Drug Control:

Issues Surrounding Increased Use of the Military in Drug Interdiction

NSIAD-88-156: Published: Apr 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1988.

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In response to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the federal government's capability to control drug smuggling into the country, specifically: (1) its use of the military in the drug interdiction program; and (2) the feasibility of authorizing direct military involvement in drug interdiction.

GAO found that: (1) the federal strategy to control illegal drugs was to reduce demand through drug abuse prevention while reducing supply through interdiction and border control, international drug control, investigations and prosecutions, intelligence activities, and control over diversion of legitimately produced drugs into the illicit market; (2) the Department of Defense (DOD) confined its involvement to providing support to law enforcement agencies' interdiction efforts, since it was not authorized to search for or seize drugs or arrest drug traffickers; (3) in 1987, DOD spent about $389 million for drug law enforcement assistance; and (4) legal and budget constraints reduced DOD ability to provide additional personnel and intelligence activities. GAO also found that: (1) some congressional members believe that DOD should assume more interdiction responsibilities, but DOD believes that increasing its assistance could adversely affect combat readiness; (2) although agencies would like more military assistance, they believe that DOD should remain limited to providing support; (3) law enforcement agencies preferred direct funding; and (4) proposed legislation would allow assigned military members to assist in search and seizure and arrests outside the United States.

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