to join forces with air-mobil elements of the National Police and re-assert control over the narcotics-rich departments of Southern Colombia.
Continuing to focus on mobility and intelligence, we will provide 15 additional UH-1N helicopters rounding out the aviation battalion. The UH-1Ns will ultimately replace UH-60 Blackhawks which have the range, payload, high altitude capability and survivability required by Colombia's armed forces to cripple the narcotics industry and bring the remainder of the country under government control.
On the intelligence side, we will continue to develop and refine the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center and pursue a broad range of initiatives to improve our interdiction capabilities. A key component of the interdiction plan is first phase development of the forward operating location at Manta, Ecuador. As I have previously testified, this facility is urgently required to replace the capabilities that we lost when we closed Howard Air Force Base in Panama.
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Manta's importance stems from the fact that it is the sole operating site that will give us the operational reach we need to cover all of Colombia, all of Peru and the coca-producing regions of Bolivia.
Looking beyond the year 2000, we have engaged the services of Military Professional Resources, Incorporated (MPRI). Hand-picked and highly experienced, MPRI analysts will assess Colombia's security force requirements beyond the counter-drug battalions and their supporting organizations. The contract that Mr. Sheridan's people have developed and negotiated with MPRI tasks them to develop an operating concept for the armed forces, candidate force structures to implement that concept and the doctrines required to train and equip the forces.
In recent months, I have become increasingly concerned about Colombia's neighbors. The adverse social, economic, and political positions spawned wholly or in part by drug trafficking and the other corrupting activities it breeds, are weakening the fabric of democracy in other nations in the region. For this reason, while I endorse a Colombia-centric approach to the drug problem, I caution against a Colombia- exclusive approach.
As we assist Colombia in making important strides to reassert its sovereignty over its territory and deter growing cultivation, we should also take appropriate steps to preserve the noteworthy successes that have been achieved by Peru and Bolivia and be sensitive to emerging needs in the bordering countries of Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Brazil. This is by every measurement a regional problem. As such, I think we must pursue regional solutions.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In my discussions with members of the Congress and others about Colombia, I have found sincere and very understandable concern about becoming entangled in another Vietnam.
I served in Vietnam in 1965, 1966, 1969 and 1970 as a company commander and a platoon commander in U.S. Marine units and as a field advisor with the 2nd Oregon Division. For those reasons, I believe I am qualified to address this concern. What is significant about these two conflicts is not their similarities but their differences. First, there is the element of geography. Vietnam was half the world away. Colombia is as close as Denver.
Then there is the level of our involvement. As members of this Committee I think know, in 1968, our troop strength in Vietnam peaked at 536,000. Last year, on our average peak, monthly troop strength in Colombia was only 209. And I do not anticipate significant growth in those numbers if increased support under Plan Colombia is approved.
Mission is a crucial consideration, arguably the most crucial consideration. In Vietnam, our policy embraced large scale U.S. armed intervention in an externally supported insurgency. In Colombia, we are providing only training and equipment to Colombia's security forces. And that support is limited by our policy to counter-drug activities. I would add that the military trainers working for United States Southern Command are absolutely and categorically forbidden from participating in field operations with Colombian security forces.
Finally, I would repeat what I told your colleagues in the Senate. The lieutenants and captains who struggled and suffered through Vietnam are today's generals. If another Vietnam comes, we will recognize it. And we have absolutely no desire to repeat that experience. I was accurately quoted by the press as having said that ''When I visit Colombia, I do not feel a quagmire sucking at my boots.'' This morning before you, I reaffirm that statement. I willingly place a 36-year professional military reputation on the line when I tell you categorically, Colombia is not another Vietnam.
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In conclusion, I am convinced that we are on the right path in Colombia. The supplemental funding initiative is an important step in the right direction, and not a moment too soon. Colombia's a worthy cause. It's the second most populous nation in all of South America. Next to the United States, it is the oldest democracy in our hemisphere. It is centrally located on the Andean ridge, a region of strategic importance to the United States.
Today, Colombia profits from skillful, ethical, and determined leadership at both the national and military levels. Those of us who visit Colombia frequently are observing the mobilization of national will that is needed to overcome the violence and corruption that has plagued that nation for nearly four decades.
Colombia neither wants nor needs our troops in the field, nor does it seek our help in resolving its insurgency. Rather, through Plan Colombia it has reached out to us for advice and assistance in defeating the drug industry, an industry to which we both contribute and one which threatens both of our societies. To seize the initiative in a struggle which, according to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, claims the lives of as many as 52,000 of our citizens each year, I urge your support of the Colombia emergency supplemental and increased support for the other nations of the region.
Mr. Chairman, respected members of the Committee, I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of General Wilhelm can be found in the Appendix.]
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General. Mr. Beers.
STATEMENT OF RAND BEERS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AFFAIRS
Secretary BEERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of this Committee. I will also make some brief remarks focusing on four principal points. In addition to the points that Mr. Sheridan made about the tragic effect of drugs on the United States, in addition to the points that he made about the explosion of cocaine cultivation in Colombia, I would like to add several additional points to the need to move in Colombia.
First, we have had an enormous success in our efforts by the State Department and the Defense Department in both the countries of Peru and Bolivia. In Peru, over the last five years there has been 66 percent reduction in the total cultivation of coca in that country. In Bolivia, in the last two-and-a-half years, there has been a 55 percent reduction in the coca cultivation in that country. There has been a concomitant increase in Colombia, and that represents the challenge to us, and that is what this proposal is about.
We need now to move in Colombia with enough effort to be able to cap and reduce the coca explosion there so that we can complete the job in Latin America that we've done over the last five years. This is going to be a more difficult job, make no mistake about that. The situation in Colombia, yes, is very different from the situation in Peru and Bolivia.
There are several compounding factors that I think are worth noting. The first is that the narcotics trafficking industry's home base is in Colombia. When they lost Peru and Bolivia, they withdrew to their own base in Colombia. That means they are more entrenched there. That means the task will be more difficult.
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Second, the areas in Colombia that they are operating in are exceedingly remote from the central government's controlled areas in Colombia, and they are larger than the areas in either Peru or Bolivia.
Third, they are reinforced by insurgents and paramilitary forces providing security elements there that did not exist in either Peru and Bolivia. Those make the task more difficult, but they do not reduce the need. They only increase the need and the urgency to move forward.
Let me talk briefly about the urgency, in addition to what Mr. Sheridan said. If we do not do anything now, what we can contemplate is that the 25 percent increase in coca cultivation is going to continue. The amount of drugs available to the United States and to the rest of the world is going to increase. The ability of the traffickers and their support is going to increase their ability to corrupt and undermine societies, Colombia's society, other societies including possibly the United States will only increase.
The value of their dollar in terms of drug trafficking in the United States is estimated to be as much as $110 billion a year for all drug trafficking in Colombia. Just within Colombia, not even the money the traffickers control outside the country, is estimated to be as high as $10 or more billion within the Colombian economy. This kind of dollar availability is something that's going to risk the undermining of Colombian society.
We have an opportunity now with the President of Colombia which we have not had before. We have not had a President in Colombia in recent history that we could work with. President Samper, if you will all recall, was tainted by narco-trafficking dollars in winning his presidency. And we were unable to work with him. You have to go back another presidency to Beauveria, before him, before we had someone we could work with. But equally important, it's not just Colombia, it's Colombia, Peru, Bolivia. Three countries. The heart of coca cultivation in Latin America, all of whom are prepared to work with us. But if we don't start now, we will lose that opportunity.
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In addition to that, I think that it is absolutely critical that the flow of dollars to support the effort that Gen. Wilhelm and Mr. Sheridan were talking about is critical now. Days and months lost mean days and months in which the capability will not be available to impose the expansion of drug trafficking. And those are days in which the traffickers have a better time in which to increase their capabilities, increase their infrastructure and make it all the more difficult for the Colombians to do this.
Let me go on to talk briefly about the fact already made by Mr. Sheridan and Gen. Wilhelm that this is a Colombian effort. This is their plan, yet we work with them. But this is their plan.
We have, all three of us, been to Colombia over ten times in the past two years. We have all heard every element of this plan spoken to us by the Colombians. The only thing that the United States helped in doing was to say, take these pieces and put them together into a coherent strategic plan. They all were there. They simply put them together with our assistance.
Second, it's not U.S. forces that are going to be doing this. It's Colombians, Colombian police, Colombian military, Colombian members of the Colombian Government working for Colombia with Colombian governmental will behind them. That is absolutely critical. As others have said, there will not be U.S. combat forces involved, it will be only U.S. support and U.S. technical assistance. This is not a bottomless pit. This is an effort which we can work reasonably at seeing results here within the next two years. We can reasonably expect to have a serious look at success in four to six years. It's a longterm effort. Four to six years is a longterm. It's a short to midterm effort if you look at what has happened elsewhere in Latin America.
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Finally, let me talk about balance. Your Committee is concerned with armed services. Your Committee is concerned with the military. This is not just a military plan. This is a military police alternative development, human rights strengthening, government institutions making the judicial system work better. This is a Colombian plan which talks about the economy, the peace process, counter-narcotics, strengthening the judicial system and human rights, and building democracy and social development.
We are prepared to help them with the last three. They are prepared to do the bulk of the work themselves. They are asking for our support. We and the rest of the world need to stand behind Colombia. And I think this is an excellent opportunity to do this. I look forward to your questions and this panel. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Beers can be found in the Appendix.]
The CHAIRMAN. Ladies and gentlemen, as Mr. Sheridan pointed out, some of us on this Committee have visited the area a couple of times last year. We visited with the President of Colombia and their military police, their military, and I think we have a better understanding of the situation in Colombia as a result of that visit.
General, I'm still concerned as to whether or not the current force protection of our trainers is adequate. And do you anticipate greater risk for our military in the future as a result of this increased support for the government? And then I'll ask a question of Mr. Sheridan.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General WILHELM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, in looking at the operations that we conduct in Colombia, we borrowed a page from Ford Motor Company's book, and we said force protection is job one.
We realize that the loss of a serviceman or woman in Colombia is an absolutely unacceptable outcome, and we have conducted our activities accordingly.
In the first instance, we select the places where we send our men and women very carefully. I just came back from Colombia last Sunday. I visited the Larandia base, where we intend to conduct the training for the second and third counter-drug battalions. This is a base that has never once been attacked by the FARC or other insurgent groups. Between the Larandia base and the nearest Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) fronts is the 12th Colombian Brigade in the city of Florencia, a city which is only 17 kilometers away. And the brigade and the operating base at Larandia are linked by a road. So we considered those matters.
As I indicated in my opening statement, we have expressly forbidden all of our trainers to engage in or to locate themselves with Colombian military or other security force units conducting field operations. That is absolutely forbidden.
Finally, we take each and every intelligence report of possible hostile activity by the various violent groups in Colombia very seriously. Normally, we get our initial information through host country human intelligence sources. It comes to us from the Colombians.
