Capabilities for Interdicting Airborne Drug Smugglers Are Limited and Costly

T-GGD-89-28: Published: Jun 9, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 1989.

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GAO discussed its review of federal air interdiction of smuggled drugs. GAO found that: (1) federal spending on air interdiction programs increased from about $18 million in 1982 to about $200 million for fiscal year (FY) 1989; (2) the Department of Defense provided about $330 million in assistance to civil air interdiction agencies in FY 1987; (3) while air interdiction programs have resulted in the seizure of substantial amounts of illegal drugs, those seizures and others are small compared to the total amount of illegal drugs smuggled into the United States; (4) many seizures resulted from controlled situations where federal agents allowed smuggling to occur in order to arrest drug traffickers or disrupt trafficking operations; (5) technical equipment constraints and physical gaps in radar coverage provide opportunities for smugglers to exploit, but the extent to which smugglers do so is unclear; (6) the network of aerostats supporting air interdiction has had operational, maintenance, and weather difficulties; and (7) the impact of agency efforts to integrate command, communications, control, and intelligence assets cannot yet be determined.

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