1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation


June 10, 1998

Drug Interdiction and other matters relating to the National Drug Control Policy

TABLE OF CONTENTS(Click on Section)





The purpose of this hearing is to review the President’s National Drug Control Strategy in light of the recent increase in illicit drug use in this country. Special emphasis will be placed on drug interdiction, a primary mission of the Coast Guard.


Illicit Drug Problem

Many in our Nation are deeply concerned about the precipitous increase in illicit drug use among America’s youth since 1992. Experts agree that this trend foretells erosion in the gains our Nation had made in combating illicit drug use and its associated criminal activity between 1980 and 1992. The latest studies show some positive signs; most notably that for the first time in six years, marijuana use among 8th graders did not increase. While some categories of drug use appear to be leveling off in some age groups, overall drug use is at an unacceptably high level, far above the 1992 level.

The graph below reflects data from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study, depicting the percentage of high school seniors who have used illicit drugs in the last twelve months, against the backdrop of Federal drugs spending. The author of the 23rd Monitoring the Future Study, Lloyd Johnston, characterizes the study’s findings this way:

"It’s a complicated story this year, because not all drugs are moving in the same direction and not all grade levels are showing exactly the same changes. But the bottom line is that the longer-term rises in the uses of most drugs, which began in the early 1990s among American teenagers, appear to have stalled or at least decelerated…That still leaves us with unacceptably high levels of teen drug uses however, with some usage rates two to three times what they were in the early 1990s."

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, issued the following statement on the latest Monitoring the Future findings:

"The 1997 Monitoring the Future Study presents a mixed picture that combines seeing high rates of drug use continuing at all grade levels with indications of a slowing of use and the beginning of a turnaround in a positive direction in attitudes, particularly among eighth graders. Twelfth graders continue to show increases in the use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and cigarettes. Tenth graders also showed increased drug use, such as in lifetime use of marijuana, past month use of tranquilizers, and in being drunk daily."

Another quantifiable indication of where we stand in the war on drugs comes from the 1996 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The survey found that 2.4 million citizens tried marijuana for the first time in 1996, a recent high level not seen since the early 1980’s. Another alarming signal revealed by the study is that the mean age of new users is now 16.7 years of age, the lowest average age for new users reported since the study was begun in 1962.

According to the 1996 HHS National Household Survey of Drug Abuse, 74.4 million Americans have used illicit drugs at some point in their lives. As reflected in the display below, 23.2 million of those lifetime users participated in illicit drug use in 1996, with 13 million using drugs in the month prior to the survey. According to reports published by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of hardcore cocaine and heroin users is about 4.4 million, the highest number of hardcore users at any time since 1990.

While teenage drug use fell throughout the 1980’s and has risen since 1992, the number of hardcore cocaine and heroin users has remained roughly stable. Many hardcore addicts are addicted to a variety of drugs and suffer from a range of pathologies, including severe mental disorders. Most experts agree that this population is extremely difficult to treat. The number of chronic, hardcore drug users has increased despite a 70% increase in Federal drug treatment funding since 1990. Compared with the casual drug user, the chronic, hardcore drug user consumes substantially more drugs and is responsible for most of the crime and other negative social consequences associated with drug use.

Regarding the well-established link between drug use and crime, the latest Drug Use Forecasting Report from the Department of Justice indicated that over 60 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for use of at least one drug at the time of arrest.

History of National Drug Control Policy

In 1989, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act created the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) within the Executive Office of the President. The purpose of ONDCP is to advise the President on a national drug control strategy, to present a consolidated drug control budget, and to coordinate Federal drug control efforts.

From fiscal years 1992 to 1998, the President has requested a Federal drug spending package which has sharply increased spending overall, while funding for drug interdiction has declined by 21% and funding for anti-drug programs in source countries has been is just now returning to the level of the early 1990’s.

Today’s Federal anti-drug initiative has two major elements: reduction of the demand for illicit drugs, and reduction of the supply of illicit drugs. Reduction of demand is pursued through increased local law enforcement, incarceration, advertising, education to prevent dependence, treatment to cure addiction, and measures to increase drug prices as the consumer level. Reduction of supply is accomplished by enforcement of laws aimed at illegal drugs, including drug interdiction, and by programs aimed at destabilizing the operations of illicit drug cartels at all levels. Since most illicit drugs are imported, the Federal government operates an interdiction campaign at U.S. borders, at ports of entry, on the high seas, and on major foreign transshipment routes and production sites.

The 1998 National Drug Control Strategy

The President’s National Drug Control Strategy, 1998, has five strategic goals:

Educate and enable America’s youth to reject illegal drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco.

