Drug Control: Update on U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-10-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to Congressional Requesters

October 1997
                  DRUG CONTROL
                  Update on U.S.
                  Interdiction Efforts in
                  the Caribbean and
                  Eastern Pacific

             United States
GAO          General Accounting Office
             Washington, D.C. 20548

             National Security and
             International Affairs Division


             October 15, 1997

             The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
             Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security,
               International Affairs, and Criminal Justice
             Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
             House of Representatives

             The Honorable Bill McCollum
             Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime
             Committee on the Judiciary
             House of Representatives

             Drug traffickers use a 6-million square mile area that includes the
             Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, the northern coast of
             South America, Mexico, and the Eastern Pacific—commonly referred to as
             the “transit zone”—to move illegal drugs into the United States. In
             April 1996, we reported1 that (1) the level of Caribbean illegal drug
             activities—especially maritime operations—had increased, (2) many
             Caribbean nations had limited resources and capabilities to conduct
             effective antidrug operations, (3) funding and capabilities for U.S.
             interdiction efforts had declined, and (4) the executive branch had not
             developed a plan of action to implement the U.S. strategy to counteract
             cocaine smuggling in the transit zone.

             As you requested, we have reviewed what has happened in this area since
             our April 1996 report. Our specific objectives were to review changes in
             (1) the nature of current drug-trafficking activities through the transit
             zone; (2) host nation efforts, capabilities, and impediments to an effective
             counternarcotics program; (3) U.S. agencies’ capabilities, including
             funding, in interdicting drug-trafficking activities in the region; and (4) the
             status of U.S. agencies’ efforts to plan, coordinate, and implement U.S.
             interdiction activities.

             Under the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy, the United States has
Background   established domestic and international efforts to reduce the supply and
             demand for illegal drugs. The strategy includes five goals intended to
             integrate the budgets and activities of all organizations involved in
             counterdrug efforts. The goals focus on education, law enforcement, and
             treatment in the United States and on eradication, alternative

              Drug Control: U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean Decline (GAO/NSIAD-96-119, Apr. 17, 1996).

             Page 1                                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

development, interdiction, support for host nations, money laundering,
and other issues outside the United States.2 Goal four of the National Drug
Control Strategy is “to shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from
the drug threat.” In its efforts to achieve this goal, the United States has
efforts underway to detect, monitor, and interdict illegal narcotics moving
through the transit zone.

From 1986 to 1996, the United States spent about $103 billion on efforts to
reduce drug supply and demand. About $20 billion of this amount was
expended on international counternarcotics efforts, including $4.1 billion
to support crop eradication, alternative development, and increased
foreign law enforcement capabilities and $15.6 billion for interdiction
activities. Funding for drug interdiction in the transit zone declined from
about $1 billion in 1992 to $600 million in 1996.

In 1988, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was
established to set priorities and objectives for national drug control,
develop an annual drug control strategy, and oversee the strategy’s
implementation. The U.S. Interdiction Coordinator, who reports to ONDCP,
is responsible for coordinating the efforts of all U.S. agencies involved in
drug interdiction. The Department of State coordinates U.S. efforts in host
countries, including training provided by U.S. agencies. The Department of
Defense (DOD) supports U.S. law enforcement agencies by tracking and
monitoring suspected drug-trafficking activities. Within the transit zone,
the U.S. Coast Guard is the lead agency for maritime drug interdiction and
co-lead with the U.S. Customs Service for air interdiction. They provide
aircraft and ships to assist with detection and monitoring activities. The
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for coordinating
drug enforcement intelligence gathering overseas and conducting law
enforcement operations. DEA’s activities in the Caribbean are managed by
its Puerto Rico-based field division and in the Bahamas by its Miami field

On September 17, 1997, the executive branch revised the National
Interdiction Command and Control Plan that called for creating several
joint interagency task forces that are intended to strengthen interagency
coordination of U.S. drug control efforts. According to the revised plan,
the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF)-East, located in Key West, Florida,
is responsible for detection, monitoring, sorting, and handoff of suspect air

 The international aspect of the strategy focuses on supply reduction and is guided by a presidential
directive issued in November 1993 that called for a gradual shift in emphasis from the transit zone to
the source countries. Funding for source country activities against drug trafficking increased from
$231.5 million in fiscal year 1996 to $313.7 million in fiscal year 1997.

Page 2                                                              GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                   and maritime drug-trafficking events in the Pacific Ocean east of 92 west
                   longitude, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, Central America north of
                   Panama, and surrounding seas and the Atlantic Ocean. JIATF-East is
                   composed of personnel from various defense and civilian law enforcement
                   agencies. JIATF-South, located in Panama, focuses on source country
                   initiatives and the detection and monitoring of suspect drug targets for
                   either subsequent handoff to participating national law enforcement
                   agencies or to JIATF-East for further monitoring.

                   Since our April 1996 report, the amount of drugs smuggled and the
Results in Brief   counternarcotics capabilities of host countries and the United States have
                   remained largely unchanged. Cocaine trafficking through the Caribbean
                   and Eastern Pacific regions continues, and drug traffickers are still relying
                   heavily on maritime modes of transportation. Recent information shows
                   that traffickers are using “go-fast” boats, fishing vessels, coastal freighters,
                   and other vessels in the Caribbean and fishing and cargo vessels with
                   multiton loads in the Eastern Pacific. Also, recent estimates indicate that,
                   of all cocaine moving through the transit zone, 38 percent (234 metric
                   tons) is being shipped through the Eastern Pacific.

                   Although the United States has continued to provide technical assistance
                   and equipment to many Caribbean and other transit zone countries, the
                   amount of cocaine seized by most of the countries is small relative to the
                   estimated amounts flowing through the area. The counterdrug efforts of
                   many transit zone countries continue to be hampered by limited resources
                   and capabilities. Moreover, the United States does not have bilateral
                   maritime agreements with 12 transit zone countries to facilitate
                   interdiction activities.

                   Also since our prior report, the United States has increased funding but
                   has had limited success in detecting, monitoring, and interdicting air and
                   maritime trafficking in the transit zone. JIATF-East assets devoted to these
                   efforts have stayed at almost the same level. However, drug-trafficking
                   events are usually not detected and, when detected, often do not result in
                   narcotics seizures. U.S. counternarcotics officials believe that the Eastern
                   Pacific—a major drug-threat area—could benefit from greater attention.
                   JIATF-East has requested additional resources from DOD to address Eastern
                   Pacific drug trafficking, believing that cocaine seizures it supports could
                   be doubled. DOD has not determined what, if any, additional support will be
                   allocated to the Eastern Pacific above current force levels. In 1996, the
                   U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard initiated two intensive

                   Page 3                                              GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                      operations in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that
                      resulted in increased cocaine seizures and a disruption in drug-trafficking

                      In response to our recommendation in our earlier report that ONDCP
                      develop a regional plan of action, ONDCP officials told us that it developed
                      an overall strategy that identifies agency roles, missions, and tasks to
                      execute the drug strategy and establish task priorities. However, the
                      strategy does not include quantitative objectives for activities that would
                      establish a defined baseline for developing operational plans and resource
                      requirements. According to ONDCP, its performance measurement system
                      remains incomplete, as of October 1, 1997, because proposed measurable
                      targets, the core of ONDCP’s system, are still under review. Until these
                      measurable targets are developed, it will not be possible to hold agencies
                      accountable for their performance. In addition, law enforcement agencies
                      with jurisdiction in the Caribbean are in the process of developing a
                      regional plan led by DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S.
                      Customs Service. This plan is expected to be completed by January 1998.