As an example, Mr. Chairman, a very recent example, this weekend when I went to Colombia I took my intelligence officer, Gen. Burgess was with me, and a team of four other intelligence specialists who were going to go to Tres Esquinas and work in the joint intelligence center for about four or five days to just analyze the flow of intelligence within the center and to assess the effectiveness of our operations there.
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We received a report that possibly Tres Esquinas had been targeted. I brought Gen. Burgess and his team back. They will not go back to Colombia until I'm satisfied that security conditions at Tres Esquinas are appropriate.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General. Secretary Sheridan, can the Administration assure us in Congress that this will not lead to an increase in our military involvement in Colombia?
Secretary SHERIDAN. I think, Mr. Chairman, that as we have looked at and designed this aid package, we do not anticipate any, in any meaningful way, increases in personnel. One of the things that Gen. Wilhelm has noted and I have tried to make clear in the briefings to the Congress, we have a core number of military personnel generally assigned to our embassy or basically stationed there on a rotating basis, trainers and others. That number fluctuates quite a bit. There is times when we have almost no one in Colombia on a temporary basis. There are other times, as Gen. Wilhelm described, when there are maybe a number of training activities when you get a total number of maybe 100 or so trainers and others down there.
The plan, as I see it, does not involve, and I don't believe will involve, substantially more U.S. forces, and certainly not on the ground in any kind of permanent way.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Mr. Skelton.
Mr. SKELTON. I have only one question. Any or all of you may wish to answer it. The Colombian Government says it wants to cut its coca production in half in the next six years. Is this the only benchmark of success? What sort of benchmarks will the departments of Defense and State use to evaluate the success of this assistance that we'll see?
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Secretary SHERIDAN. Let me just start by saying as we implement the plan, there will be any number of milestones along the way. But clearly our interest, as I stated at the beginning, Congressman, is counter-drugs. So the ultimate benchmark is, are you decreasing production or not? So, yes, from a programmatic perspective, we'll have any number of implementation milestones of these programs. But at the end of the day, I think we owe a very simple metric to the American people. Is this working or not? And the ultimate specific of that is cocaine production, and the goal of cutting it by 50 percent is going to be the ultimate measure of our effectiveness.
General WILHELM. Congressman Skelton, I think it's perhaps useful to look at the goals established by Colombia, and I think we discussed this in our conversation about a week and a half ago. The goal which you mentioned of reducing the amount of cocaine being cultivated by 50 percent in the next six years is a goal that was expressed by Gen. Topias, the commander of Colombia's armed forces, in his implementation plan under Plan Colombia.
Our own goals are more modest. The National Drug Control strategy seeks to achieve a 30 percent reduction in the source zone by the year 2007. So actually, in that sense, Colombia's goals are perhaps more aggressive than our own.
But I think there are other points that need to be considered. Last year, as best we can determine, about 512 metric tons of cocaine headed out of the source zone for the United States. Through a combination of interdiction efforts, we picked off about 131 metric tons, which means that 381 tons reached our shores. That does not get the job done.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am told by sources that I believe that the national appetite for cocaine is about 300 metric tons per year. I've told my staff and our Colombian colleagues that success starts with the number 299. As soon as we can get deliveries below demand and start to successively drive them down, then we're truly achieving success.
I think of other issues we need to look at. Yes, I firmly agree with everything that Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Beers have stated about the improvement in human rights performance by Colombia's security forces, but I think we need to see continued improvements. I stressed the general topics, to Minister of Defense Ramirez. I discussed with President Pastrana the need to take an even more aggressive approach to the paramilitary. I'm convinced that Colombia is doing that.
Sir, I think we need to measure carefully progress in all these areas to determine that our contributions and efforts are achieving the desired results.
Secretary BEERS. If I could just add one last point. We have been engaged, as Mr. Sheridan said earlier, in a combined planning effort between ourselves and the Colombian Government with all of the agencies that are involved in this effort.
Congressman Skelton, the goal that you referred to of the 50 percent reduction in six years is the base goal in Plan Colombia. But the planning effort that we are currently engaged in is designed to do exactly what you are asking us about, which is to give you the secondary and tertiary goals that will become the benchmarks and milestones for moving forward in this program.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, an air interdiction goal, a riverine interdiction goal; the number of families and communities which will agree to participate in the alternative development program; the reduction in the number of human rights violations, the number of cases that are brought to court; the confidence level that exists within the Colombian population that the rule of law, in fact, is beginning to increase in Colombia.
We do not have these goals precisely laid out yet. This planning process is ongoing. We estimate that the planning process will be complete in the June time frame after we have had a continuing opportunity to engage with the Colombian Government. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Mr. Bateman.
Mr. BATEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I recall one of the witnesses saying that we have had some American military personnel on duty in Colombia since 1989. Have we had any casualties during that period of time?
Secretary SHERIDAN. Let me say, Congressman, that we have hadwe have been working with the Colombian military police since 1989, people rotating in and out. To the best of my knowledge since I've been working on this program for about seven years, the only casualty that I'm aware of was the tragedy that took place last September with the crash of the army Airborne Reconnaissance Light (ARL) where five people lost their life.
Mr. BATEMAN. The Blackhawks that we are sending in there, how vulnerable are they to attacks from the guerrilla insurgency forces?
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General WILHELM. Congressman Bateman, there has been considerable discussion over the type of support that we should provide Colombia's forces to overcome their tactical mobility deficiencies. The helicopter issue has been considered in considerable detail. The Colombians conducted their own study. We've consulted with them. It was not the first and only court of resort. The Blackhawk was one issue from Sikorsky. There was a Bell option considered which included the Huey2, which I believe the members of the Committee are familiar with, and the MH1W, which is the export version of the Cobra gunship.
There was another option which considered Russian aircraft, the MI17, the MI35, and the MI50. And, finally, a European option was considered, which looked at the Listov 129 as the central aircraft.
Looking at all of these aircraft, their capabilities, and limitations, the Blackhawk finally won out, and I think for good and sufficient reasons. It's part of a long-term effort by the Colombians to develop a standardized aircraft fleet which, for the long haul, will be the most economical solution to their needs and requirements.
Sir, I think the Blackhawk for survivability purposes is superior. It's the best of all the helicopters. It has the best on-board protective systems. It has duplicate hydraulic and other systems that enable it to absorb hits. It has the range it needs to achieve operational flexibility, and by that I mean going around threats instead of flying over them. I think by almost every measurement if we're thinking about the right tool for the job at hand in Colombia, in helicopter terms the right tool is the H60.
Mr. BATEMAN. General, I would certainly accept your expertise as to whether the helicopters you had selected are the most capable for the mission. The question still remains in my mind how vulnerable is it? What weaponry do the guerrillas now possess? Do they pose a significant threat? What have they got to bring down these helicopters?
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General WILHELM. Congressman, what we know from the past is that the single weapon system that they use to engage aircraft has been small armsmachine guns, automatic and semiautomatic weapons. We've received numerous reports that the insurgents have surface-to-air missiles. We've heard everything from U.S. Redeye missiles on up to SAM-16s from Eastern Europe. We have yet to confirm any of these reports, but we can certainly not discount the notion that they may in fact have these weapons right now.
And I would tell you that as part of the Blackhawk helicopter as part of its on board systems, it contains self-protection systems for the flare and chaff, the LQ systems to work around these threats.
Mr. BATEMAN. Wouldn't you assume if the representations are correct, and I have no reason to think they are notthat the narco-traffickers have vast, vast sums of money? And if they've got it, they will find somewhere in the world arms market a way to obtain the resources to protect themselves against the threat of the helicopters?
If they don't have them, wouldn't you predict they're going to go get them?
General WILHELM. I think that's a very reasonable assumption. In fact, Congressman, you're quite correct. If they have the money, the weapons systems, the SA16s and others are very much available on the world arms market. What that tells us is that in working with and training the Colombian security forces we have to consider both on-board systems on the aircraft and effective tactics to counter these weapons when and if they appear in Colombia. And I think the question is when not if.
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Mr. BATEMAN. Mr. Chairman, I see your red light is blinking. I have some more questions maybe for later. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, sir. Thank you. We should break here for this vote. And when we return Mr. Bartlett has agreed to chair this meeting until I return from another meeting.
Mr. BARTLETT. [presiding] Let me call our Committee members to order and recognize Mr. Sisisky.
Mr. SISISKY. Thank you very much. And welcome to you all. Looking at the map, we have coca growing areas in Colombia. I can see why with the greens in there why you've chosen the southern end of Colombia. But I'd like for you to explain maybe to the CommitteeI think I know the relationship of the insurgents with the narcotic growers or purveyors, plus the fact that there are a few green spots in northern. And with Panama on the border there, shouldn't we put assets in the northern Columbia part also?
Secretary SHERIDAN. Let me take the first shot at it. I think the first thing to note on the ties between the FARC and the drug trade is that it is complicated, it is decentralized. In some parts of Colombia, we think the FARC simply derive revenue almost in the form of taxes. They control an area. You're going to pay a certain amount of money for planes to go in and out. You're going to pay a certain amount of a tax on cultivation there. And in that sense, they're involvement may be more indirect.
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In other parts of Colombia, particularly in the south, an increasing body of evidence suggests that they're far more directly involved in controlling production and controlling the first several steps of the cocaine production process and are, therefore, generating even greater revenues.
Clearly, Colombia is a target-rich environment, and one can look at many parts of Colombia and suggest that it needs more law enforcement action. The reason that we are focused on the south is because that is the area, the predominant area, where we have seen cultivation explode over the last few years. And we think unless you can get a handle on the south and cap it there, there is no reason to believe they will stop the cultivation there.
The northern cultivation in the Norte de Santander area is actually relatively new growth, and it is something that we'll watch very carefully. But with the limited resources that we have, I think you have to attack the center of gravity where you can make the greatest impact. And right now we believe that's in the south.
Mr. SISISKY. And how about the insurgents? Have they made any attempt to go over into Panama?
Secretary SHERIDAN. The insurgents go into Panama at their leisure.
Mr. SISISKY. And Panama has no army, am I correct in that?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary SHERIDAN. Right.
General WILHELM. Congressman Sisisky, maybe I can pick this up at that point. One of the outcomes of our invasion in Panama in 1989 and the unseating of Gen. Noriega was the elimination of their armed forces. And now what they have are public forces which are police forces, a national police force, a national maritime service, and a national air service.
As Mr. Sheridan stated, the insurgents from Colombia, principally the FARC, violate the borders of Panama with absolute impunity. Panama simply has no forces to protect the sovereignty of their southern provinces.
I would just add one additional point, sir, on where does this go after the initial thrust of the south. This is something that the Colombian military haveor security forces I should say to be more accurate because it involves both the National Police and the armed forces. I mentioned the six year plan. The first two years are to the south, the second two years are to the east toward the Meta and Guajira provinces, and the years five and six move to the north to Santander and the other provinces where the drugs are grown. So they do have, in fact, a universal program which has a nationwide focus to deal with the here and now and the probable next steps.