Increase the safety of America’s citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence.

Reduce health and social costs to the public of illegal drug use.

Shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat.

Break foreign and domestic drug sources of supply.

President Clinton’s 1999 budget request for Federal drug control spending is $17.1 billion. This request represents an increase of 6.8% over the fiscal year 1998 appropriated level of $16 billion.

A primary focus of the Administration’s long-term plan to win the war on drugs involves goals 1-3, reducing consumer demand for illicit drugs, so that their importation is no longer a viable economic enterprise. This strategy also aims to eliminate the terrible social and personal consequences of drug abuse and addiction. Until those laudable goals are met, however, we still face the challenge reflected by goals 4 and 5, securing our borders and fighting drug trafficers on their home turf.

The two programs that get at drugs before they reach our shores, drug interdiction and source country programs, account for a combined total of only 13% of federal drug spending.

The 1998 National Drug Control Strategy incorporates the quantified objectives required by the Results Act for the first time. For example, one of the Coast Guard’s Results Act goals under the National Drug Control Strategy is to cut the smuggler success rate to 38% by 2003 and to 10% by 2007. However, the Administration budget request calls for Coast Guard anti-drug ship and aircraft operations at about 20% below the 1997 level.

The graph below shows Coast Guard patrol hours for ships and aircraft combined, and pounds of marijuana and cocaine interdicted. It is disheartening that the Coast Guard’s performance plan calls for fewer patrol hours and less drugs interdicted in the near future.

Federal and International Drug Interdiction Efforts

Numerous Federal agencies are involved in U.S. interdiction efforts. The primary agencies involved are the U. S. Coast Guard in the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Customs Service in the Department of the Treasury, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Department of Justice.

Measured in dollar value, about 90 percent of all illicit drugs consumed in the U.S. are of foreign origin, including virtually all the cocaine and heroin. ONDCP estimates that in 1995 world production of cocaine was between 616 and 738 tons. After serving European and other markets, and after source country interdiction and interdiction in the transit zone, between 287 and 376 tons of cocaine reached the U. S. market in 1995. About eleven tons of heroin, three percent of world production, reaches the United States.

Since most of the illicit drugs consumed in the United States come from foreign sources, an integral part of reducing drug use in the United States involves a strong interdiction capability, both in source countries and in the smuggling transit zone. The aim of source country programs is to assist host Nations in destroying drug trafficking organizations, drug crops, drug production facilities, tracking or seizing drugs scheduled to be shipped to the United States, and developing alternative economic projects that will relieve farmers’ dependence on drugs as a cash crop.

In source countries, the Coast Guard and DOD support efforts led by the Departments of State and Justice to build the political will and indigenous capability to combat maritime smuggling. Coast Guard units and teams deploy to various nations to train indigenous military services and police forces in counter-narcotics techniques.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U. S. Department of Justice is the lead Federal agency for the enforcement of narcotics and controlled substance laws and regulations. The agency’s priority mission is the long-term immobilization of major drug trafficking organizations through the removal of their leaders, termination of their trafficking networks, and seizure of their assets. The DEA coordinates drug investigations and drug intelligence collection with foreign governments and participates in multilateral supply reduction programs.

The other important part of stopping the flow of drugs into this country requires an effective interdiction capability in the transit zones. The Coast Guard and the Customs Service share responsibility for interdicting and disrupting the flow of illegal drugs, with the Coast Guard leading in maritime interdiction and the Customs Service leading in ground and air interdiction.

The 1989 Department of Defense Authorization Act made the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) the lead Federal agency responsible for detection and monitoring of drug shipments into the U.S. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits DOD personnel from assisting civilian law enforcement authorities in keeping the peace, arresting felons, or otherwise executing domestic laws. In 1981, Congress specifically authorized the limited use of DOD military facilities, platforms, and equipment to assist Federal authorities in maritime drug interdiction. Congress mandated that U. S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments be placed aboard appropriate U.S. Navy vessels for this purpose. and that law enforcement boardings at sea be conducted from these platforms by Coast Guard personnel. The Customs Service has independent authority and resources to conduct vessel boardings within three nautical miles of the U. S. coast.

Admiral James Loy, Commandant of the Coast Guard, also serves as the U. S. Interdiction Coordinator(USIC), by appointment of the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Admiral Loy performs this duty as a separate and additional responsibility from his Coast Guard duties. The USIC coordinates Federal drug interdiction resources in the Western Hemisphere, up to the borders of the United States. The USIC also coordinated the efforts of Federal departments and agencies with overseas interdiction responsibilities to ensure that the assets committed by theses agencies are adequate for their drug interdiction mission. The USIC is the principle advisor to the President and ONDCP on interdiction strategies, but does not have the authority to direct other agencys’ assets or personnel.

