Drug Smuggling:

Large Amounts of Illegal Drugs Not Seized by Federal Authorities

GGD-87-91: Published: Jun 12, 1987. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the capabilities of the federal government to interdict illegal drug smuggling across the southern border of the United States.

GAO found that: (1) the Customs Service and the Coast Guard are the principal interdiction agencies and are jointly responsible for both air and marine interdiction; (2) the Department of Defense provides support for air and marine interdiction operations; and (3) the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 substantially increased federal funding for drug interdiction. GAO also found that: (1) the quantity of illegal drugs seized in recent years was small compared to the amount successfully smuggled into the United States; (2) staff and equipment shortages left large gaps in interdiction coverage; (3) interdiction personnel and equipment did not operate around the clock; (4) the southern border lacked 24-hour radar coverage with the ability to detect flights at low altitudes; (5) radar coverage and detection capabilities were especially limited along the southern coastal and land borders outside of south Florida; (6) the Coast Guard did not have sufficient personnel or vessels to detect and interdict all of the marine smugglers in the Caribbean; and (7) a lack of timely and accurate tactical intelligence hindered interdiction agencies. In addition, GAO found that: (1) the demand for illegal drugs continues to make smuggling highly profitable; and (2) although increased resources for equipment and staff should result in improved coverage, smugglers have responded successfully to past changes in the interdiction system and may continue to do so.

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