                      According to the Department of State’s 1997 International Narcotics
Cocaine Flow          Control Strategy Report, about 760 metric tons of cocaine were produced
Through the Transit   in South America in 1996.3 Of this amount, U.S. officials estimate that
Zone Continues to     about 608 metric tons moved through the transit zone destined for U.S.
                      markets and 40 metric tons transited to Europe. The officials
Threaten the United   acknowledge, however, that estimates of the amount of cocaine that
States                enters the United States are based on limited intelligence and other
                      information and may not reflect the actual cocaine flow.4 Maritime
                      conveyances continue to be the predominant means for smuggling cocaine
                      into the United States.

                      The Eastern Pacific and Western and Eastern Caribbean are the principal
                      cocaine smuggling routes from South America to the United States. U.S.
                      interagency 1996 estimates indicated that of the 608 metric tons of cocaine
                      destined for the United States, 234 metric tons flowed through the Eastern

                       According to the Department of State, estimated worldwide cocaine availability is based on potential
                      production of crop harvest yield and the assumption that all coca leaf will be converted to cocaine.
                       JIATF-East officials said factors such as seizure data, shipments to non-U.S. markets, and
                      consumption in the source zone were not considered in cocaine flow assessments prior to 1997.
                      However, the U.S. international counternarcotics policy interagency working group, responsible for
                      generating cocaine flow estimates, plans to include these factors in preparing its estimate of the 1997
                      flow. The working group is composed of U.S. law enforcement and defense agencies involved in
                      counternarcotics programs.

                      Page 4                                                               GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                                     Pacific, 264 metric tons flowed through the Western Caribbean, and 110
                                     metric tons flowed through the Eastern Caribbean. About 52 percent of
                                     the U.S.-bound cocaine transited Mexico and Central America. As shown
                                     in figure 1, the United States is the principal destination for cocaine
                                     smuggled in the transit zone.

Figure 1: 1996 Cocaine Flow in the
Western Hemisphere

                                     Source: U.S. Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement.

                                     Page 5                                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

U.S. interagency estimates for the first 2 quarters of 1997 showed that
cocaine continued to be moved mostly by maritime conveyances and
Mexico was the principal destination. According to interagency estimates,
Mexico and Central America received 59 percent of the cocaine during this
period. The Caribbean countries accounted for 30 percent of the flow, and
11 percent was shipped directly to the United States from source
countries. Also, U.S. law enforcement agencies noted some changes in
trafficking patterns in and around Puerto Rico. They attributed this change
to increased U.S. law enforcement efforts in this area.

According to the DEA Caribbean Field Division, the Eastern Caribbean
corridor remains a prolific drug-trafficking route. South American
traffickers continue to use the Bahamas and islands in the Leeward,
Windward, and Hispaniola routes as staging and transshipment areas.
Cocaine loads originate in Colombia or Venezuela and are moved by air or
large motherships to smaller vessels in the Eastern Caribbean. The many
unguarded airstrips and coastlines of the Caribbean islands make it easy
for traffickers to refuel or store cocaine for further shipment directly to
the United States or through Puerto Rico.

According to DEA, Puerto Rico is a popular gateway to the United States
and a principal staging destination for South American drug traffickers.
Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica have also experienced
increased drug-smuggling activity. For example, DEA has indicated that, in
the past, the role of Dominicans in the drug business was limited to
“pick-up crews” and couriers who assisted Puerto Rican smugglers. Today,
Dominicans have sophisticated drug-smuggling operations and use
advanced security systems and telephone communications to move and
sell cocaine in the Caribbean and the United States, according to DEA. Even
with heightened enforcement, offshore airdrops along the southern coast
of the Dominican Republic and in the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico
and the Dominican Republic continue. In addition, the Department of
State has reported that thousands of kilograms of cocaine have been
smuggled over the border from Haiti into the Dominican Republic, whose
army has had little success in stopping the flow of drugs.

Although the Eastern Caribbean remains a major route for illegal drug
trafficking, the larger quantities of cocaine pass through Mexico via the
Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean corridors. U.S. interagency
estimates show that, in 1996, 314 metric tons of cocaine reached Mexico
for eventual movement to the United States through the Eastern Pacific
and Western Caribbean channels. Of this amount, about 70 percent was

Page 6                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                               shipped through the Eastern Pacific. Multiton shipments of cocaine depart
                               Colombia, Panama, or Ecuador predominantly by noncommercial
                               maritime means and travel north via the Pacific Ocean. Shipments reach
                               Mexico directly or are unloaded at sites along the Central American coast
                               to smaller vessels. The U.S. interagency also estimates that about
                               30 percent of the cocaine entering Mexico passed through the Western

Cocaine Seizures in the        Overall cocaine seizures in the transit zone5 have increased from 61 metric
Transit Zone                   tons in 1994 to 66 metric tons in 1995 and to 80 metric tons in 1996,
                               according to JIATF-East. These amounts include seizures by U.S. agencies
                               at sea and local law enforcement authorities in Mexico and Caribbean and
                               Central American countries. Of the 1996 seizures, 53 metric tons were
                               seized by transit zone countries and 27 metric tons were seized by the
                               United States at sea. Seizures by Mexico and Central American countries
                               accounted for about 40 of the 80 metric tons seized in 1996.

Maritime Smuggling             Since 1993, cocaine traffickers have continued to increase their reliance
Continues to Dominate          on maritime vessels. According to JIATF-East, the number of known
Activity in the Transit Zone   maritime drug-trafficking events has increased by 41 percent, from 174
                               events in 1993 to 246 in 1996. A “known event” is the confirmed movement
                               of illegal drugs supported by seizure of drugs, observation of activities that
                               can reasonably be attributed to drug smuggling, or reliable intelligence.
                               Table 1 shows air and maritime known events for 1992-96.

                                These seizures do not include those made in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are
                               considered arrival zone seizures.

                               Page 7                                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Table 1: Air and Maritime
Drug-Trafficking Events, 1992-96                                                        Air                     Maritime
                                                                                                Percent                 Percent
                                   Year                                          Events          of total    Events      of total
                                   1992                                                              Not
                                                                                                                   a            a
                                                                                     344      applicable
                                   1993                                              217                55      174           45
                                   1994                                              154                41      223           59
                                   1995                                              125                33      249           67
                                   1996                                               86                26      246           74
                                   Note: Events originating in Mexico and the Far East were excluded.
                                   Maritime data for 1992 are not available.

                                   Source: JIATF-East.

                                   According to JIATF-East, the most significant maritime drug-smuggling
                                   modes of transportation involve “go-fast” boats in the Caribbean and
                                   fishing vessels in the Eastern Pacific. The “go-fast” boats are difficult to
                                   detect and interdict because they are small and capable of speeds that
                                   enable them to successfully evade law enforcement pursuits, according to
                                   the U.S. Coast Guard. The boats are between 25 and 45 feet in length, can
                                   routinely carry up to a ton of cocaine per trip, travel predominantly by
                                   night, and have refueling capability to complete cocaine runs in one day.
                                   In the first quarter of 1997, 38 of the 69 known maritime events, or
                                   55 percent, in the transit zone involved “go-fast” boats. As illustrated in
                                   figure 2, maritime smuggling events by “go-fast” boats is on an upward

                                   Page 8                                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Figure 2: Maritime Smuggling Events in the Caribbean, 1995-97 (first quarter)
Number of known events





      Fishing vessel                Coastal freighter                    Go fast                       Pleasure craft
                       Sailing vessel                     Yola                          Motor vessel                    Unknown

                                                         1995     1996       1997

                                                Data for 1997 are through March 31.

