Drug Control:

U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean Decline

NSIAD-96-119: Published: Apr 17, 1996. Publicly Released: May 16, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed drug trafficking activities in the Caribbean, focusing on: (1) the activities' nature in the transit zone, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean; (2) host nation impediments to an effective regional control strategy; (3) U.S. agencies' capabilities to interdict drug trafficking throughout the Caribbean transit zone; and (4) federal agency planning, coordination, and implementation of U.S. interdiction efforts.

GAO found that: (1) U.S. officials believe that drug trafficking through the Caribbean is increasing; (2) drug traffickers have shifted their drug transportation operations from primarily air to commercial and marine transportation and are using advanced technologies to counter U.S. interdiction efforts; (3) the U.S.-Caribbean strategy attempts to strengthen host nations' political will and capabilities to support U.S. objectives, but most host nations lack the resources to conduct antidrug operations; (4) the United States has entered into agreements with several governments that give it authority to operate in their territorial waters and airspace; (5) widespread political and police corruption in the Caribbean hampers U.S. interdiction efforts; (6) budget cuts have reduced the Department of Defense's and law enforcement agencies' interdiction capabilities in the transit zone and the expected increases in funds for source country activities have not materialized; (7) lost radar and ship capabilities had the greatest impact on air and surface interdictions; (8) cocaine seizures declined by almost one-half from fiscal year (FY) 1991 to FY 1995; (9) the Administration has not developed a regional, antidrug implementation plan, adequately staffed interagency organizations with key personnel, or fully resolved intelligence-sharing issues; and (10) the two organizations with coordination responsibilities lack the authority to command the use of any agency's resources.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP has not developed a regional action plan focused on the Caribbean part of the transit zone, determined resources and staffing needed, or delineated a comprehensive strategy to improve host nation capabilities and commitment to interdiction. In January 1998, ONDCP issued performance measures for assessing the effectiveness of the national drug control strategy's goals. Although these measures include some broad quantifiable targets and benchmarks, the measures are not Caribbean-specific, do not include resource requirements, and only generally address host nation capabilities and commitment. According to an ONDCP official, the annual strategy and the accompanying performance measures are the administration's overall plan for activities in the Caribbean and some of the performance measures relate to the entire transit zone area (of which the Caribbean is a part), but ONDCP has no plans to narrow the measures or develop a regional action plan focused on the Caribbean.

    Recommendation: The Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, should develop a regional action plan focused on the Caribbean part of the transit zone to fully implement the U.S. policy for cocaine in the western hemisphere. At a minimum, the plan should determine resources and staffing needed and delineate a comprehensive strategy to improve host nation capabilities and commitment to counternarcotics interdiction.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy


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