There has been considerable debate about the value of drug interdiction and source country operations, known as market disrupters, in the Federal drug spending mix. Several studies have been conducted with contrasting outcomes. Studies conducted by The Rand Corporation have suggested that the best way to reduce the amount of drugs consumed is to provide treatment for hardcore users, even if the treatment only reduces the volume of drugs an addict consumes and if the treatment is of limited long-term effectiveness.

In contrast, ONDCP’s own 1992 study, Price and Purity of Cocaine, states that interdiction which reduces the supply of drugs makes "drugs more expensive and difficult to obtain, they help reduce drug use." The paper further concludes: "As the price of cocaine increases, use decreases….For national public policy, the implication of this finding is clear: efforts to reduce the available supply of cocaine in the United States, to the extent they cause cocaine prices to rise, will reduce drug use."

To validate the correlation between market disruptions and street price, the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) studied the market impact of Peru’s March, 1995 decision to institute a shoot-down policy at the "air bridge" between the drug cultivation areas in Peru and the drug processing laboratories in Columbia. IDA predicted this policy would lead to a street price increase in the United States, and later study revealed that in 1995 the street price of cocaine rose by 9.5%, and purity fell by 6.7%. In a long-term study, IDA found that the four prominent spikes in U.S. cocaine street price were associated with four major interdiction efforts. IDA also validated that these four price peaks were associated with corresponding decreases in cocaine use while prices remained high.

Coast Guard Maritime Drug Interdiction

The goal of the Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Program is to eliminate maritime routes as a significant trafficking mode for the supply of drugs to the United States through seizures, disruption, and displacement. Coast Guard cutters, boats, and aircraft conduct routine law enforcement patrols and special operations throughout the maritime arena, including waters adjacent to principal source and transit countries and U. S. coastal waters. Disrupting traffickers forces them to develop new, more costly methods and routes and opens them up to additional risks of detection. The pressure of these operations reduces the flow of illicit drugs into the United States via maritime routes.

The Coast Guard’s drug program emphasizes interdicting vessels and aircraft smuggling cocaine and marijuana into the United States and tracking, monitoring, and apprehending aircraft suspected of carrying drugs from source and transit countries over the high seas. The Coast Guard maintains an intelligence capability to assist this program, and provides support to international counter-drug initiatives.

Key Drug Abuse Research

While there are a large number of studies and findings published on America’s drug situation from various sources, there are five recurring studies which are broadly considered the most reliable indicators for tracking drug abuse and its implications.

Monitoring the Future Survey. This survey has been conducted annually for twenty-three years by the University of Michigan with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an arm of the U. S Department of Health and Human Services. The study questions about 50,000 students in more than 400 public and private secondary schools nationwide. The findings from the students—eighth, tenth, and twelfth-graders—are considered a leading indicator of emerging drug abuse patterns. Latest edition, December, 1997. [http://www.health.org/mtf/index.htm]

National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. This survey has been conducted each year since 1971. It serves as the primary source of statistical data on current and past use of illicit drugs by all age groups within the United States. The study is currently directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [http://www.samhsa.gov/oas/nhsda/nhsdafls.htm]

PRIDE. An annual survey of drug use by junior and senior high school students, PRIDE is conducted by the National Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education. The survey studies nearly 200,000 students in thirty-two states.


Drug Abuse Warning Network. This database has collected information on patients seeking hospital emergency department treatment related to illicit drug use. Data are collected by nurses and other hospital personnel who are trained to validate whether drug use was the reason for the emergency department visit. The study is currently directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [http://www.samhsa.gov/oas/dawn/dwnfiles.htm]

Drug Use Forecasting Report. This report is published by the National institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. It discusses drug use patterns, as validated by chemical testing, in adult and juvenile arrestees. The report provides data which is used to correlate drug use and crime, consistently documenting the large proportion of persons involved as subjects in the criminal justice system who use drugs. [http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/165691.txt]



Rear Admiral Ernest R. Riutta
Assistant Commandant for Operations
United States Coast Guard

Gregory K. Williams
Chief of Operations
Drug Enforcement Agency

Robert Brown
Assistant Deputy Director, Office Supply Reduction
Office of National Drug Control Policy

Joseph W. Maxwell
Acting Executive Director, Air Interdiction
U.S. Customs Service


Barry Raff
Counter Drug Program Manager, Applied Physics Laboratory
John Hopkins University

Kenneth Wood
Barringer Instruments Inc.