                                                Source: JIATF-East.

                                                DEA  has also reported an increase in the use of canoes by Jamaican
                                                smugglers and “yolas” by Dominican smugglers. The yola is an open vessel
                                                with twin motors for propulsion and the ability to refuel rapidly. DEA
                                                reported that Bahamian and Jamaican transportation groups use yolas to
                                                smuggle cocaine loads into the Bahamas from either airdrops or
                                                boat-to-boat transfers off the coast of Jamaica. These groups then use the
                                                territorial waters of Cuba to shield their movements for eventual
                                                unloading to pleasure craft, which can easily blend in with inter-island
                                                boat traffic. A U.S. Customs Service official told us that “go-fast,”

                                                Page 9                                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

recreational, and commercial fishing vessels move rapidly from the
Bahamas to smuggle drugs into Florida.

In the Eastern Pacific, cocaine traffickers use large fishing vessels that
have been retrofitted with hidden compartments and have been known to
carry as much as 11 metric tons of cocaine. The largest amount of cocaine
is smuggled through the Eastern Pacific, and the vast majority is delivered
into Mexico, where it continues northbound over land. JIATF-East reported
that, between May and December of 1996, there were 27 known or
possible events in the Eastern Pacific. Figure 3 shows typical maritime
vessels most commonly used by drug traffickers in the Caribbean and
Eastern Pacific corridors.

Page 10                                          GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Figure 3: Typical Maritime Vessels Used by Drug Traffickers in the Transit Zone

                                           Source: JIATF-East.

                                           As we reported in April 1996, host countries in the Caribbean continue to
Host Nation                                be hampered by inadequate counternarcotics capabilities. While the drug
Counterdrug                                flow through the transit zone continues at about the same level, drug
Capabilities Remain                        seizures by most countries in this region are minimal. During the last
                                           2 years, the United States has continued its efforts to strengthen host
Limited                                    countries’ capabilities to complement and support U.S. interdiction efforts.

                                           Page 11                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                               These efforts include commitments made at the May 1997
                               Caribbean/United States Summit in Barbados and new bilateral
                               agreements that promote increased air and maritime cooperation with
                               countries that have not yet signed agreements. The Department of State
                               points out, however, that the best-trained, best-equipped antidrug units
                               cannot succeed for long without the determined commitment of host
                               government political authorities.

Capabilities in Transit Zone   As we reported in April 1996, many host nations have weak economies and
Countries                      insufficient resources for conducting law enforcement activities in their
                               coastal waters. In the Caribbean, St. Martin6 has the most assets for
                               antidrug activities, with three cutters, eight patrol boats, and two
                               fixed-wing aircraft, whereas other Caribbean countries have much less.
                               Nevertheless, the United States depends on support from host nations and
                               several European countries to help stop the drug flow through the transit

                               In our 1996 report, we also noted that the need for law enforcement
                               training for host governments had been evident for some time. In
                               recognition of this need, the Department of State provided about
                               $7 million for training 6,700 persons throughout the world in fiscal
                               year 1996. Other U.S. agencies also have funded and conducted training
                               for some host nations. In addition, at the Barbados Summit, the United
                               States committed to continuing to provide technical assistance in such
                               areas as law enforcement, judicial systems, antimoney laundering, and
                               other counterdrug activities. To further assist in implementation of U.S.
                               commitments, the Director of ONDCP issued budget guidance that tasks
                               departments and agencies to implement commitments made at the

                               In March 1997, the Department of State reported corruption-related
                               problems in various transit zone countries, including Antigua, Aruba,
                               Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Vincent,
                               and others. Once the influence of drug trafficking becomes entrenched,
                               corruption inevitably follows and democratic government may be placed
                               in jeopardy. Even in countries where the political will to support antidrug
                               activities exists, corruption can hinder counterdrug efforts. As we have
                               previously reported, low salary levels for law enforcement officers and

                                According to a Department of State official, St. Martin is not an independent nation and receives some
                               support from France and the Netherlands.

                               Page 12                                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                                        other public servants throughout much of the transit zone make them
                                        susceptible to accepting bribes.7

                                        As shown in table 2, the amount of cocaine seized in eight Caribbean
                                        countries rose from 6.79 metric tons in 1995 to 14.16 metric tons in 1996.8
                                        The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles,
                                        and the United Kingdom Virgin Islands recorded some increase in 1996,
                                        while seizures in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica declined.
                                        Significantly, Cuba accounted for most of the 1996 increase, represented
                                        by one seizure of 6.2 metric tons from the disabled Honduran vessel
                                        Limerick that was boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard and later drifted into
                                        Cuban waters.

Table 2: Cocaine Seizures in Selected
Caribbean Countries, 1992-96            In metric tons
                                        Country                                          1992         1993        1994      1995       1996
                                        Bahamas                                           4.80        1.90        0.49      0.39        0.41
                                        Cayman Islands                                     N/A         N/A        0.05      0.31        2.20
                                        Cuba                                              0.31        0.24        0.24      0.16        6.30
                                        Dominican Republic                                2.36        1.07        2.80      3.60        1.20
                                        Haiti                                             0.06        0.15        0.72      0.55        1.40
                                        Jamaica                                           0.49        0.16        0.18      0.57        0.24
                                        Netherlands Antilles                              0.09        0.37            N/A   0.11        0.71
                                        U.K. Virgin Islands                               0.03        0.70        0.45      1.10        1.70
                                        Total                                             8.14        4.59        4.93      6.79       14.16
                                            Data is January to August.

                                        N/A = Not available.

                                        Sources: Annual National Narcotics Intelligence and Consumers Committee Reports and
                                        International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports.

                                        One of JIATF-East’s goals for Caribbean countries is to increase their
                                        seizure rates to at least 15 percent of the cocaine estimated to be passing
                                        through their territories. In 1996, cocaine seizures in most Caribbean
                                        countries were much lower than 15 percent. In Jamaica, for example, the
                                        seizure rate was only 1.2 percent, while in Haiti it was 4.5 percent; the

                                         Drug War: Observations on the U.S. International Drug Control Strategy (GAO/T-NSIAD-95-182,
                                        June 27, 1995).
                                         JIATF-East identified these countries as important transit zone countries.

                                        Page 13                                                              GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                      Dominican Republic, 3.6 percent; and Mexico, 7 percent.9 JIATF-East
                      determined that, if these four countries had achieved a 15-percent seizure
                      rate during 1996, seizures would have increased by 32 metric tons—from
                      26.12 metric tons to 58.65 metric tons.

United States Lacks   In its March 1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the
Bilateral Maritime    Department of State noted that, during 1996, the U. S. government had
Agreements With 12    negotiated an assortment of treaties and agreements designated to serve
                      as important new tools in fighting drug trafficking. One type of bilateral
Nations               agreement is the maritime counterdrug agreement, generally consisting of
                      six parts and granting the United States full or partial permission for
                      shipboarding, shiprider, pursuit, entry to investigate, overflight, and order
                      to land. There are 12 countries in the region with which the United States
                      currently has no formal counterdrug agreements. These include Barbados,
                      Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, French West Indies, Guatemala,
                      Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Suriname. Department of
                      State officials told us the U.S. government is undertaking efforts to obtain
                      additional agreements but that progress has been impeded by host
                      government concerns about sovereignty and legal issues. The United
                      States currently has six-part agreements with 5—Antigua & Barbuda,
                      Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago—of the 28
                      countries in the region and partial agreements (from one to four parts)
                      with 11 other countries. See table 3 for information regarding U.S. bilateral
                      counterdrug agreements with transit zone countries.