Mr. SISISKY. Thank you.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much. Let me next recognize Mr. Pickett.
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Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome our witnesses here today. Gen. Wilhelm, I'm one of those that accompanied the Chairman on his recent visit to down when we were in Colombia. I support the program. I think it's fully justified. I frequently think we don't do enough for our neighbors in the south, and I think this effort is one that is very worthwhile. But in saying that, I would still like to take a look at the other side of the coin thoroughly as to maybe what the consequences are going to be on the failure of the U.S. Government to act at this time.
Can you give usI know it's hypotheticaland it's common sense that the situation is not likely to get better, it's likely to get worse if nothing is done. But can you quantify this in terms that would give us a balance, I mean, of what we can expect to experience if we don't take action compared to what may happen if we do take action?
General WILHELM. Yes. Thank you, Congressman Pickett. Really that's almost my line. The real risk about Plan Colombia and the Colombia supplemental is if we do not do it. I think if we look at the nations of the Andean Ridge collectively instead of focusing exclusively on Colombia, the importance of this comes clearly into focus. If we just look at the nation of Venezuela and give at least passing attention to the fact that that is our primary source of imported oil. Somewhere between about 15 to 18 percent of our imported oil needs each month are met from Venezuela.
We look at the torment in Ecuador right nowanother long-time partner. And of course, Ecuador took a three hour vacation from democracy during January. I don't mean that to soundI'm not taking that lightly. That was a very tension-filled evening. And since that time, the FARC have even made representations that they did, in fact, play some role in the disquiet that was developed in Quito among the indigenous people.
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Brazil was very much concerned about the overlapping violence and the spread of some portions of the drug industry into the northwestern regions of the Amazon Basin which they do regard as the crown jewel of their country. All of these countries, sirand I haven't discussed Peru and Panamathe need to confront the spreading stain of contamination that comes from the drug industry simply deducts resources that could be applied by their governments to social programs, all of which would strengthen the democracy and the emerging economies of those and in the free-market economies of those nations, all of which play, I think, powerfully in the future prosperity of this country.
Mr. PICKETT. Even though this assistance is being focused on Colombia, it's going to assist the entire subcontinent there, South America?
Gen WILHELM. Yes, sir. I certainly feel that it will. And I would, again, go back to my opening statement, and I would underscore the point that I strongly support a Colombia-centric approach but not Colombia-exclusive approach. I think we really must carefully consider the needs of these surrounding states. And as both Mr. Beers and Mr. Sheridan stated, we have to pay due attention to the needs of Peru and Bolivia to sustain the very impressive results that have been achieved there against the coca industry.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you very much, General. And thank you, gentleman.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you. Let me now recognize Mr. Ortiz.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Like Mr. Pickett, I do support our efforts to do something about the narcotics and the growing poppy fields in that area. I want to believe that Colombia is really committed to this war, but I know that at times there has been some past budget cuts specifically in the area of the military and police. If these cuts continue, what's going to happen? Are we committed to picking up the slack if they do cut the budget?
Secretary SHERIDAN. Let me just say, if I could take that first, despite the very turbulent and violent history of Colombia, it's economy has always done very well. Like, they had a six to seven percent annual growth rate throughout all of these last couple of decades of extreme violence and unrest. Unfortunately for the government of Colombia, they did go into a true economic recession probably a year or two ago, and as they go into recession, that forces budget cutbacks. I think when their economy is on the rebound and comes back, I would expect them to pick up the slide. But I don'tso I don't see that as a longer-term problem, and I think when you look at it, the history of Colombia, they are committed to have us down there, and the economy has supported the revenues.
Secretary BEERS. And if I could add just briefly, on the macro level, sir, they're addressing this problem across the board. This is not just a problem of funding the military or funding the police, it's making the entire budget work for the entire country. And in that regard, yes, they've taken it down across the board pretty much as a result of the recession. And one of the things that we want and they want to do is to revive the economy as well as take on the narco-traffickers. It's a common effort and it's broad based.
Mr. ORTIZ. You know, then I have another question. Now, I know that there is a neutralized zone in the Macarena area. What kind of access do we have or do we have intelligence inside that area? How are we going to work the area that we are prohibited from going?
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Secretary SHERIDAN. Well, as you said, Congressman, we do not have access to it. The Colombian Government does not have access to it. And therefore, our information on what is going on there is very limited. Certainly we have the technology and the means as we work on crop forecasting to keep an eye on coca cultivation there. But other than that, our understanding of what's going on there is limited.
Mr. ORTIZ. Just one last question, Mr. Chairman. Now what about the pay of the soldiers? Are they going to be increased? Because this seems to be one of the most serious problems, that they were not paid enough, and it is always easy to look the other way.
General WILHELM. Congressman Ortiz, that's a good question, and I think it has really induced a lot of conversation on Capitol Hill. Just to clarify the issue, there are really categories of soldiers in the Colombian Army. First are the so-called bachilleres. They make about 37,000 pesos, or about $20 a month. They are only enlisted for a period of 12 months. What's important is they are 17-year-olds. And as is the case in our country, they don't engage in combattant activities. In fact, both the Constitution and Congressional mandate in Colombia says that they will be assigned to noncombatant units, and then they will only be assigned to what they refer to as non-conflictive zones.
Colombia is doing away with the bachilleres. When I went to Southern Command in September of 1997, there were over 30,000 of them. Today, there are only 16,000. And the goal is to do away with all of them by the end of this year. The Colombian National Police have a smaller number. Their goal is to do away with them by April of next year.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second category is a basic conscript. Now that's 18 years old or above, literate, able to read or write. That's their measurement for enlistment. They sign on for a period of 18 months. Their pay is the same as a bachillere, about $20 a month. Then we hit the important division in the rank. When a Colombian soldier volunteers to become a professional soldier, his pay is increased 10-fold. He goes up to about $200 a month, and he goes on what I would refer to as an open-ended contract of service.
So those are the divisions. That's the pay. But, sir, in good conscience I can't leave the answer there. By the best information I've been able to get, a freshly recruited member of the FARC can make as much as $550 a month. So that's double what a young professional soldier in the Colombian armed forces would make, another indicator of the amount of wealth that the drug trade generates. So I hope that is a complete answer, sir. That's attracted, I think, a lot of interest and, in some instances, perhaps a little bit of confusion here in the Congress.
Mr. ORTIZ. Thank you. You are doing a great job. And I think that what we need to do, Mr. Chairman, is to address the problem of consumption that we have in our country. Because if we didn't have this consumption, there wouldn't be a growth of the poppy fields and the cocaine and heroin trafficking into this country. Thank you very much.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you. I agreed with you earlier. I was not going to ask my questions, but I am prompted now to askmake my comment and ask my question because of Mr. Ortiz's last comment.
Let me first, General, reference a conversation you had with Congressman Murtha when he visited you in Colombia relative to the importance of the ARL aircraft that was lost in the crash that you mentioned.
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General WILHELM. Yes, sir. The ARL or airborne reconnaissance light is a very important aircraft for United States Southern Command. The aircraft was actually developed in response to a joint operational requirement staff. It was originated at the Southern Command in 1989. Unfortunately, an aircraft that was earmarked for Southern Command has found other advocation around the world. And today, we have none of those assets that are dedicated to United States Southern Command. Congressman Murtha asked me if replacing that aircraft were an urgent requirement, and I said yes, it most certainly is. That's an immediately responsive asset that enables us to launch a theater asset to confirm these human intelligence reports that we get from typically the Colombians which can have a very, very powerful influence and impact on the protection that we're providing to our people. Sir, we would very much like to see that aircraft replaced. We would like to see the money in the budget to do that. I did not suggest that that go into the emergency supplemental, but rather that it be programmed by the United States Army which actually operates the air slip.
Mr. BARTLETT. Unfortunately, the Army did not include that in their budget either. It's my understanding that there is no other platform that can provide you with the intelligence that is provided by this platform; that is correct?
General WILHELM. No, sir, that's not quite correct. The latest model of the aircraft brings us two capabilities, Congressman. It brings the signals intelligence capability and imaging capability. It takes pictures. We have other intelligence collection assets in the national inventory at the national level, and also other assets that can be assigned at the theater level that can do those kinds of things.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The beauty of the ARL to us is that it was perfectly configured to operate off of the airfields in our region, and it was very flexible in its response to our taskings. But to say that it's the only asset that can do that would not be quite accurate.
Mr. BARTLETT. There are clearly other assets that provide intelligence. But because, as indicated by its name, that this is a very low flying aircraft, it gives you details, is my understanding, that are not available to you from other platforms in addition to the fact that it can be based differently.
General WILHELM. Yes, sir. And the fact that it's a multi-sensor aircraft which simultaneously collects both signal intelligence and does imagery for us is also very important.
Mr. BARTLETT. Clearly we have other platforms that give us both the signal intelligence and the imagery. It's my understanding, you confirmed that ARL is uniquely configured for the counter-intelligence that you needed to gather here.
Let me return now to the observation Mr. Ortiz made. It is my understanding that cocaine is now cheaper on the street than it has been in the past and that the quality is up. As a matter of fact, I've heard several accounts of deaths from an overdose because it's now not being cut. Because it is so cheap, they don't need to cut it the way they did before, so the users are now taking larger doses of it. Those two things being true, doesn't that mean that there is now more cocaine available, supply and demand in terms of the price of cocaine just like it does about anything else in our society. So in spite of all the efforts we're making, the reality is that there is now more cocaine available than there was previously.
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Secretary BEERS. Sir, your observation with respect to the price and availability of cocaine I think is reasonably accurate. We have tried over the last decade to do the best job we can in terms of tracking this. Having said that, with respect to price and availability here in local markets, I also think that it is fair to say that with respect to the effort that we, the United States in conjunction with the governments of Peru and Bolivia and Colombia have conducted, have managed in fact to contain and somewhat reduce the amount of cocaine available on a global basis. How does that get divided up in the market? How much excess capacity there is is a matter of intense discussion within our intelligence community and related agencies of the U.S. Government, and we don't have an accurate picture.
But I think all would agree that there has for some time been a large amount of excess capacity that has existed. And what has happened with that excess capacity is not just going to the United States, but it has gone to create new markets in both Europe and the rest of Latin America. And that is why my in opening remarks I said we are at a critical point in time. We have for the first time three leaders, three countries, three opportunities to move on this in a global basis. And if we don't move, then we open ourselves to further risk.
Mr. BARTLETT. My comments were not meant in any way as a criticism of what you're doing. I'm sure that Mr. Ortiz's were not either. I'm sure you're doing the very best that you can. But some things just aren't doable. No matter how hard I try to fly by flapping my hands, that's not going to work. And I think Mr. Ortiz's operation was correct that the only ultimate way we're going to win this war is to just stop using the drugs.
