ACCESSION NUMBER:00000 FILE ID:95062906.LAR DATE:06/29/95 TITLE:COAST GUARD CHIEF SAYS U.S. WINNING DRUG WAR TEXT: TR95062906 (Hearings before House subcommittee) bc (680) By Bruce Carey USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- The United States is winning the war against drug trafficking, but traffickers in illicit drugs are fighting back in every way they can, says the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Adm. Robert E. Kramek told the House subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice June 28 that "interdiction programs are effective." "Are we winning the drug war? My answer to that is `yes,'" he said to the panel. "We can ... ultimately defeat the threat to our people posed by these insidious criminal organizations." Lee Brown, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, appointed Kramek to be U.S. interdiction coordinator for counterdrug matters in the Western Hemisphere last year. Kramek spelled out for legislators how the interdiction program has been working. He said the basic interdiction strategy has two basic components: Press hard on trafficking until the risk of capture and the increased losses become unacceptable for the traffickers; and reduce domestic demand. The anti-drug interdiction "gives us the best chance for our strategy" against trafficking, he said. "It disrupts narcotrafficking at all points along the route, keeping pressure on the drug mafias, producing valuable intelligence. It increases their risks and business costs. "In terms of political will, the deterrent presence of interdiction forces displays strong U.S. government resolve for other nations to follow." Kramek said the direct flights into the United States by traffickers that were common a few years ago "are now rare because of effective interagency and international efforts. Air traffickers have shifted from landing and offloading in the United States to conducting airdrops at transshipment areas," he said. "The maritime interdiction program is also disrupting the narcotraffickers by denying them their preferred routes. This creates a higher risk of interdiction during transport," the admiral said. "The increased use of aircraft to transport contraband, concealing it in the legitimate cargo of commercial vessels, the greater use of concealed compartments and low-profile vessels, and the increased willingness of traffickers to jettison loads prior to Coast Guard boardings, are all costly measures which traffickers have adopted in response to effective interdiction," he added. Despite these measures, Kramek said, "the narcotrafficking industry is persevering ... because it has the capability to produce its illicit product far in excess of the demand, and, at significant cost, absorb losses from interdiction as the price of doing business." He painted a daunting picture of the enemy. "These drug mafias are exceptionally sophisticated and adaptable; they are privy to exceptional intelligence; they utilize a number of safe havens along their routes; they can corrupt officials with huge amounts of money or with threats; they have a decentralized and flexible control structure; they engage in global cooperative ventures with other criminal organizations; and they have one of the largest financial bases in the world," he said. Kramek's testimony came on the second of two days of hearings by the panel on efforts to fight the international drug trade. On June 27, Jean E. Becker, acting assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, testified that a series of successes achieved in the past year against Latin America's narcotics traffickers shows that the U.S. policy of focusing anti-cocaine efforts on the Andean source countries is working. Becker said "prospects may be better than ever for fundamental and lasting progress against the international narcotics trade if the United States and the key narcotics-producing and transit stay focused and intensify their efforts." She also said the operational and diplomatic shift in focus to Bolivia, Colombia and Peru "does not mean that we are abandoning efforts in the transit zone." "To the contrary," she added, "transit zone interdiction and other law enforcement operations aimed at seizing drugs and evidence, thwarting money laundering and disrupting transportation and distribution elements of the Colombia-based and other major syndicates are important components of our overall strategy." NNNN .