                       Mexico is considered part of the transit zone and is where most cocaine seizures occur on land. In
                      1996, Mexican seizures were 23.6 metric tons.

                      Page 14                                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Table 3: U.S. Bilateral Counterdrug Agreements, as of August 1997
                                                                       Entry to
                         Shipboarding     Shiprider       Pursuit      investigate   Overflight         Order to land
Antigua & Barbuda        X                X               X            X             X                  X
Bahamas                                   X                                          X
Belize                   X                X               X            X
Costa Rica
Dominica                 X                X               X            X
Dominican Republic       X                X               X            X
El Salvador
French West Indies
Grenada                  X                X               X            X             X                  X
Haiti                                                     X            X             X
Netherlands Antilles                      X               X            X             X
Panama                                    X
St. Kitts & Nevis        X                X               X            X             X                  X
St. Lucia                X                X               X            X             X                  X
St. Vincent/Grenadines   X                X               X            X
Trinidad & Tobago        X                X               X            X             X                  X
Turks & Caicos                            X- air only
U.K. West Indies         X                X
Venezuela                X                                X-air only

                                                                                                  (Table notes on next page)

                                          Page 15                                        GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                         Note: Empty cells indicate no agreement in this area.
                          Agreements with Barbados and Jamaica have been signed but implementation is pending
                         ratification by host government parliaments and approval of implementation legislation.
                          The Dominican Republic has granted temporary overflight authority over its territorial waters to
                         dissuade and detect illegal migration and illegal drug trafficking through March 15, 1998.

                         Shipboarding: = Standing authority for the U.S. Coast Guard to stop, board, and search foreign
                         vessels suspected of illicit traffic located seaward of the territorial sea of any nation.

                         Shiprider: = Standing authority to embark law enforcement officials on vessel platforms of the
                         parties. These officials may then authorize certain law enforcement actions.

                         Pursuit: = Standing authority for U.S. law enforcement assets to pursue fleeing vessels or aircraft
                         suspected of illicit drug traffic into foreign waters or airspace. May also include authority to stop,
                         board, and search pursued vessels.

                         Entry to investigate: = Standing authority for U.S. law enforcement assets to enter foreign waters
                         or airspace to investigate vessels or aircraft located therein suspected of illicit drug traffic. May
                         also include authority to stop, board, and search such vessels.

                         Overflight: = Standing authority for U.S. law enforcement assets to fly in foreign airspace when in
                         support of counterdrug operations.

                         Order to land: = Standing authority for U.S. law enforcement assets to order to land in the host
                         nation aircraft suspected of illicit drug traffic.

                         Source: U.S. Coast Guard.

                         Bilateral agreements are not uniform and some provide very limited rights
                         to U.S. law enforcement authorities. For example, a U.S.-Belize agreement
                         allows U.S. Coast Guard personnel to board suspected Belizean-flagged
                         vessels on the high seas without prior notification to the Government of
                         Belize. Also, the U.S. shiprider agreement with Panama contains
                         restrictions that require U.S. Coast Guard vessels operating in Panamanian
                         territorial waters to be escorted by a Government of Panama ship. In
                         contrast, other agreements do not include this restriction.

                         Although budgets for most federal activities in the transit zone increased
U.S. Funding and         in fiscal year 1997, the number of JIATF-East maritime and air assets and
Efforts in the Transit   resources for detection and monitoring have remained relatively
Zone                     unchanged since fiscal years 1995-96 (we have provided data through
                         August 1997, however). Seizures of drugs supported by JIATF-East have
                         dropped. In addition, JIATF-East believes the Eastern Pacific merits greater
                         attention. Assets have been inadequate in this area, JIATF-East says.
                         Although JIATF-East has asked for additional resources from DOD to
                         support an 18-month operation in the Eastern Pacific, DOD has not decided
                         whether to grant this request. In the Caribbean, two agencies—the U.S.

                         Page 16                                                               GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                                             Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs Service—increased their counterdrug
                                             efforts, including conducting two “surge” operations to seize and disrupt
                                             cocaine smuggling activity in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
                                             Islands in 1996. Furthermore, intelligence sharing among some U.S.
                                             agencies has been problematic.

U.S. Counternarcotics                        U.S. counternarcotics funding in the transit zone increased by about
Funding Has Increased                        $33 million from fiscal year 1995 to fiscal year 1996 and is estimated to
Since Fiscal Year 1995                       increase by an additional $97 million in fiscal year 1997, as shown in
                                             table 4. Most of the fiscal year 1997 increase is due to a onetime allotment
                                             to DOD to modify a P3 aircraft for interdiction activities. According to
                                             JIATF-East officials, the modifications have not yet been completed. The
                                             officials also noted that, when the P3 becomes operational, it is likely to be
                                             used in the transit zone as well as in other areas as needed.

Table 4: U.S. Counternarcotics Funding in the Transit Zone, Fiscal Years 1991-98
Dollars in millions
                                                                                                                      Estimate           Request
Agency                               1991            1992        1993          1994          1995          1996               1997              1998
DOD                                $407.1         $504.5       $426.0        $220.4        $214.7        $228.9             $304.6            $238.1
USCG                                565.2            443.9      310.5         234.1         301.2         323.2               335.7            388.7
                                         a               a
USCS                                                              16.2          12.5          10.1           4.5                6.2                  6.6
DEA                                  26.2             28.8        29.1          28.7          29.6          34.0               31.7                 36.7
State                                35.9             36.2        14.0           7.9          10.6           8.5               18.4                 18.5
Total                            $1,034.4        $1,013.4      $795.8        $503.6        $566.2        $599.1             $696.6            $688.6

                                             USCG = U.S. Coast Guard
                                             USCS = U.S. Customs Service


                                             1. U.S. Coast Guard data for 1994 are different from the data presented in our April 1996 report
                                             because of updated information provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

                                             2. U.S. Customs Service data do not include funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
                                             These areas are territories of the United States, and funding is not included as part of the transit
                                             Customs data for 1991-92 are not available.

                                             Source: Indicated federal agencies.

                                             Page 17                                                               GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

JIATF-East Maritime and                   Between fiscal year 1995 and 1996, there was little change in JIATF-East
Air Assets Remain                         maritime assets and flight hours devoted to interdiction in the Caribbean
Unchanged                                 and the Eastern Pacific (see tables 5 and 6). However, a significant decline
                                          in DOD funding began in fiscal years 1993 and 1994. These declines resulted
                                          in a 40-percent reduction in U.S. maritime assets by fiscal year 1994. As
                                          indicted in table 5, the number of shipdays in 1996 was 1,645 shipdays less
                                          than in 1993, when it was at its highest level. The reductions involved
                                          almost all classes of ships.