Secretary BEERS. There is no disagreement among any of us about that, sir. But we all I think also believe that even demand reduction alone is not a solution, that it requires a full spectrum response on the supply and demand side. And no one solution is going to solve the problem. But if you leave out demand reduction, then you've left out at least half of the equation.
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Mr. BARTLETT. Yes. Things are only doable which are doable. And just as long as there is a demand, I think that the drugs will be there, because the price is right for those who are producing it. I understand that in spite of all of our efforts in this country, the largest agricultural cash crop in California is still marijuana.
Secretary BEERS. I can't speak to that, sir.
Mr. BARTLETT. I understand that that is true. Now, you know, if we can't stop the production of marijuana in California, I submit it's going to be very difficult to stop the production of cocaine. I would just like to re-emphasize the very correct observation Mr. Ortiz made. General.
General WILHELM. Sir, I just add one observation because I have encountered in many borders the notion that somehow this is not a winnable struggle, but I think the situation that we are observing now in Peru and Bolivia is instructive.
Last year alone, Peru reduced its output by 27 percent, Bolivia by 53 percent, and Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the worldcombination of sound national policies, I think a lot of backbone by national leaders in both countries and effective strategies that involve the elements of interdiction, eradication and alternative development. I would like to think that Bolivia and Peru can become prototypes for the rest of the region. So I do not believe that this is unwinnable. I think it is winnable.
Mr. BARTLETT. I hope you are right, sir. Our successes there may be a bit by pushing on the balloon on one side. And you look around the other side, and you'll see that it has been pushed out there. But this is so important to our country, we're going to keep supporting you and hope that you are right.
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Let me now recognize Mr. Taylor.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank all three of you gentlemen for being here. If at any time I appear rude, it is just that the gentlemen here, including yourselves, work pretty hard to get here, and we all take our jobs very seriously. When you start talking about the lives of young men and women in uniform, we ought to take that more seriously than anything else, much more seriously than the budget debate that has forced many of our colleagues to leave us at the moment.
General, I've got to comment on the fact that I continue to think that the Colombians do not take this very seriously. About a year ago, I visited a town called Nava which is near where they grow a lot of the heroin poppies. I sat there one evening visiting with people who described themselves as the local Chamber of Commerce, bankers, businessmen, whatnot, who were all very much in favor of the Blackhawks and very much in favor of the U.S. help. And then what I thought was a fair question I posed to them, I said ''What do you pay in taxes? You are asking the American people to help pay for some helicopters, to pay for out troops to come down here. What do you pay?'' And this is from Chamber of Commerce types, this is from bankers who were very honest with me, they said ''Well, the taxes are on books but we don't pay them.'' They were very honest with me. I gave them at least points for being honest.
My next question was ''How many of you have a son and daughter in the Colombian military? How many of you have got a son or daughter actively involved in this insurgency?'' ''We don't.'' I'm talking eight or ten local businessman, there's not one of them who has a son or daughter in what is supposed to be their civil war.
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Our vote has putis being billed as a reform of the Colombian military with the bachilleres or someone with a high school diploma no longer has to serve. Even though they are serving in a limited capacity, they now don't have to serve at all. So I've got to wonder if this isn't a shifting of the focus from, at least to some extent, most peoples war to just the poor folks war, the unfortunates who don't have a diploma, who are going to fight the war so that the sons and daughters of the wealthy can go dancing at night in Bogota. And those were being answered by $1.7 billion. Just a few weeks ago, the Colombian Congress budgeted $1.6 billion for their banking system to make up for what had been embezzled. That's almost the same amount of money. And if they hadn't been embezzling money, they'd been a little tougher on their own people for enforcing the law, they would have had an additional $1.6 billion. So I see that as a disconnect.
In going back to the bachilleres. What really troubles me, and believe me, I have absolutely no right to make a Vietnam analogy. I was 12 years old when you were in Vietnam the first mission. And I was 16 years old when you were on your last mission. But there are some troubling comparisons. Gen. Westmoreland, when asked what would he have done different, he's leaned at me and pointed this finger at mesomething that really struck me he says ''I would have asked Congress to change the law that gave student deferments, because we ended up with a very unfair situation with those who weren't in college, those from the other side of the tracks, they went. It became somebody else's war.''
I contrast this with Desert Storm, where my colleague Senator McDermott did probably one of the most brilliant things that's ever been done in this community, and that was using his friendship with then President George Bush to call up the Guard and Reserve. And I saw the change in Main Street America where suddenly it was everybody's war. It was my aunt's, my uncle's, my best friend's, the guy down the street. It's everybody's war, let's do it right. We didn't do that in Vietnam. And the Colombians aren't doing that now, and that's what troubles me. Why are we going to ask Americans to pay taxes when the folks, namely the business groups, don't pay taxes to support their own civil war? Why are we going to ask kids from Mississippi to go down there and defend Colombians, when if they have a high school diploma they don't have to serve? And I relayed that sense of urgency and those disconnects to the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Colombian military. They all nodded their heads and said, yeah, there's troubles, but I don't see a fundamental change. So why should we take this serious if they don't.
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Mr. Beers, I want to take it a step further. The General made the analogy that during Vietnam there was an outside source providing weapons and money. Well, this is
General WILHELM. An outside force providing weapons and money. It's called the internation drug trade. Most of the internation drug trade comes right here to America.
Mr. TAYLOR. One thing that deeply troubles me, since you said that demand is one half of the equation, and I agree with you, why don't we, as we are posing a military solution, asking young brave people in uniform to go get involved, at least ask every single federal employee to take a drug test as a condition of employment. Because in effect, those federal employees, if they are buying cocaine, if they are buying heroin, they are paying for the guerilla's effort. So we are going to send some Americans down there on one side of the war while other Americans are paying for their effort. And I got to believe I saw drug testing work in the United States military. It worked. The barracks used to smell like the Marrakesh Express. Every barracks in America smelled like the Marrakesh Express at night. Officers were afraid to go into enlisted territory at night. Drug testing works.
So if we're really serious about this, why is not the Administration proposing it as a part of this. We're going to get serious about it and we are going to require drug testing for all federal employees. If you want to work for us, you're going to live by the rules and you're not going to use your paycheck to support the other side.
Third thing, I hope someone will touch on thisis how much we're going to pay MPRI. What's their contract for? And that question actually came to me from an active duty serviceperson down in Colombia. And the question was what do they bring to the equation that I do not?
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And last, since we keep hearing this is a unity effort and that at times we've only put 240 Americans down there. One of the great frustrations of being a congressman is the Constitution gives us sole responsibility for declaring war, sole responsibility for making the appropriations from the Treasury, and sole responsibility of providing for an army. We all know that by omission or commission Congress hasn't done that very well. And we've allowed a series of Presidents both democratic and republican to get Americans involvedto get Americans involved in conflicts. Sometimes Congress doesn't vote on it at all; sometimes they vote on it after the fact.
In this instance, we have a chance to make that decision up front. So if you are telling me this is a very limited presence, would you be willing to live with a troop cap, and no games, no Temporary Duties (TDYs), no just in for the weekend, honest to goodness troop cap that says this is not going to get any bigger unless Congress authorizes it. We're not taking any President, democratic or republican, to light to make this any bigger until we sit down and exercise our Constitutional duties?
General WILHELM. Congressman Taylor, that's a whole bunch of very good questions. Let me take a few off the top, and then I'll go left and right and turn it over to Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Beers to address some of the items that properly fall under them.
I would, however, like to start off by subscribing 100 percent to your first observation, which had nothing to do with your questions, that what's important is lives not dollars. I sign up that for 100 percent, always have and always will.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let's start with the Colombian armed forces and the involvement of their population in this war. And I'd like to go right back to your analogy about our presence in Vietnam and the outcome and what was different when we executed Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf in 1990 and we participated in both of those conflicts. I think Colombia has learned a little bit from us. The war in Vietnam was fought largely by a conscript army. Our own army was in fact forged in that way at that time for a lot of reasons, many of which are political. And some of the other statements by Gen. Westmoreland are constructive as well. Don't pin the loss of the war on the armed forces. We never lost a major battle, and that's very, very true. But nevertheless, it was a conscript army. I would tell you it did not perform at anywhere near the efficiency of the armed forces that you saw during Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the first part of the last decade.
So I think one of the things that Colombia has learned is the value of the professional all-volunteer force. And Congressman, that's exactly where they are headed right now starting with the elimination of the bachilleres. They have a legitimate requirement in their army for about 120,000 troops. That turned from a national population of about 38 million. So certainly the manpower base is there to build that kind of army.
As far as national involvement in the struggle in Colombia, I've heard what you described, expressed to me by a general in the Colombian armed forces several years ago. He looked at me and he called me by my first name because we knew each other pretty well, and I think he had some confidence in me. He said ''Charlie,'' he said, ''you know what our problem is?'' I said ''What's that?'' He said ''The problem is the army is at war and the nation is not.'' I think we're seeing that change.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The kidnapping of an entire church congregation, the hijacking of Bianca Airliners, the fact that no one is immune from being stopped at ad hoc checkpoints, having their financial status checked on a laptop computer and then held for ransom. I will tell you, Congressman Taylor, I think all of these factors are drawing all of Colombia into this conflict. And I really did read with considerable interest a very recent poll in Colombia, and I think a very responsible poll. That poll said that only two percent of the population of Colombia approved in any way of the activities of the insurgent groups, the FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the relationship that they have forged with the narco-traffickers.
Sir, I'd like to go directly into your point on a troop cap for Colombia. That's a policy issue, but I'm not going to dodge the question. Would I be willing as the Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command subscribe to a properly considered and developed troop cap for Colombia? I certainly would. Categorically yes.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, sir.
Secretary SHERIDAN. I would just add a couple of quick points. One, Congressman Taylor, you asked some very good questions about the Colombian elite class and the sense of why should we be doing this for them. I would just remindin my view we're not doing this for them, we're doing it for us. This is about drug production, cocaine production, drugs that are coming to the United States that end up on our streets destroying our families and our communities. If there were not drug production in Colombia, we wouldn't all be sitting here. So I don't view this as a foreign aid bill, I don't view this as bailing out the Colombian elite class, I view this as in our national interest to destroy drug production of cocaine that otherwise would be on our streets.
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As Gen. Wilhelm said as a parenthetical comment, it's no picnic being in the elite class in Colombia. You get assassinated, you get kidnapped, held for ransom. Defense Minister Ramirez had his father kidnapped and held for ransom by the FARC. President Pastrana has had relatives kidnapped. Virtually everyone you talk to in the Colombian elite class, either they themselves or a near relative have either been assassinated, kidnapped or had something else happen to them. So they do pay a price there. Does it meet the standard of what one would hope in their commitment to this effort? That's debatable and discussable. But again, as I said, if you go and spend any time in Colombian, it's no fun being in their elite class. It's not like they don't have their worries.
