U.S. COAST GUARD
The U.S. Coast Guard warned earlierthis year that sequestration’s indiscriminate, across-the board budget cuts would directly affect the service’s
drug-interdiction capabilities. As the federal government
enters a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, service officials said
budget limitations have, indeed, hampered those efforts.
“We are in a resource-constrained environment, so
sequestration did happen and we did lose resources,”
said Capt. Gregory Burg, chief of enforcement for the
11th Coast Guard District.
His area of operations includes California, Arizona,
Utah and Nevada, as well as the border with Mexico.
“We are doing a pretty good job [of catching drug
smugglers] as they get near shore, but that’s making
them change their tactics. Our adversaries are very
adaptable. Every time we determine a route or determine a procedure, they change on us. We are also dealing with quite a large amount of coastline,” he said.
In fiscal 2012, the Coast Guard seized 124,585
pounds of marijuana and 235,921 pounds of cocaine.
As of Sept. 3, the service had rounded up 75,361
pounds of marijuana and 166,752 pounds of cocaine in
“We lost resources … and we
had to reduce the number of hours
we put on cutters and aircraft,”
He noted that, while resources
will continue to be limited in fiscal
2014, “I am an optimist.”
The federal government, between
the Budget Control Act of 2011 and
sequestration, which went into
effect March 1, is being asked to
trim more than $1 trillion from its
budgets over the next decade.
Sequestration can cease or be modi-
fied if lawmakers reach a national
debt compromise, but that seems
unlikely as fiscal 2014 begins.
Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., Coast Guard commandant,
predicted earlier this year that there would be
consequences from those budget cuts, telling a Senate
panel that drug smugglers were, “growing smarter,
bolder and they’re taking greater risk and increasing
danger to our homeland.”
Papp warned the Senate Commerce oceans, atmos-
phere, fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee that
budget cuts — expected to be in the hundreds of mil-
lions for the service over the next several years —
along with a shift of Navy ships away from helping the
Coast Guard in drug interdiction missions would
result in more narcotics reaching American soil.
The service’s highest-ranking official told lawmakers during the April 25 hearing that sequestration cuts
were leaving him short in efforts to interdict drugs
along traditional trade routes near the Caribbean.
Burg said one of the ways the service is trying to
mitigate the loss of resources is by working more closely with partner agencies, such as Customs and Border
Protection and the California National Guard.
Right now, the Coast Guard uses a collection of several agencies’ assets — from cutters to aircraft to
Drug Trade vs.
Coast Guard says limited funds, resources hamper interdiction efforts
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
Hard Job Becoming Harder
Coast Guard leaders say budget cuts are to blame for a nearly
40 percent drop in the amount of marijuana and cocaine seized
in fiscal 2013 compared with that confiscated in 2012.
n Fewer resources were available to stop the flow of drugs over
the border with Mexico.
n The service has developed closer working relationships with
federal and state agencies to share information and use one
another’s assets to save money.
n Traffickers are starting to use more maritime routes, rather
than land, to get drugs into the United States.