Table 5: JIATF-East Maritime Assets, 1992-97 (through July)
In number of shipdays
Ship type                          1992              1993                 1994                 1995                 1996         (through July)
  Logistics                         287                 71                   40                    0                    0                         0
  Cruiser                           558                753                  742                 488                  360                         256
  Destroyer                         699                602                  118                 224                  336                         114
  Frigate                         2,008              1,441                  785                 727                  509                         333
  Amphibious                         87                188                    9                    0                    0                         0
Coast Guard                           0                138                    0                 401                  654                         421
Othera                              533              1,255                  974               1,005                  944                         607
Total                             4,172              4,448               2,668                2,845                2,803                    1,731
                                          Note: U.S. Coast Guard shipdays do not include all U.S. Coast Guard efforts in the transit zone.
                                          For example, in 1991, 1992, and 1994, the U.S. Coast Guard reported no shipdays devoted to
                                          JIATF-East, but spent 4,872, 3,395, and 1,659 shipdays, respectively, in its overall counterdrug
                                          activities. The decline in 1994 efforts was a direct result of extensive resources diverted from the
                                          counterdrug missions to support massive alien migration operations.
                                           Other ship types include hydrofoils, patrol craft, and T-AGOS radar ships.

                                          Source: JIATF-East.

                                          Flight hours by JIATF-East air assets to support detection and monitoring
                                          declined by only 4 percent between 1995 and 1996. However, the drop
                                          between 1993 and 1994 was 27 percent, reflecting a decrease in DOD
                                          funding in fiscal year 1994. The flight hours for P3C, a maritime patrol
                                          aircraft, have continued to decline from 1992 through August 1997.
                                          JIATF-East stated that the maritime patrol aircraft are required for
                                          addressing both the “go-fast” boat threat in the Caribbean and fishing
                                          vessels in the Eastern Pacific.

                                          Page 18                                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Table 6: JIATF-East Air Assets, 1992-1997 (through August)
In number of flight hours
Aircraft type                   1992              1993                  1994                  1995                  1996      (through August)
C130                             417                 97                     0                     0                     0                    0
C141                             268                 35                     0                     0                     0                    0
E2                             4,547             3,608                 4,098                 3,501                  3,618                2,288
E3                             2,734             3,177                 1,761                 1,125                   963                   882
F15/F16                          574                393                  455                   348                   266                   148
KC135                            995             1,233                   827                   800                   813                   360
P3C                           16,270            12,122                 9,822                 9,811                  9,290                5,936
S3                             1,644                311                  228                      0                   12                     0
SH2F                           2,876             1,854                   262                      0                     0                  395
SH60B                          4,611             3,710                 1,980                 2,930                  2,751                1,361
C5                                76                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
EC130                             62                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
H46D                              58                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
UH60                             633                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
OV10                             240                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
U2                               512                   0                    0                     0                     0                    0
Total                         36,517            26,540                19,433               18,515                  17,713               11,370
                                          Note: Flight hours are not inclusive of all U.S. transit zone efforts.

                                          Source: JIATF-East.

Seizures Supported by                     JIATF-East-supported seizures in 1996 were substantially less than its peak
JIATF-East Have Declined                  of nearly 70 metric tons seized in 1992 and slightly less than in 1995 (see
                                          fig. 4). Also, maritime seizures have continued to increase as a proportion
                                          of total seizures.

                                          Page 19                                                                  GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Figure 4: Interagency Cocaine Seizures Supported by JIATF-East, 1989-97 (first quarter)
Metric tons




40                                                                  38.70



       1989      1990     1991      1992      1993       1994       1995       1996    1997

                                    Surface events    Air events

                                           Note: Data for 1997 are through March 31.

                                           Source: JIATF-East.

Limited U.S. Success                       JIATF-East believes its capabilities to detect and monitor maritime vessels
Against Maritime Drug                      in the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific are restricted. Even when a
Smuggling                                  drug-smuggling event is detected, U.S. capability to interdict the smugglers
                                           is limited. For example, only about 52 percent of the 246 known maritime
                                           events detected in 1996 resulted in an apprehension, seizure, or jettison.

“Go-Fast” Boats                            According to a JIATF-East official, detecting and monitoring “go-fast” boats
                                           is difficult because there is often little tactical intelligence on when these
                                           events will occur and limited marine patrol aircraft assets equipped with
                                           radar and night-vision capability to deal with this problem. For example,

                                           Page 20                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                          during the first quarter of 1997, JIATF-East detected only 8 of 23 “go-fast”
                          events that originated in South America. JIATF-East noted that U.S. law
                          enforcement agencies detected six additional events without JIATF-East
                          support. Of the eight detected events, six were detected by maritime patrol
                          aircraft and resulted in three jettisons and three seizures. The remaining
                          two events were detected by radar ships but escaped and presumably
                          completed their delivery. In addition, U.S. Coast Guard officials told us
                          that, other than visual identification of the wake of “go-fast” boats,
                          detection is nearly impossible without more-advanced sensors, especially
                          at night when most of these events occur.

Limited Coverage in the   According to U.S. officials, the small amount of aircraft and maritime
Eastern Pacific           assets hinders U.S. interdiction efforts in the Eastern Pacific. In that area,
                          U.S. air and marine capability to interdict commercial and noncommercial
                          fishing vessels is limited. In May 1996, JIATF-East initiated Operation Caper
                          Focus to better define the nature of the cocaine smuggling threat in the
                          Eastern Pacific. Before the operation began, JIATF-East had little
                          intelligence on the smuggling methods used and quantities being
                          transported in this area. JIATF-East estimated that, from May 1996 through
                          June 1997, 43 known or possible maritime smuggling events occurred in
                          the Eastern Pacific, and only 4 resulted in seizures. These events were
                          detected from among hundreds of fishing vessels that routinely operate in
                          the Eastern Pacific. JIATF-East officials indicated they have relatively little
                          chance of detecting and monitoring these events because they currently
                          have only 2 surface ships and about 200 flight hours of marine patrol
                          aircraft per month dedicated to the area.

Air Events Detected but   In 1996, JIATF-East reported that of 86 known air events, 26 resulted in an
Few Seizures Made         apprehension, seizure, or jettison. According to JIATF-East, a successful
                          interdiction generally involves a number of steps. It may start with an
                          initial detection by Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar (ROTHR) systems or
                          a radar ship, followed by a handoff to an asset equipped with an Airborne
                          Early Warning (AEW) system. The aircraft will find the detected suspect
                          and hand it off to an interceptor aircraft, which will monitor the suspect
                          for ultimate handoff to a law enforcement agency. An analysis by
                          JIATF-East showed that if any of the required assets, especially
                          AEW-equipped assets, are not in place, the chances of a successful
                          interdiction diminish.

                          A JIATF-East analysis of known air events from October 1996 to May 1997
                          showed that something usually went wrong that prevented a successful

                          Page 21                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                           interdiction. During this period, there were 27 known events in the
                           Yucatan region. Of these, five were not known until after the drugs were
                           delivered. In the remaining 22 detected events, only 4 resulted in a
                           successful seizure. The main reasons for lack of success were limitations
                           in ROTHR to handoff tracks, lack of AEW-equipped assets, and inadequate
                           response and apprehension capabilities by host nation law enforcement
                           agencies. For example, the analysis showed that without AEW-equipped
                           assets, JIATF-East was able to track and hand off the suspect aircraft to law
                           enforcement agencies only 18 percent of the time. Even when an
                           AEW-equipped asset was available, JIATF-East analysis showed that it was
                           able to track the suspect aircraft to the handoff point only 45 percent of
                           the time because either the AEW-equipped asset or the interceptor failed to
                           pick up the track from ROTHR. Finally, the lack of available local law
                           enforcement support further reduced the results of adequate tracking. For
                           example, JIATF-East reported that of the seven adequately monitored
                           tracks, three did not result in a seizure because local law enforcement
                           authorities in Guatemala did not have the assets to respond.