You asked a question about MPRI. The MPRI contract cost $3 million. What are we doing with MPRI that Southern Command or someone else can't do? In theory, nothing. If Gen. Wilhelm had unlimited manpower, he would be able to send 15 people permanently to work at the Colombian Ministry of Defense to help them organize a new structure, he'd be able to send 6-man teams down on temporary basis to help them focus on certain problem areas and he'd help them reform the Colombian military. But when you look at the reality of the staffing that U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has, we don't have the manpower to do this. So I would not suggest, nor would MPRI ever suggest, that they have some kind of technical competence that our military does not have. It's a manpower issue, and that is what we're doing with MPRI.
Last, on a troop cap, that is a policy call. And to me, the issue is working with the site and making sure we have a cap that allows me to do what we need to do for our national interest and our counter-drug interests but balance it against the very legitimate concerns of folks up there on the Congress. So the short answer is yes, we could do a troop cap, but let's figure out what that cap is, and let's have a very good, very explicit discussion about exactly how we're counting bodies and what's in it and what's not in it. But as a policy matter, we would not be opposed to some kind of cap if properly structured and in close discussions with Gen. Wilhelm and his operation maneuvers.
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Secretary BEERS. If I could finish up with just two comments. The first is about the equity of participation in the military. I, too, served in Vietnam and in the Marine Corps. Gen. Wilhelm and I are in the same year group. My experience in Vietnam with draft participation in the Marine Corps, which was unusual in that regard as well, was exactly the same as Gen. Wilhelm's. The individuals who came, participated. A volunteer army, a professional army gives you a higher quality. But, sir, with all due respect, the issue of volunteer or draft or the broadest draft is going to cause you to have to face the tradeoff between whether or not you have the highest qualified people who may be drawn from a smaller sector of the population or you want the broadest possible participation. It's a legitimate question, but there are balances on both sides.
Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Beers, by the General's statement, there is still a draft. But if you have a high school diploma, you're now exempt. That was the point I was trying to make.
Secretary BEERS. I understand. And your point, sir, was correct about Vietnam, which was the college deferment or the married deferment in Vietnam. That also represented a situation in which we had a draft but did not have full participation by America's young men at that point in time. My only point is this is an important question, but there are pros and cons on both sides.
The point that you asked me specifically with respect to drug testing, sir, I've been subject to drug testing in various jobs that I have had within the U.S. Government, and I personally do not have any problem with drug testing for U.S. Government officials. I, however, don't make that decision, sir.
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Mr. TAYLOR. Would you relay my request to those people who do make that decision?
Secretary BEERS. I will, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. If this is about the war on drugs and not insurgency, then it's about time this nation got serious about it. That's how we stopped drinking and driving, we got serious about the penalties.
Secretary BEERS. And it's worked in the military, that's for sure.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Beers.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you, Mr. Taylor. I would like to identify myself with Mr. Taylor's remarks including drug testing for Members of Congress and federal employees and our staff. I would like to say ditto and Amen, and thank you, Mr. Taylor.
Let me now recognize Mr. Snyder.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gen. Wilhelm, I'm not sure we're having to debate Congress yet on this issue, I think it was more of a kind of general uneasiness that all the members were having, you know, what they think about it. I think they come from some of the concerns that you've talked about concerning Vietnam. I think there is some ongoing concern about how much more extended our military is overseas. I think our relationship with Latin American countries in the last century has not always been a positive one. I think there's a history of human rights abuses, continued frustration with our American appetite for drugs I think has been frustrating. But I wonder if you could take my five minutes and, I know you've put it out on paper on this, and just talk very specificallybecause I think it's the military side of this people have the most concerns aboutwhat the level of funding is that you have now in the current fiscal year; how you're spending it; and specifically what the main items are going to be in the supplemental on an annualized basis; and how you're going to spend that money.
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General WILHELM. Thank you very much, Congressman Snyder. First of all, let me kind of take it from the top and try to put counter-drug in a meaningful context in terms of funding here in the Southern Command. At least looking at the last two budget years as a point of departure, we get about $1 billion to do our business in the Caribbean, Central and South America. That's spread among the 32 countries in the region. Of that $1 billion, about half of it is in the service operations and maintenance accounts. So that, of course, is the money that fuels and feeds the troops that do our missions.
So that leaves about $500 million left. Of that, somewhere between about $350 and $375 million during any given year is on the counter-drug side. And the balance, around $100 million or thereabouts, are for our other regional engagement activities throughout Latin America. So that is sort of how the budget pie breaks out in Southern Command. About one-third of our total budget is directly related to our counter-drug activities.
As far as the Colombia supplemental itself is concerned, I think it would be easiest to break it down this way. First look at the first objective, the first military objective that the Colombians have in the counter-drug struggle which is the move to the south. The money in fiscal year 2000 would give us the wherewithal to complete the training and the outfitting of the second and third counter-drug battalions and would also give us the funding that we would need to help the Colombians construct the brigade headquarters to oversee those two organizations.
There is additional money in our budget to help Colombia's riverine forces continue on the path that they have been on toward achieving the capabilities they need to fight the drug war on the rivers east of the Andes in Colombia. I need to really underscore that point. A number of members of the Committee have overflown that ridge, and what's really noticeable is what is not there. There aren't any roads. There are no black lines, they're all blue and muddy brown lines. They are rivers. We've got about $7.1 million going into the riverine program this year. Colombia's objective is to build 45 of what they call ''riverine combat elements'', which are independent maneuvered elements which are designed and configured to operate and control the rivers. Very, very important super highway for precursor chemicals and for the bulk commodities like leaf itself. Once we get down to base and cocaine, then you can go to higher dollar shipments. The UPS approach with air. Now that gives the move to the south.
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The second piece of the pie for lack of a better term is the interdiction effort. There are a number of things we need to do there. There is $38.6 million to assist us in completing our first phase improvements at the forward operating location at Manta, Ecuador. I singled that out in my opening statement because it is so critical to us, not only for the counter-drug struggle, pure detection monitoring and tracking, but it's also a base which is very important for other intelligence efforts, which ultimately will have an impact on our force protection status.
Beyond Manta, we're looking at developing capabilities within Colombia's armed forces so that this doesn't become a job forever for the United States. We're looking at putting sensor equipment on their C-26 Merlin aircraft so that they can start doing some of the detection monitoring and tracking. Forward looking infrared systems to put on some of their aircraft to increase their nighttime capabilities, which is when the narco-traffickers and particularly their transportation agents really do their business.
We also need to make some improvements to the radar network in Colombia. Included is funding for a very, very important ground-based radar at Tres Esquinas which right now, quite frankly, is a blind spot that leads to the Pacific Coast of Colombia. And our analysis tells us that about 54 percent of the drugs headed to the United States come up through the Central America, Mexico and Eastern Caribbean access.
Sir, there are a number of other programs, but they are smaller. And I think that gives you a pretty good flavor for what we're looking at. In the aggregate, the DOD slice as the supplemental is composed right now is $199 million over the next two years. One hundred forty-four million dollars are the kinds of programs I talked about. There is another $55 million which is intel related. My term is that's under DOD really for management. It is focused on the activities of two of our agencies and intelligence community.
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Secretary BEERS. Sir, in addition to that, there is roughly $700 plus million that is authorities that are provided to the State Department but are dollars which will be worked jointly between the State Department and the Defense Department in support of the Colombian military. The Blackhawk and other helicopters, for example, are State Department authorities, but they will be for the Colombian military, and they will be managed jointly between our two agencies.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much. We'll now recognize members in the order of their appearance after gavel fall. And the first is Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Let me first of all indicate that I'm going to be making some comments, and I think it's partly due also because I think I've become a little cynical about this whole mission myself. I've had the experienceback in the 1970s I was a caseworker and had a caseload of over 60 heroin addicts. And every time it seems that the District Attorney was running for re-election, he would pick up my caseload, and he was looking for that they were using drugs on occasion. But my frustration was that we never went after those individuals that were really the ones that were behind it. We went after the little guy who was out there using it. And 80 percent of our people in jails are using drugs. So we really do have a very serious problem. And I believe that there has to be a multiple approach not only in our backyards but also throughout.
I want to make those comments, and then just basically throw out some questions and some frustrations also. We talked aboutI know Secretary Beers, you talked about the fact that they know that they are entrenched in Colombia. But we also recognize that they were elsewhere before. As we put the squeeze, and I know the Chairman right now has also indicated the balloon approach, and I represent the border. We just had 1,000 border patrols. And if we add one more border patrol to take care of the land between the bridges and put the squeeze in those areas, they pass right through the bridges, and we don't have enough custom people. So as we put the squeeze in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, I would presume that they would go elsewhere. And I have no doubt that you will accomplish your goal of reducing it there, but then it's going to go elsewhere. And then it's not going to do what needs to happen to it. And so I wanted to just to make those out there because I know as long as it's going to be needed, they're going to be able to find it.
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The other things that you have told us in the past, that it's got a very sophisticated group, that you have the shippers, and the marketers, and the investors, and the growers. We seem to be again going after the little guy, the growers. And nobody's reallywe're not putting enough resourcesI mean this operation is going to be about $7 billion over a period of time. What are we doing in terms of money laundering? What are we doing to help our district attorneys in this country to go after them? What are doing in other areas to go after the big investors in this area?
Secretary Sheridan, one of the things that frustrated me the most I think is one of the last comments you made in your testimony and you said you have been involved in it for seven years, but you also indicated and I quote ''We do not know what Plan B is.'' I hope we have some other plans besides this. And I hope we have some other approaches because I'm afraid thatyes, we're probably and I'm hoping that we are successful, but it is going to move somewhere else. I don't know how much, how many tons can grow in one acre, but I would assume that a lot of the growing occurs in very small plots. And so that tells me that they can easily go somewhere else and grow it somewhere else and shift over. And unless we deal with it from a different perspective, and I don't question, General, the fact that you feel that this is probably the best approach, but in the back of my mind, and I did have a student deferment during Vietnam, and I did protest the Vietnam War in that time, but I also recall thatand you gave an analogy of why this was not like Vietnam, but I don't see the difference. And reading this indicated that, number one, we were only doing training. Well, I don't want to lecture on that because you know it better than I do, but we did start with training in Vietnam. We startedright now we have some armed forces doing some specific training in specific areas. My impression is that this is going to expand into specific other sites and that that training is going to expand. I know you quoted 209 people there. And I'm sure in Vietnam at one point in time we did have 209 and then it just went on and on. But I do take your word to say thatand I would hope that, you know, it doesn't go far from this.
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The other thing in the back of my mind is I'm living in these countries and all of a sudden $7 billion is going to be coming in. I'm involvedsay I'm involved in drugs, I'm going to shift over somewhere else. I'm not going to mess with you. I'm going to go somewhere else just like the Vietnamese decided not to take us on directly. And they're going to change their strategy. And so you kick in $7 billion to do me in, I'll just go elsewhere. Then you're going to be successful. And so but I go elsewhere, continue to do what I'm doing, especially if I'm an investor in something else, and I have nothing, you know, I mean after all, the ones that are going to be getting done in are the growers and the shippers. And so those are the, you know, concerns that I have.
