Drug Control:

International Counterdrug Sites Being Developed

GAO-01-63BR: Published: Dec 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Dec 20, 2000.

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With the closing of Howard Air Force Base in Panama, the Department of Defense (DOD), the Coast Guard and the Customs Service began searching for alternate sites from which to conduct counterdrug operations close to drug producing zones. The United States has secured 10-year agreements for the use of four such sites. However, each site requires some construction to support a designated mix of aircraft. In response to concerns over the costs to develop and operate these four sites and whether these sites would meet the needs of interagency users, GAO briefed members of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control on (1) the process used to select these sites, (2) the estimated costs to develop and maintain these sites, and (3) issues that might affect operational capabilities at the sites. GAO found that the United States used a reasonable process to locate and secure four sites for its counterdrug efforts in foreign countries. DOD estimated that it would cost about $136.6 million to build airfields at these sites. Several issues might affect the capabilities of these sites, including (1) the unavailability of certain U.S. aircraft to conduct counterdrug operations, (2) DOD's and Customs' ongoing assessment of aircraft used to track suspect traffickers, and (3) a lack of interagency agreement over who will pay to ship the equipment and spare parts necessary to maintain operations.

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