Radar Capability Limited   In 1994, the United States had 26 various radar assets that supported
                           counterdrug efforts. Between 1994 and 1995, however, DOD deactivated
                           nine radar assets. When this occurred, U.S. law enforcement officials told
                           us that reductions in radar capability hampered their operations.10
                           However, during 1994 and 1995, the United States activated two ROTHR
                           systems to cover the Caribbean. Although the ROTHR systems provide a
                           larger area of coverage footprint than microwave radars, ROTHR has less
                           probability to handoff (rather than detect) an air event to law enforcement
                           agencies because it is not as accurate in vectoring in interceptions as
                           microwave radars. (See app. I for an overview of radar coverage

                           JIATF-Eastacknowledged that reduced radar capability continues to limit
                           operational successes today. According to JIATF-East, radar assets have not
                           changed since our prior report and radar capabilities have further been
                           exacerbated by a long term outage of the Guantanamo Bay radar because
                           of no funding for operations and maintenance. In commenting on our draft
                           report, U.S. Coast Guard officials told us the Guantanamo Bay radar is
                           expected to be reactivated in the near future.

JIATF-East Has Requested   Although JIATF-East acknowledges that U.S. capabilities to detect and
Additional Resources       monitor “go-fast” boats in the Caribbean and aircraft throughout the

                             Drug Control: U.S. Interdiction Efforts in the Caribbean Decline (GAO/NSIAD-96-119, Apr. 17, 1996).

                           Page 22                                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

transit zone are limited, it currently believes that targeting multiton cargo
vessels in the Eastern Pacific provides the richest target of opportunity to
seize large quantities of cocaine. Accordingly, JIATF-East has requested two
additional ships and an additional 450 aircraft surveillance flight hours per
month from DOD.11 JIATF-East believes that with these assets the United
States can increase annual cocaine seizures by an additional 40 metric
tons. DOD, however, has indicated that it will not be able to fully support
JIATF-East’s request because of other priorities.

At present, two surface ships and about 200 flight hours are assigned to
the Eastern Pacific per month. Most of the assigned U.S. air and marine
assets support Caribbean interdiction efforts. JIATF-East officials told us
that, although the United States could seize larger amounts of cocaine in
the Eastern Pacific, JIATF-East is unwilling to transfer assets from the
Caribbean. The Director of JIATF-East told us that the Caribbean
counternarcotics programs have more “voice and visibility” in terms of
political support from both the United States and island nations. He
acknowledged that the United States has worked with Caribbean nations
to build continued support for fighting the war on drugs and any
movement of assets may have undesirable political consequences.
Between May and December of 1996, JIATF-East temporarily shifted assets
from the Caribbean to implement Operation Caper Focus in the Eastern
Pacific. The temporary operation resulted in 27 metric tons of cocaine that
were either seized or jettisoned, as well as improved intelligence on
smuggling methods and routes in the region. Before this operation, few
seizures had occurred in this region, and none took place during the first
quarter of 1997—after the operation ended.

As previously discussed, JIATF-East has requested additional assets from
DOD to support an 18-month Eastern Pacific operation.12 JIATF-East
estimated such assets would double the seizures it supports from the
current level of 40 metric tons annually to 80 metric tons. In June 1997,
ONDCP provided interagency budget guidance that directed the agencies to
expand operational support to Operation Caper Focus. In July, ONDCP
informed high-level DOD officials that interdiction resources were
inadequate to support the national strategy and that the interdiction
effectiveness of Operation Caper Focus was at risk. According to DOD

  The JIATF-East request included additional P3 flight hours and additional ships (for example, a Navy
frigate and oiler).
  JIATF-East estimates that $24.4 million in incremental funding would be required. The funding
includes $12.6 million for forward deployment of aircraft to Panama and the increased intelligence
cost at JIATF-East, and $11.8 million for a U.S. Navy oiler.

Page 23                                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                         officials, a decision is pending as to what, if any, additional support will be
                         allocated to the Eastern Pacific above current force levels.

Increased Interdiction   Since 1995, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs Service have reported
Efforts by U.S. Law      some increases in interdiction activities in the transit zone. Both agencies
Enforcement Agencies     conduct counterdrug activities that are in addition to the shipdays and
                         flight hours provided in support of JIATF-East. For example, in 1996, the
                         U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard launched Operations Gateway
                         and Frontier Shield, respectively, to disrupt cocaine trafficking in and
                         around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to ONDCP
                         officials, the operations have been successful, as indicated by increases in
                         the street prices of cocaine in Puerto Rico. DEA officials noted that the
                         wholesale price, considered a better indicator, doubled in San Juan,
                         Puerto Rico, from April to late May 1997. As of September, prices had
                         declined but were still higher than in April.

                         Seizures of cocaine during the first year of Operation Gateway increased
                         by about 30 percent in comparison to seizures before the start of the
                         operation. In the year prior to the operation, seizures were about 11 metric
                         tons while seizures during the first year of the operation were about 14
                         metric tons. Actual fiscal year 1996 funding for Operation Gateway was
                         $2.4 million, and planned funding for fiscal year 1997 was $30.1 million. In
                         its One-Year Report on the Operation (covering the period ending
                         February 28, 1997), the U.S. Customs Service noted a number of problems,
                         including duplication and confusion in the procurement of equipment and
                         services, a lack of public affairs coordination with other agencies, and
                         lengthy delays in filling numerous authorized staff positions. The U.S.
                         Customs Service noted, however, that some of these problems were not
                         within its control and did not affect the overall performance of Operation

                         The first 3 months of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Operation Frontier Shield
                         began with an initial “surge” of activity. Subsequently, operations were
                         somewhat reduced but remained higher than before the operation began.
                         According to the U.S. Coast Guard, shipdays and flight hours devoted to
                         counterdrug missions increased to support the surge operation.13 During
                         the first 10 months of the operation, cocaine seizures totaled 10.7 metric
                         tons, an increase of 5.8 metric tons over the prior comparable 10-month

                           According to the U.S. Coast Guard, shipdays increased from 2,481 in fiscal year 1995 to 3,421 in fiscal
                         year 1997; flight hours increased from 9,405 in fiscal year 1995 to 14,500 in fiscal year 1997. The
                         increase was generally attributed to operations around Puerto Rico. The U.S. Coast Guard shipdays
                         and flight hours include counternarcotics activities in both the transit zone and the arrival zone.

                         Page 24                                                              GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                              period.14 In July 1997, the Secretary of Transportation reported that
                              “assessments show a decisive shift in drug traffic away from the Frontier
                              Shield area of operation” and that “drug runners are being forced to move
                              their operations elsewhere.” U.S. Coast Guard officials stated that the shift
                              in trafficking routes was anticipated in planning Operation Frontier Shield
                              and that additional efforts are planned or underway to address this
                              trafficking shift.

Intelligence Sharing Issues   In 1996, we reported that intelligence sharing was a contentious issue
                              among various collectors and users of such data, including most federal
                              counterdrug agencies. Since then, some initiatives to improve intelligence
                              sharing have begun. For example, an interagency review, initiated by
                              ONDCP on September 18, 1997, is underway to look at the national drug
                              intelligence architecture. The review will assess the drug intelligence
                              missions, functions, and resources of the major federal counterdrug
                              agencies.15 According to ONDCP, coordination among the intelligence
                              program and between intelligence producers and consumers will be a
                              focus of the review.

                              In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation noted that other law
                              enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in the Caribbean are developing a
                              regional plan for law enforcement in the Caribbean that calls for
                              expanding intelligence coordination. A draft of the regional plan is
                              scheduled to be completed by January 1998.