And one of the other concerns that was brought out was, and I think that Gene kind of touched it, that through the years our involvement in Latin America and South America has not been a positive one, at least not from our perspective. And I want you to react to this and let me know, but if I tell you that we were out there red baiting and saying any kind of insurgent back then was declared a communist, and now any kind of insurgent is declared drug traffickers. And I would attest to you that there have been some legitimate insurgents because, Secretary Sheridan, you've indicated and you gave a little brief description of how the eliteand you didn't talk to much about the peasantsbut you do have a disparity in wealth throughout those countries of those that have and those that don't have. And I know you give a picture about how it wasn't so great to be in the elite, but I can attest to you that probably not one single elite would be prefer to be a peasant.
And so as we look at that issue, there are some legitimate struggles because, yes, we might have some quasi-democratic structures out there, they're still not quite there. So in the process of us participating, Gene was talking about more in terms of a democraticwhat are we doing to hold them accountable? In Guatemala, one of the things that we did when we did the peace agreement, we told them that they had to come up with their own tax base. We had a lot of U.S. companies, Chiquita Banana, a whole bunch of other countries don't pay a red cent down there for the taxes. And the people are hurting and, yet, we don'twe need to begin to hold them accountable from those perspectives for them to alsoif our taxpayers pay, they need to also pay. And so it becomes real important in terms of this whole process. If nothing else, we get to set up those tax structures that force them to pay and allow some democratic kind of mechanisms toafter all is said and done and we leave, that they will be there.
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And my last, and maybe I'm stereotyping it, but it has stayed on my mind. When I've gone to Central America, one of the key things that one individual told me, and he told mewhen I'm in my district I talk about well I'm going into community, one precinct or another. And I know that there's factions, you know, and I want to know how many factions there are, who's where and who's what. When I went to Latin America, you know, one of the few questions I ask is about the factions. And I don't know if I indicated this before, but I recall one person telling me very specifically, and it was in the form of a stereotype, and he said we basically have three factions in this country, and it kind of applies to all the Latin American countries, at least the ones that are small and the ones that we're involved, and that is we have the government and we have the military. And there's a third faction, the United States. Where the United States sides with, whether it's with a government or with a military, has a big impact in terms of where things go. And so that I hope that the maybe you might make some comments on that because we haven't had a real positive experience out there with our situation with Noriega who was a big supporter of us and then it did him in. We were also responsible for Pinochet and the doing in of Allende. I could go on and on, but I wanted to get, you know, some feedback from you because I'm really uneasy about this vote, and I do believe that Ike Skelton has basically put it when he said this is one of the most important decisions we're going to be making this year.
Secretary SHERIDAN. Let me make three quick points. Obviously, you've made many and covered a lot of ground. I'll try to summarize three of the areas. One of the things that I enjoy about coming to the Congress is a very healthy debate back and forth. So if you don't mind, I will answer some of your issues very directly.
I think the U.S. military has had a very positive effect throughout this region over the last 20 or 30 years not a negative effect. We now have democracies throughout the whole hemisphere except for one, and we have militaries that by and large behave themselves. And I think a lot of that credit is due to the United State military over time.
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Second, in discussing Colombia and in specific the FARC, you indicated that you thought that in certain places the insurgents might be legitimate. I would submit, sir, they are not legitimate in Colombia. Colombia is not Central America. Colombia does not have a military dictatorship or some kind of despotic, repressive regime. Colombia is a democracy, forty years of uninterrupted presidential elections. If you want more social development, you want more education, you want more roads developed, go to the ballot box and you can vote. Colombia is an open democratic system.
The FARC is a large band of murderous thugs who have virtually no legitimacy in Colombia. They regularly attack democratic institutions. I remember probably two years or so, maybe three years ago in the fall they had a whole campaign nationwide to assassinate local government officials, candidates for mayor, candidates for governor. They assassinated scores of them because they don't want a democratically elected government at any level in Colombia. So from my perspective, the FARC are illegitimate. They're involved in drug trafficking. They have no public support in Colombia. Why? Because they kidnap, they murder, they ransom, and they are without ideology at this point. And that's why I get sensitive even to the discussion of a civil conflict. A civil conflict almost implies you are two sides. There is not in Colombia. There is one band of outlaws, and there is a civil society in Colombia. And that civil society does not support the FARC.
As to Plan B and my discussion of that and the lack of Plan B, I think it is important, as Gen. McCaffrey knows, to begin with a context that the Federal Government will spend $19 billion this year across the whole counter-drug effort, from drug treatment, prevention, education, interdiction, source nation programs. It's a very comprehensive program. What we have been focusing on the last couple of months with the Colombian government is our best effort to get a handle on what's going on in southern Colombia.
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So that is what we're focused on. If it gets voted down, I'm not sure what we do next. But those baseline programs that RandyI described a $900 million a year program, those are all in place. We want all of those. You talked about this being a battle against the little guy. Let me just say that Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the intelligence community regularly work at all those large drug trafficking organizations. They took down the Medellin Cartel, they've taken down the Cali Cartel. Several months ago in Operation Millennium they took down the next largest drug trafficking organization in Colombia.
One of the thing we've realized and learned over time is just going after those big organizations, as important as it is, obviously has not led to a decrease in drug production. You must go at the source of the production, and you must destroy the production. And with that, I will turn it over to my colleagues.
General WILHELM. Congressman Rodriguez, I'd like to pick up on two points. One objective that I established for myself in this hearing was to do the very best that I could to draw a hard line between Vietnam and Colombia. So I'd like to pick up your point on that first.
You made the comment that we started off in Vietnam as trainers. And I was an advisor, and I was part of that effort. But, sir, I will tell you I was deeply involved in every phase of that conflict. I didn't say I stayed at Tres Esquinas Base, I'll be very honest with you. I planned the operation. I programmed the air support. I located all the supporting artillery. I was the fire support and coordinator for all the operations. I went to the field with the battalion. And when things went wrong, I manned a machine gun with everyone else. Nothing could be further from that in Colombia. I have laid down hard, hard markers with all of our people that their job is simplytheir job is restricted to providing technical advice and assistance to the Colombians as they do their own operations. So the differences are stark. They are stark.
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I would like to mention Plan B as the role of a slightly different context. Do we have a Plan B? We most certainly do. At Southern Command, it takes the form of something we call the counter-drug campaign which has been submitted to and approved by the Joint Staff. Our plan comes in three phases and is really designed to make the nations of the region not just the Andean Ridge but Central America, the Caribbean and everyone else capable of really carrying their share of the load in what we view as a hemispheric struggle.
Very quickly, Phase I we call a regionalization and stabilization. That's working with the nations in the region to help them obtain the capabilities they need to fight the war against drugs.
Phase II we call decisive operations. During Phase II we'd like to see their security forces drive wedges between these various interactive nodes of the drug trafficking industry, cultivation, production and transportation, the wholesale and resale side.
Phase III we refer to as sustainment. That's giving them the practical experience and perhaps some guidance and advice from us on how they can tailor their operations for the long-term to counter this constantly changing pattern of trafficking which you've referred to as a balloon. We'd like to make it a cement balloon. The walls don't move. But it starts with getting the nations in the region or encouraging them to develop their capabilities so that we can be partners in this enterprise. And I think those cover the two points that were most applicable to me.
I do subscribe to what Mr. Sheridan said about the past and present goal of militaries particularly in Latin America. For one thing, they are about half the size they were prior to the demise of the Soviet Union and the ramp down of Cuba as a mischief-maker in our hemisphere.
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Secretary BEERS. Sir, let me just make one comment, and that is to pick up where Gen. Wilhelm left off on the balloon or the squeeze effect. As I indicated in my initial remarks, the phenomenon that we have observed is the drug traffickers withdrawing from extended lines of communication on their base. They have shortened their lines of communication. If they are forced to move again, they will be moving in a more vulnerable direction, not in a better direction.
Second point. It takes 18 to 36 months before you have a mature coca bush that you can take to market. That means that they have to have some movement that begins now in advance. One of our highest intelligence priorities is and will be to identify whether or not there is any movement away from their current production facilities so that we and the host government involved will be able to deal with this. But they have moved from Bolivia, and they have moved from Peru into Colombia. They did not move into Ecuador. They did grow drugs in Ecuador in the late 1980s. They have notthey did not move into Venezuela. There is some minor opium poppy cultivation which has existed in Venezuela. There has not been coca cultivation there. And they did not move into Brazil, and there has never been evidence of coca cultivation in Brazil.
So if they are forced to move again, they will be forced to move in a situation in which it's not going to be a simple process, which isn't to say they can't do it. But let's not just assume that this is a simply process because it will not be, and we will not let it be.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Reyes.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, gentlemen, for being here. I appreciate the dilemma that we all find ourselves in. One of the things that comes to my mind is that it seems like a lot of us here are thinking we're at a crossroads. That crossroads was way back in the 1980s as far as I'm concerned. And I say that because in the mid to late 1980s as a city chief down in South Texas, I had made many of my border patrol officers from our special operations unit go down to Colombia to participate in Operation Snowcap, which was in conjunction with the DEA. So I think we've made that decision. As Yogi Bear said, when you come to the fork in the road, you take it. We took it, and that's where we are today.
I did serve in Vietnam, and I was part of a conscripted army. And I can see similarities and I can see the differences in terms of Colombia vis-a-vis Vietnam. First of all, Colombia is in our back yard. We cannot afford to ignore this kind of problem for two reasons: One, national security, obviously, and the fact that we don't want an anarchy established in Colombia; second, because we are in perhaps the fight of our lives in terms of the challenge with narcotics, and we cannot afford to turn our back on that issue and that problem.
With that in mind, I've had a number of concerns about the things that we are doing. One of them wasI had the privilege of traveling down and looking at the Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) with Chairman Spence in December. One of the big issues that takes us to pass as a country is that we're reluctant to make a full commitment. I saw several examples of that, one of which was the town, was it Manta. It had been deployed with only one helicopter. The helicopter did not have a working flare system. And to date, I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer from the Navy as to, first of all, why did we deploy in a halfway measured way like that one. I'd like to describe it in a better, more military way, but I would say a half-measured way like that which greatly reduces the operational capability of ship.
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Second, I'm not convinced in my own mind that we're doing everything that we can in the context of our ability to provide not just resources but training and equipment in terms of commencing with the challenge that we're facing in that area. There is always one concern that I have from my days at the Border Patrol, and that is with the amount of money that the traffickers have and the organizations have, they can afford not just the best equipment but the best training, the best training for mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, whatever they want to call them. We in the past know that that has happened. And I would like to know is that happening now in terms of the FARC or any other organization in here as it were in looking at it regionally, General, as you have this morning? So I would like to know what kind of information we have along those lines.
