In recent weeks, Sri Lanka’s Navy racked up some impressive victories against regional drug traffickers plying its waters. On April 10, the crew of the SLNS Samudura (pictured above) helped seize nearly 300 kilos of heroin and 50 kilos of crystal methamphetamine valued at over $17 million. Last month, the SLNS Samudura’s crew was also responsible for the largest seizure in the Sri Lankan Navy’s history of 400 kilos of heroin and 100 kilos of crystal methamphetamine valued at $33.5 million.
However, look closer and you can still see in the SLNS Samudura the familiar lines of what was until 2004 the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Courageous. In that year, the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) transferred the USCGC Courageous to Sri Lanka’s navy under the U.S. Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. In Sri Lanka and across the Indo-Pacific region, smart investments in security cooperation like this make the United States the global security partner of choice and help our allies and partners contribute more effectively toward our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all nations.
Under EDA, the United States transfers surplus military equipment to build partner capacity, provide urgently needed capabilities, and deepen relationships with allies and partners. EDA equipment is available at greatly reduced cost, but in an “as is, where is” condition. As with other U.S. defense sales and transfers, the State Department carefully evaluates all proposed cases to ensure they support U.S. national security and foreign policy goals, and recipient countries agree not to re-transfer the item without permission, and to abide by the stated conditions on the item’s end use.
In addition to the SLNS Samudura, Sri Lanka also has a second former USCGC, the SLNS Gajabahu (formerly the USCGC Sherman), that PM delivered under EDA in 2019. The Sri Lankan Navy is seeking a third EDA vessel in 2021, a testament to success of this maritime security capacity building effort.
In Sri Lanka and around the world, EDA is modernizing partner forces and delivering what they need to carry out missions like border and maritime security and counter-narcotics, which support shared interests and improve regional security. Elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific, other former U.S. Coast Guard vessels transferred under EDA are also improving maritime security and law enforcement. Examples include:
- The Bangladesh Navy’s BNS Somudra Avijan (formerly USCGC Rush) and the BNS Somudra Joy (formerly USCGC Jarvis) are among the largest ships in the Bangladesh Navy, and were recently utilized to deliver aid to the neighboring Maldives in support of their COVID-19 response.
- In Vietnam, the CSB 8020 (formerly the USCGC Morgenthau) is strengthening the Vietnam Coast Guard’s maritime domain awareness, and is soon expected to be joined by a second EDA vessel in the coming months.
- In the Philippines, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (formerly the USCGC Hamilton), BRP Ramon Alcaraz (formerly the USCGC Dallas), and BRP Andres Bonifacio (formerly the USCGC Boutwell) strengthen maritime presence throughout the Philippines’ territorial waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
EDA is one of many tangible tools in the U.S. security cooperation toolkit making a difference for partners and allies around the world every day. Additionally, the Department complements these transfers by using Foreign Military Financing and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funds. These resources build capacity for officers as well as modernize and operate the mechanical, communications, and weapons systems on many of these vessels, ensuring that our regional partners will be able to patrol with them for many years to come.
When we enable our security cooperation partners access to American defense articles and services, we bolster our security at home. The unparalleled quality of U.S. defense products and services and the robust diplomatic and defense partnerships that come with it, make the United States the clear global security partner of choice.
About the Authors: Kurosh Ansari serves in the Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers in the U.S. Department State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Bryan Walsh serves in the Office of Security Assistance in the U.S. Department State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.