                              JIATF-East officials told us that there are inherent barriers in sharing
                              information between and among federal counternarcotics agencies.16
                              Specifically, law enforcement agencies are mainly focused on individuals
                              and drug organizations in the context of building cases for arresting and
                              prosecuting criminals. In contrast, JIATF-East is focused on tactical
                              operations and obtaining information in support of detecting and
                              monitoring suspects and making successful and timely law enforcement

                                According to a U.S. Coast Guard official, some of the increases may include seizures also reported by
                              the U.S. Customs Service for Operation Gateway. The interagency process is expected to remove any
                                The missions of the constituent centers, such as the National Drug Intelligence Center, the El Paso
                              Intelligence Center, the Director of Central Intelligence Crime and Narcotics Center, and the Financial
                              Crimes Enforcement Network, will be reviewed.
                               We are currently conducting a review of information sharing among federal counternarcotics

                              Page 25                                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                     DEA officials referred to their comments in our prior report that noted that
                     there are limitations on what intelligence DEA can legally provide other
                     federal agencies developed from grand jury information, wiretaps, and
                     court sealing orders. They also noted that some intelligence is not released
                     to protect sources and the integrity of ongoing investigations. DEA officials
                     also stated that the El Paso Intelligence Center17 provides JIATF-East with
                     the necessary information to track suspect aircraft and vessels until the
                     respective U.S. and foreign authorities can take appropriate law
                     enforcement action.

                     In April 1996, we recommended that the Director of ONDCP develop a
U.S. Caribbean       Caribbean plan of action that should at a minimum determine resources
Counterdrug Action   and staffing needed and delineate a comprehensive strategy to improve
Plan Not Fully       host nation capabilities. In response to our recommendation, ONDCP told us
                     it provided a framework for addressing strategic objectives in the transit
Developed            zone in its classified annex to the National Drug Control Strategy issued in
                     February 1997. ONDCP officials noted that the operational tasks for
                     implementing the framework, including targets for measuring performance
                     in that area, are still under development. They also noted that
                     implementation of the strategy for the transit zone is the responsibility of
                     other federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, DEA, and DOD.

                     According to ONDCP, its performance measurement system will provide
                     policymakers with new insights about which programs are effective and
                     which are not. The system is intended to help guide adjustments to the
                     National Drug Control Strategy as conditions change, expectations are
                     met, or failure is noted. The goals of the strategy form the foundation of a
                     10-year plan, supported by a 5-year budget. Each goal is to be related to a
                     measurable objective, further defined by an outcome that the objective is
                     to produce by 2002. Each outcome is to be quantified by performance
                     targets that identify measurable attainments. ONDCP has instructed
                     agencies to develop plans, without being constrained by budget
                     considerations, identifying how they will make meaningful progress
                     toward achieving a drug control mission. As of October 1, 1997, the
                     performance measurement system remains incomplete because proposed
                     measurable targets, the core of ONDCP’s system, are still under review.
                     Since these measurable targets have not yet been developed, agencies
                     cannot be held accountable for their performance.

                       The center is the national tactical drug intelligence center and provides actionable intelligence to

                     Page 26                                                               GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Organizational Issues   In April 1994, ONDCP and the participating agencies approved the National
                        Interdiction Command and Control Plan. This plan provided for
                        establishing three geographically oriented counterdrug joint interagency
                        task forces. The task forces were to be led and staffed by DOD, the U.S.
                        Customs Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard. A major premise of the plan
                        was that the full-time personnel assigned to the task forces would become
                        stakeholders in their operations. It was anticipated that this would ensure
                        close planning and operational coordination; the availability of federal
                        assets; and a seamless handoff of suspected air, sea, or land targets. Other
                        agencies that either had an interest in or were affected by the operation
                        were to provide liaison personnel. Nevertheless, participating agencies
                        have not provided the required staffing to JIATF-East and, thus, it has been
                        dominated by DOD personnel and has not achieved the intended
                        interagency composition. According to ONDCP, the revised September 17,
                        1997, plan places the task forces more under the control of DOD
                        sponsorship rather than remaining an interagency center.

                        As of July 1997, little has changed since our last report; many of the key
                        civilian positions have remained unfilled. Thus, JIATF-East is still
                        predominately staffed by DOD personnel and has not achieved the
                        interagency mix initially hoped for at its creation. Of the 184 authorized
                        permanent positions, 132 were DOD, 21 were U.S. Coast Guard, and 31 were
                        other agencies’ position. Thirty-seven authorized positions were vacant.
                        DOD had filled 117 of its 132 authorized positions and the U.S. Coast Guard
                        had filled 17 of 21. However, various other agencies had assigned staff to
                        only 13 of 31 authorized positions, compared to having assigned staff to
                        11 of 27 authorized positions as of November 1995. The U.S. Customs
                        Service, for example, had filled only 7 of 22 positions, compared to 1995
                        when it had filled 8 positions; the 1 authorized Department of State
                        position has never been filled. JIATF-East has periodically requested the
                        civilian agencies to staff these positions, but the agencies have not done

                        Since our last report, JIATF-East has more clearly identified the problem of
Conclusion              “go-fast” boats in the Caribbean and fishing vessels in the Eastern Pacific,
                        identified shortcomings in its detection and monitoring capabilities, and
                        requested additional resources to address the problem. Also, the U.S.
                        Coast Guard and the U.S. Customs Service have launched two surge
                        operations in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that have
                        resulted in seizing additional quantities of cocaine and changing
                        drug-trafficking patterns. By identifying the anticipated benefits from

                        Page 27                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

                     providing additional resources to the transit zone, JIATF-East has taken an
                     important step in adding accountability to the drug-interdiction effort.
                     Notwithstanding these efforts, the overall amount of cocaine seized in the
                     transit zone has not disrupted the flow and availability of cocaine in the
                     United States.

                     We believe ONDCP has not fully addressed our prior recommendation to
                     develop a regional plan. We continue to believe that a transit zone plan
                     that includes quantitative goals and objectives that will allow
                     policymakers to determine resource requirements and to evaluate the
                     potential benefits of regional interdiction efforts is essential. An effective
                     transit zone operation is an integral part of the U.S. strategy to limit drug
                     availability in the United States. But it alone will not be the solution to the
                     drug problem. A regional plan should be a subset to ONDCP’s overall
                     strategy. Therefore, it is important that ONDCP develop a comprehensive
                     plan that provides a blueprint for how efforts in the transit zone countries
                     are going to reduce the flow of cocaine. Without such a plan, it is not
                     possible to judge the merits of individual activities in terms of what are the
                     most cost-effective measures in the counterdrug effort.

                     ONDCP   in its written response (see app. II) stated that it is in general
Agency Comments      agreement with this report. It provided clarification and information on
and Our Evaluation   (1) its future plans, (2) the importance of source country efforts in
                     complementing those in the transit zone, (3) activities of the U.S. Coast
                     Guard, (4) results from the Bridgetown Summit, and (5) the changes to the
                     revised National Interdiction Command and Control Plan. ONDCP
                     recognized that current assets in the transit zone are inadequate to
                     accomplish the strategy and identified recent initiatives to implement the
                     strategy. These initiatives included a Caribbean action plan, a short-term
                     enhancement to transit zone interdiction, a 5-year asset plan for the transit
                     zone, intelligence sharing efforts, and a deterrence study. These initiatives
                     are expected to provide linkage between planning, development of
                     performance measures, and assets required to implement the strategy.
                     However, ONDCP did not provide time frames for completing these

                     We obtained oral comments on a draft of this report from the Department
                     of State, DOD, DEA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, and the
                     Federal Bureau of Investigation. None of these agencies disagreed with
                     our principal findings or our conclusions. However, several of these
                     agencies indicated we had not provided enough information about U.S.