The other concern that I have is that a number of Colombian groups have come to meet with me and have spoken to me, and there is an underlying effort to have us commit more U.S. personnel down there versus money. I mean I have asked that on numerous occasions, and I've had a number of meetings not just with Gen. Topias and President Pastrana and Defense Minister Ramirez but people that have been in power that are now out of power, and groups of Colombians that represent the business communities and other interested people in Colombia and interests between Colombia and the United States. And they are very clear they are for many different reasons, including reliability, including training, including reputation, all of these things, they have been very clear in terms of saying we would like U.S. personnel versus the dollars that we are talking about and debating now here. So I'd like your thoughts on that.
Finally, as it relates to the helicopter operation, I know the capabilities of the helicopters. In fact, I have a great fondness for the Huey. But when the Administration recommends the 60 versus the Huey, and then there's a lag time in being able to deliver it, I think we have to realistically look at appearances. I was concerned enough to look into the issue of the Huey2 versus the capabilities of and the criticism that we have received in the past for the operational function of the Huey that has been in Colombia. One of those issues is resolved for me because the Colombians themselves have said that they are satisfied with the capabilities of the Huey2 in terms of the operation and necessity. But they still would like to have the UH60s. So I think we have to look at this like everything else, in balanced approach. Certainly we can't afford to ignore this problem. The decision, as far as I'm concerned,was made many years ago, and we just have to stay the course and continue to support this effort for the two reasons that I cited.
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The last thing I want to say is that I'm not sure that I jump on that troop cap bandwagon real quickly, because if that's my kid in there or somebody from my district and the decision is to be made that we've got to put in forces to extract them, we've got to have that capability. So with that in mind, I appreciate the opportunity to comment.
General WILHELM. Congressman Reyes, I'll pick up most of the military issues that you raised and then turn it over to my two colleagues to look into some of the policy and resource issues.
First of all, I note your comment about the involvement of mercenaries and outside hands from the training of those involved in the drug enterprise in Colombia. We have received some periodic rather sparse, quite frankly, reports of third country nationals involved in this. But if anything, it's been going the other way. The most recent indicators that I have seen are that the FARC are actually projecting out beyond the borders of Colombia and may be creating dissention and discord in other nations.
I mentioned in answer to a previous question that we're receiving a growing bank of information that they may have been involved in just this sort of thing during the recent and ongoing unrest in Ecuador. So, if anything, I see it being exported rather than being imported from third parties.
In response to your observation and question about more U.S. personnel versus more money, again, I've touched upon this both directly and indirectly in my answers to previous questions. But I stated in a previous testimony, not today, that when I look at the last year, and just to put things in a very precise context, looking at the maximum troop strength on the ground during the 12 months of 1999, our lowest month was January where our max troop strength was 92. Our high order in month was August when it was 309. And as I mentioned before, the monthly average in troop strength was about 209.
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I was asked directly in a previous testimony before the House Committee what Plan Colombia would do to that profile. My answer was the way we have currently planned and phased the training, it would have only a very marginal impact on that. We need a slightly larger management structure in Colombia because we're dealing with more money and more systems. But it would not significantly change the numbers that I just gave you. Certainly, I take your statement about the need should an emergency arise to go in and assist our troops. I think we would tend to probably consider that in an operational context beyond the boundaries of a force cap even if we had one.
On the issue of the helicopters, I've previously mentioned that in spite of the specific attributes of the UN-60 which, again in my judgment, make it the right tool for the job that we need to do in Colombia. And again, I would emphasize that a 320 nautical mile range is a very, very important issue. That is significantly greater than a Huey2, the nearest competitor, which is about 250 nautical miles. As far as delivery schedules are concerned, I think we probably need to take into consideration the fact that if we went with the Huey2 option, one, we'd need more aircraft to deliver equivalent lift capabilities; and two, there would be a substantial delay before we could accomplish the reconfiguration and refitting work that's necessary to convert a UH1H into a Huey2 configuration. And also, Congressman Reyes, we are running out of the Hawks, the UH1H basic airframes to do that conversion with.
Sir, I think I hit most of the points that
Mr. REYES. How about the Yorktown
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General WILHELM. The readiness of the Yorktown and the Lance helicopter that was on board, I'll be very honest with you, I didn't realize that the flare system was down on the Yorktown's Lance. I would have to check with the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) on that. But I would make this statement as a general observation about the readiness of the forces that come to Southern Command. We're not a big user of forces, sir, as I stated previously. We don't use carrier battle groups or armored divisions or fighter wings or great expeditionary forces. We tend to go with a much, much smaller presence, principally trainers, those with technical skills that they need to impart to the forces in the region. And across the board, I give the services, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard very high marks for the readiness and capabilities of the forces that do deploy both active and reserve.
Mr. REYES. And that's an area that I'm concerned about because there is such a small number that are committed to that effort that it makes a big impact when they don't have equipment to make them successful in that area.
General WILHELM. Yes, sir. And generally I would tell you the Yorktown's deployment was a very successful deployment, and I'm delighted. I think the skipper briefed you at the FOL in Manta and talked a little bit about the delicate relationship between P3s, the short-based assets and the maritime assets and how they have to come together to really get the job done on the interdiction side. But by and large, Yorktown did a very, very fine job while she was deployed.
The CHAIRMAN. We've got to break for our vote. And before we do, Mr. Skelton wants to ask a question.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SKELTON. I have a question I will ask, and I'll ask this to be answered in three months from now should I end up supporting your efforts, gentlemen.
The Peruvian example, one of the successful models to employ, if you fly, you die. There are three avenues across the Andes to get drugs out of Colombia. One, the road to Pasto; two, the road to Florencia; and the road to Valencia. If planes are flown through those three areas or there's an attempt by road to get the drugs out, they can be interdicted. Now, this conflicts with the strategy of fighting the guerrilla insurgents. If we are going after drugs and we have three bottlenecks, they have to get them out. I'll be very, very interested three months from now to see if those three roads, air bridges are stopped as opposed to the strategy of the policy of engaging the guerrillas. I will ask you that in three months. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. With that, we'll break for a vote.
The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will please come to order. We'll resume the hearing. And next up is Mr. Buyer.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To me, testimony earlier about this caution and concern in the Administration and then to assure the Committee that we are not choosing sides in a civil conflict does not resonate very well with me. It doesn't resonate very well with me because I believe it is inconsistent with our foreign policy in other parts of the world. How can you choose to intervene in a place like the Balkans, choose sides in a civil conflict, yet have different policies with different continents. I just want to let you know this doesn't resonate well.
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You'll find yourself an ally in what you want to do with me. I will support what you're going to do, and I'll help sell that among my colleagues. There is farthis is much easier to sell to my constituents in Indiana. They understand the vital national security, they understand these drugs find themselves on every street corner of America. They can touch it. They can feel it. It's kids. It's young adults. But everyone knows someone who has been affected some way or another by drugs. So to me, this one is an easy sell. Its harder sell is the $10 billion plus we continue to pour into a black hole in Europe. So I just want to let you know that.
With regard to Mr. Skelton's remarks on you fly, you die, my question, Gen. Wilhelm, is with regard to air interdictionwhen you say that 380 million that actually ends up in our country, how much of that would be by air versus by sea?
General WILHELM. Congressman Buyer, about 90 percent of the drugs that make their way to the United States come the maritime route. They really find their way here by sea. The problem on the air side is the movement of the more condensed substance, whether it's base or whether its finished Hydro Chloride (HCl), primarily within the source zone to the port where it goes on the boat or the ship. So
Mr. BUYER. When you say 90 percent, you're actually by the time it leaves South America to come to this country?
General WILHELM. Exactly.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. So what percent would go by air to the port of demarcation?
General WILHELM. Sir, I'm not sure that anyone has really tight numbers on that because so much of the stuff moves in a multilateral way. It will move half the way by air, and then be picked up by an 18-wheeler, and then finally it will make it to a Pacific or Caribbean port. So it's kind of a mix and match, and it's very hard to put your finger on that. And that's one of the reasons why we really need to cover all of the notes andI think as we mentioned, sir, in a previous conversation, we are very, very heavily committed to this noble analysis that we're going to take on at the beginning of the summer to try to put some science against this.
Mr. BUYER. I appreciate the responsiveness to some of the things that I've asked for. Congressman Callahan, when he went to visit Venezuela, the President of Venezuela wasn't only interested in our support. With the price of oil where it is right now, he doesn't want any strings attached and any requirements that we're going to throw upon his country. And he's riding pretty high right now with his new constitution and his new government. He's caught a wave, okay.
General WILHELM. I think that's a very accurate assessment.
Mr. BUYER. Let me ask this question aboutI also believe the people in our country will extend the willingness to help those who are going to help themselves. You have done very well to convince me in my trip to Colombia that they have a renewal, a renewal in their commitment. Do the three of you agree with that?
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General WILHELM. I certainly do.
Mr. BUYER. All right. My question is, when we send 45 helicopters, there is a tail with that, an O&M, operations and maintenance tail goes along with that. Are we going to participate in the O&M tail, or are we just going to give them the aircraft and they're on their own? And the second part of the question is the training of the pilots, are we participating in that? And if so, what's our tail? What's the tail beyond just sending the aircraft?
Secretary BEERS. Sir, with respect to both flavors of helicopters, the UH-1Ns and the UH-60s, we are providing with the aircraft a spares package which will sustain the aircraft in the initial phase for the Blackhawks for about two years. For the 1Ns, there is a shorter initial sustainment tail. But in both cases, there is an expectation that we will work with the Colombians to gradually transition it to be their responsibility but to make sure that transition also keeps those helicopters in the air flying.
With respect to the pilots, we will be working with the Colombians in both cases to train the pilots and to train the crews. We will be using a combination of private contracting personnel, perhaps some training here in the States at some U.S. military schools. Final details aren't worked out yet.
Mr. BUYER. If the Chairman would indulge me for one quick question. On-the-ground intelligence, Gen. Wilhelm, I would like for you to rate for me, A, A-, B+, B-, C+. On-the-ground intelligence, drug interdiction, where the cartel is, the FARC, how would you grade our on-the-ground intelligence?
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General WILHELM. Congressman Buyer, if we pooled the intelligence that's developed, and let's just focus on Colombia. It gets too complicated if we get beyond that. If we look at what the Colombians are doing, we take abilities that they've developed with our help on the intelligence side, both within the Colombian National Police and within the armed forces, I would say somewhere around C+, somewhere in that sphere. And Mr. Beers is shaking his head vertically agreeing.
As far as U.S. on-the-ground capabilities, a D- with a slow rise right now, and you and I had talked about our deficiencies in intelligence surveillance reconnaissance. I think we finally bottomed out, and I actually have more resources committed during 2000. So I'm going to optimistically say we've sunk as far as we're going to. And if some of the initiatives that are on the table now take place, I look for a slow but nevertheless measurable increase in our capabilities. Pretty bleak right now.
