The USCG plays a crucial role in efforts to keep dangerous narcotic drugs moving by sea from reaching the United States. Working within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in carrying out its responsibilities within the National Drug Control Strategy, the USCG leverages its unique maritime security authorities, capabilities and partnerships to mitigate risk and improve security in U.S. domestic ports, on the high seas, and abroad. The overarching strategy is to increase maritime border security through a layered security system that begins beyond the country’s physical borders. This layered approach begins in foreign ports where the Coast Guard conducts foreign port assessments, leveraging the International Port Security Program to assess the effectiveness of port security and antiterrorism measures. Offshore, maritime patrol aircraft provide broad surveillance capability enabling cutters and USCG law enforcement detachments (LEDET) embarked on U.S. Naval ships and partner nation vessels to respond to potential threats, launch boats and aircraft in adverse sea states, and maintain a presence through all weather conditions. Well before vessels arrive in ports, screening and targeting operations provide critical information regarding vessels, crews, passengers, and cargo destined for the United States. The USCG uses maritime counterdrug bilateral agreements and operating procedures with partner nations to coordinate detection and monitoring (D&M) and interdiction and apprehension (I&A) endgame activities and coordinate joint operations.
D&M and I&A: Detection of narcotics trafficking vessels occurs principally through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of tactical information and strategic intelligence combined with effective sensors operating from land, air and surface assets. The six million square mile transit zone is far too expansive to randomly patrol; targeting information is necessary to focus efforts. Upon detection, the USCG and other U.S. and partner nation law enforcement agencies provide monitoring, relaying data, imagery and position information until an appropriate interdiction asset arrives on scene. The USCG is the lead U.S. federal agency for drug interdiction on the high seas. Interdiction success causes transnational criminal organizations to incur greater costs and decreases their efficiency in moving illicit products to market. A crucial element in USCG success for drug interdiction is the system of agreements with many countries around the world, which permit USCG law enforcement officers to stop, board, and search vessels suspected of transporting narcotics and coordinate law enforcement operations with partner nations.
International Cooperative Efforts: In December 2013, the USCG had 52 personnel deployed abroad to facilitate maritime counterdrug activities including security assistance, intelligence collection and dissemination, and liaison internally and externally. There are 45 maritime counterdrug bilateral agreements or operational procedures in place between the United States and partner nations. These agreements greatly increase the operational reach of U.S. assets, and help partner nations protect their sovereignty. The Coast Guard sponsors two separate Multilateral Maritime Counterdrug Summits with Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) nations and 13 Central and South American partner nations that give participants the opportunity to exchange and improve best practices, and to think creatively about employing new tactics, techniques, and procedures to counter drug trafficking organizations. To counter trans-Atlantic drug flows, the USCG continues to work with U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to expand maritime training and operations for West African countries through the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP).
International Training and Technical Assistance: The USCG provides international training and technical assistance to enhance the interdiction capacities of international partners. The Technical Assistance Field Team (TAFT), a joint initiative between USCG and the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), is a team of USCG engineers and logisticians whose purpose is to professionalize and improve the operational readiness of 13 Caribbean maritime forces through technical assistance visits. The Coast Guard, with the assistance of SOUTHCOM and the U.S. Department of State, expanded TAFT from three to eight members in 2013 in support of CBSI. The USCG’s Security Assistance Program offers both resident training programs and mobile training teams (MTTs) to partner nation maritime services around the world to advance the capability of their naval and coast guard forces. In 2013, the USCG deployed 58 MTTs to 25 countries, and partner nation students attended 232 resident courses at USCG training installations.
Operational Highlights: In 2013, the USCG expended over 2,900 cutter days, 900 Airborne Use of Force capable helicopters days, and 8,000 surveillance aircraft hours on counterdrug patrols. USCG also deployed 17 LEDETs aboard U.S. Navy, British, Dutch and Canadian warships. As a result, the USCG disrupted 144 drug smuggling attempts, which included the seizure of 64 vessels, detention of 230 suspected smugglers, and removal of 88 metric tons (MT) of cocaine and 37 MT of marijuana.