                     Page 28                                             GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

              counterdrug activities in the transit zone other than those directed by
              JIATF-East. In response to their concerns, we have expanded our discussion
              of these other activities, particularly those of the U.S. Coast Guard and the
              U.S. Customs Service, and have added data on overall drug seizures in the
              region. Each of the commenting agencies suggested points of clarification
              and we have incorporated them into the report where appropriate. In
              addition, we modified the report to include some updated information
              provided by DOD and the U.S. Coast Guard on operational capabilities in
              the transit zone.

              To determine the nature of drug-trafficking in the transit zone, we
Scope and     obtained reports from the U.S. Coast Guard, DEA, the U.S. Customs
Methodology   Service, JIATF-East, ONDCP, and interagency assessments on cocaine
              smuggling activities. We analyzed and compared the data from these
              reports with data from prior years to assess the degree of change in the
              cocaine flow to the United States and drug traffickers’ methods, routes,
              and modes of transportation. We also obtained assessment briefings about
              the cocaine threat from DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the U.S.
              Coast Guard Seventh District and U.S. Customs Service in Miami, Florida;
              and JIATF-East in Key West, Florida.

              To obtain information on host nation capabilities and impediments to their
              counternarcotics efforts, we reviewed various Department of State cables
              and other relevant documents, including the annual International
              Narcotics Control Strategy Reports. We interviewed officials from DEA, the
              U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, the Department of State, and
              JIATF-East and obtained information on (1) host nation counterdrug
              capabilities, (2) the amount of cooperation with the U.S. counterdrug
              activities, and (3) the extent of corruption in host nations. We also
              interviewed officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of State,
              and JIATF-East for information on the status of U.S. bilateral maritime
              agreements with host countries.

              To assess U.S. counterdrug capabilities, we reviewed program and budget
              documents and related information from numerous federal agencies,
              including ONDCP, the Departments of Defense and State, the U.S. Coast
              Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Interdiction Coordinator.
              We obtained summary reports from the U.S. Customs Service on
              Operation Gateway and the U.S. Coast Guard on Frontier Shield to
              determine their impact on reducing the flow of cocaine to United States.
              We interviewed and obtained information from JIATF-East and other

              Page 29                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

federal agencies on the resources and capabilities of U.S. interdiction
efforts in the transit zone. We also documented U.S. funding trends from
1991 to 1998 and assets devoted to detection and monitoring to 1996.

We interviewed key officials from DOD and U.S. law enforcement agencies
to determine the extent of U.S. planning, coordination, and
implementation of counterdrug programs in the transit zone. We met with
ONDCP officials on the status of its implementation of our recommendation
to develop a plan of action for the Caribbean and its efforts to develop
performance measures for U.S. counternarcotics initiatives. To obtain
information on interagency staffing at JIATF-East, we reviewed documents,
obtained briefings, and interviewed cognizant JIATF-East officials.

We conducted our review between April and September 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

As arranged with you, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier,
we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days after its issue
date. At that time, we will send copies to other interested congressional
committees, the Director of ONDCP, the Secretaries of State and Defense,
the U.S. Attorney General, the Commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service,
the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Interdiction
Coordinator, the Administrator of DEA, and the Director of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. We will make copies of this report available to
others upon request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please call
me at (202) 512-4268. The major contributors to this were
Janice Villar Morrison, George Taylor, and Louis Zanardi.

Jess T. Ford, Associate Director
International Relations and Trade Issues

Page 30                                           GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Page 31   GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control

Letter                                                                                          1

Appendix I                                                                                     34

Radar Surveillance
Appendix II                                                                                    35

Comments From the
Office of National
Drug Control Policy
Tables                Table 1: Air and Maritime Drug-Trafficking Events, 1992-96                8
                      Table 2: Cocaine Seizures in Selected Caribbean Countries,               13
                      Table 3: U.S. Bilateral Counterdrug Agreements, as of                    15
                        August 1997
                      Table 4: U.S. Counternarcotics Funding in the Transit Zone,              17
                        Fiscal Years 1991-98
                      Table 5: JIATF-East Maritime Assets, 1992-97                             18
                      Table 6: JIATF-East Air Assets, 1992-1997                                19

Figures               Figure 1: 1996 Cocaine Flow in the Western Hemisphere                     5
                      Figure 2: Maritime Smuggling Events in the Caribbean, 1995-97             9
                      Figure 3: Typical Maritime Vessels Used by Drug Traffickers in           11
                        the Transit Zone
                      Figure 4: Interagency Cocaine Seizures Supported by JIATF-East,          20
                      Figure 1.1: Radar Surveillance                                           34


                      AEW        Airborne Early Warning
                      DEA        Drug Enforcement Administration
                      DOD        Department of Defense
                      JIATF      Joint Interagency Task Force
                      ONDCP      Office of National Drug Control Policy
                      ROTHR      Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar

                      Page 32                                         GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Page 33   GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Appendix I

Radar Surveillance Capabilities

                                 In 1994, the United States had 26 various radar assets that supported
                                 counterdrug efforts in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Between 1994
                                 and 1995, DOD deactivated nine radar assets. However, during 1994 and
                                 1995, the United States activated two Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar
                                 (ROTHR) systems to cover the Caribbean, as shown in figure 1.1. According
                                 to the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF)-East, radar surveillance
                                 capabilities illustrated for 1995 remained current as of September 1997.

Figure 1.1: Radar Surveillance
                                            1994                                                    1995

                                 Source: Department of Defense.

                                 Page 34                                         GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Appendix II

Comments From the Office of National Drug
Control Policy

Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix.

                             Page 35   GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Office of National Drug
                 Control Policy

See comment 1.

                 Page 36                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Office of National Drug
                 Control Policy

See comment 1.

See comment 2.

                 Page 37                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Office of National Drug
                 Control Policy

See comment 1.

                 Page 38                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Appendix II
Comments From the Office of National Drug
Control Policy

Page 39                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Appendix II
Comments From the Office of National Drug
Control Policy

Page 40                                     GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
               Appendix II
               Comments From the Office of National Drug
               Control Policy

               The following are GAO’s comments on the Office of National Drug Control
               Policy’s letter dated October 3, 1997.

               1. We provided additional information concerning this point in the report.
GAO Comments
               2. We recognize that the overall funding levels are not a reflection of the
               assets allocated to JIATF-East. Accordingly, we have added several
               footnotes to make this distinction in the report.

(711265)       Page 41                                            GAO/NSIAD-98-30 Drug Control
Ordering Information

The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free.
Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the
following address, accompanied by a check or money order
made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when
necessary. VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also.
Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address
are discounted 25 percent.

Orders by mail:

U.S. General Accounting Office
P.O. Box 37050
Washington, DC 20013

or visit:

Room 1100
700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW)
U.S. General Accounting Office
Washington, DC

Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000
or by using fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537.

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and
testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any
list from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512-6000 using a
touchtone phone. A recorded menu will provide information on
how to obtain these lists.

For information on how to access GAO reports on the INTERNET,
send an e-mail message with "info" in the body to:


or visit GAO’s World Wide Web Home Page at:


United States                       Bulk Rate
General Accounting Office      Postage & Fees Paid
Washington, D.C. 20548-0001           GAO
                                 Permit No. G100
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

Address Correction Requested