Secretary BEERS. I would concur with that. The analogy that I use is we're pretty good, and they're pretty good at taking a snapshot when we get the camera focused right. But we don't have a motion picture of what's going on there. We don't see it on a continuous basis.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. We certainly need to have this hearing. My regret is that more members could not have been able to be here today and that the rest of the Congress doesn't hear it. You'd think we were in for an unmitigated disaster. After everything that's been said today, there's too much to go through just in the few minutes that allotted to me. It's indicative, I think, of why this is not going to succeed, but I'm still willing to listen to try and figure out whether there's something to be done.
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The assumption here is these helicopters, once they start flying, apparently they're never going to be attacked. Nothing is ever going to go down. There's been some statement about capping the number of U.S. personnel and somehow training somebody to do something with respect to whatever professionals or otherwise are existent in the Colombia armed forces. Who goes to get anybody who is going down in these helicopters?
Secretary SHERIDAN. The Colombians do.
General WILHELM. The Colombians own the helicopters.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That's correct. I understand. I know that Colombians go and get the Colombians that go down in the helicopters.
Gen. WILHELM. Those are the game rules.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. How?
General WILHELM. A variety of means. They can go by surface. Or if you lose one aircraft, you can send another. You can land in an offset landing zone and then proceed over land to do it.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Colombians?
General WILHELM. All Colombians, sir. No U.S. at all.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I understand that.
General WILHELM. Zero.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I know that. But apparently you think that you are giving me some information that makes me feel better.
Over the surface. I got the map here in front of me, not this little map with the yellow picture but the map, the actual map that this gives you some idea of topography and so on. If you go to the Putumayo area, am I mistaken that when you get to Sucumbios and adjacent areas, that it is essentially the same climatological and geological conditions that exist on the Putumayo side of the border?
General WILHELM. The Sucumbios province in Ecuador? Yes, sir, it's about the same. Yes, sir, it's tropical rain forest.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Now are these helicopters authorized to come over the border and into Ecuador?
Secretary BEERS. Those arrangements are being made, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Would that be part of what you have characterized as a move on global basis, Mr. Beers?
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary BEERS. No, sir, that's for the purpose that you specifically talked about. If there is an emergency, the normal rule of the road, sir, is that even though it's a plane of one nationality, the other nation honors that ability of that plane to make an emergency landing.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So we have troops. How many troops do we have down in Ecuador?
General WILHELM. We have a relatively small number, sir. Actually, it about approximates what we have in Colombia. Our engagement in activities are fairly equally divided among Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So now we're doing this globally, but we're actually involved here now in an entire region involving Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
General WILHELM. If you are talking about the drug threat and its spreading implications, that's correct. It is a regional problem.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And we've got Colombians flying helicopters, Colombians in the helicopters, and the intention is to have Colombians doing the repairs and all the rest of it. Now what is the likelihood of those helicopters being shot down? How would one shoot down a helicopter, for the record, from the ground if the helicopters are normal?
General WILHELM. There are a number of different ways you can shoot a helicopter down. The aircraft that have been shot down to date have all been shot down with small arms, principally automatic and semi-automatic weapons. A more efficient tool is a surface-to-air missile. Here we're not talking about fixed facilities or formal surface-to-air missiles, we're talking about manned pads, everything from Redeyes up to about the USA16 model.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Now how much is that?
General WILHELM. How much?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Yes, how much does it cost to purchase one?
General WILHELM. I don't know how much. A USA16 would cost on the arms marketyou can probably find out. It's not terribly expensive.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And these folks have been characterized as narco-terrorists and they have very extensive financial capacity all over the world, do they not?
General WILHELM. They do.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So they can purchase these?
General WILHELM. Yes, they could.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And the chances are if the helicopters are coming after them, wouldn't you think they might do that?
General WILHELM. Do what, sir?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Try and get the kinds of weapons that could shot the helicopters down?
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General WILHELM. They may already have them.
Mr ABERCROMBIE. So when the helicopters go downhow many are we sending down there again? How many helicopters are we starting out with?
General WILHELM. Thirty-three UH-1Ns to be followed by 30 H-60s.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You said at one point there's not necessarily a Plan B, but I'm presuming that at least some contingency has to be about replacement helicopters. Any idea about how many that might be, if you figure the chances are they're going to try and knock these helicopters down?
General WILHELM. You're presuming wholesale success in knocking helicopters down. There are a lot of different ways to defend a helicopter. I've already discussed some of the technical counter measures which are on board and which are organic to the H-60. Beyond that, there are tactical measures that can be taken. The development of reliable intelligence about where envelopes are. And then you have a lot of tactical options to abort overflying those areas or to perhaps program your operations in such a way that you avoid these high-threat areas. So, sir, there's a lot of different ways to skin that cat tactically
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I understand that. I understand that. I've been trying to read up on that and educate myself about all that. So in other words, what you're telling me is primarily what they're going to be doing is defending the helicopters against what's going on on the ground. Then what good are the helicopters? What exactly are they going to do offensively?
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General WILHELM. The helicopters that we're talking about really fulfill one principle purpose, and that's to provide tactical mobility to the Colombian security forces that will be engaged in the counter-drug effort.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. What
General WILHELM. Tactical mobility. Carry troops.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. They're going to carry troops? Will these helicopters land?
General WILHELM. Of course.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Then they'll engage in this fighting?
Gen. WILHELM. Who, sir, the helicopters or the troops on board?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. The troops on board.
General WILHELM. Well, actually the answer is both.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So our intelligence right now you've categorized at best as C+. And on the on-ground capabilities you've got as D+. And you think that the Colombians are going to be willing to land helicopters under those circumstances to engage an enemy that they've got D+ intelligence with respect to what they'll be facing when they land?
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Gen. WILHELM. That's not precisely what I said. In response to the previous question, I indicated that if you combined the intelligence assets of the Colombians and the United States, I would rate it at about C+ now. If you looked at only what the United States has available, the assets that are available to me at Southern Command, I would rate it in the D category but improving. And again, these assets are not necessarily exclusively focused on an area where tactical operations would take place. That is precisely why we worked with the Colombians to build the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center which is focused directly on the eastern departments of Caqueta and Putumayo where the initial operations will be conducted. Focused as they are, looking through a soda straw is as good an analogy I think of, I think the quality of the intelligence would go up considerably.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. What's the likelihood, if you're successful in all of this, of the growing moving across the border and into the Sucumbios area?
General WILHELM. Of Ecuador?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Yes.
General WILHELM. Not terribly good. Ecuador is not a very good place to grow drugs. Only about 25 percent of the land area of Ecuador is really what we would call arable lands. There have also been two land management initiatives that have taken place in Ecuador over the last 20 years or so, and Ecuador has pretty good control over those portions of the land mass that are suitable for crop growing, a far less extensive problem geographically than what the Colombians face.
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Secretary BEERS. And they have been free to do that in that area since the explosion of the coca cultivation in Putumayo. And there is no evidence that we've been able to find that they've chosen to do that.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Well, they haven't been stopped in Putumayo.
Secretary BEERS. But it's the same transportation net. The places that they would move the base from are the same places. If you're on the border, what's the difference between being on the other side of the river? There's little difference. They've chosen not to.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Well, then I imagine they're going to defend their side. They're really going to try and defend this area.
Secretary BEERS. I'm saying that it's not an automatic conclusion that they will move across the border, and we will be certainly be watching for them.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Well, I'm very pleased to hear that that it's not automatic. I want to make sure that I understand that the salaries, to the degree you can call it salaries, that I have the correct information here. Where the FARC are concerned, they pay the equivalent of base pay of about $550 a month; is that right?
General WILHELM. That's the best information we've been able to get, Mr. Abercrombie.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Versus the $200 a month for the professionals that are now coming in.
General WILHELM. At baseline in the Colombian army, that's correct.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Who is actually going to do the training for the people that are going to occupy the full spectrum of the utilization of the helicopters? Is that going to be the United States?
General WILHELM. It's actually a shared undertaking. Right now the second counter-drug battalion has already been formed and the vetting of that unit to eliminate any troops with human rights violations was finished around the first part of this week. The initial training is being done by the Colombians themselves, what I call graduate level training, more refined field tactics will be conducted by primarily the United States Southern Special Forces Group, assuming, of course, that we get the funding that's in the supplemental.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Okay, thank you. And just the one further, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Sheridan, you indicated at one time, and I want to make sure I am not taking this out of the context and would fairly represent your position, that we wouldn't be sitting here if it were not for the present Colombian situation. I'm going to presume that you meant with respect to this particular requestappropriation request as opposed to the proposition that if you were able to get this under control, the drug production question would essentially be answered. You would still have to be dealing with that question, would we not?
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Secretary SHERIDAN. Which question?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. The question of drug production.
Secretary SHERIDAN. That was my entire point. We are here precisely because drug production in Colombia is out of control. If we take care of the drug production problem in Colombia, that is where our national security interest lies. The distinction and point I'm trying to make is that we have no interest in the United States Military in getting involved in the counter-insurgency campaign for the sake of doing so.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I know we have no interest in doing that. Saying is one thing and doing is another.
Secretary SHERIDAN. Well, we've been down there for 11 years without doing so.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And you say it's out of control.
Secretary SHERIDAN. I said the drug production isSouthern Command has been operating in Colombia for 11 years without getting dragged into a counter-insurgency campaign.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That's correct.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary SHERIDAN. Yes.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And in the process, you now say over this past 11 year with us not getting involved in it, drug production has grown out of control. That's an argument for either us getting more involved or giving up.
Secretary BEERS. We've not had the resources
Secretary SHERIDAN. No, it's an argument for supporting the supplemental that this Administration sent to the Hill, which reflects the best thinking of the Colombian government and United States Government on this point.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. No, it reflects the best thinking of you at this point. The best thinking may also occur in Congress.
Secretary SHERIDAN. Absolutely. That's why we're hear today, and we look forward to what the Congress does with the bill.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And you indicated then in addition to that testimony, you must go there and destroy the source of production.
Secretary SHERIDAN. Correct.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That's correct. Now I'll go back to it. Are these helicopters and what you expect to get out of the Colombians, given the best possible case of training and all the rest of it, is it your testimony thatand your best thoughts, your best thinking that the introduction of these helicopters under the circumstances you've outlined, will enable the Colombians to go at and destroy the sources of production? Or is it likely you will have to come back for further supplementals?
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Secretary SHERIDAN. It is my best thinking that the package we put together will allow them to get control of Southern Colombia.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Abercrombie. Gentlemen, the time has arrived. We appreciate your contribution. As you can understand, we have a problem to deal with in this part of the process. You've been very helpful. Thank you very much.
Secretary BEERS. Thank you very much, sir.
[Whereupon, at 1:12 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
March 3, 2000
[This information is pending.]