There have been several articles recently as a result of a breakfast meeting with reporters hosted by Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, reporting that SouthCom is intercepting only one in three drug shipments that they know about. He sited diversion of assets for combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and operations off Libya, Somalia, and Iran.
One thing I found very curious, as noted in the AOL defense report, “Fraser focused on Navy vessels and did not specifically address the Coast Guard, which does contribute some ships to Southern Command operations.” Why the hell not?
The General reported a decline in our ability to intercept drug shipments.
At sea, Fraser explained, the U.S. Navy is retiring the smaller ships that have traditionally been the mainstay of drug interdiction patrols, the aging and increasingly expensive to operate Perry-class frigates, while their much-delayed replacement, the Littoral Combat Ships, is just beginning to enter service. “We ‘ll see a gap in the numbers of those types of ships,” Fraser said. “So we’re working with the Navy to see what other types of vessels and capability that’s coming back from Iraq might be available,” particularly small craft that have been used for river patrol and offshore patrol in the Gulf. Such boats could boost the U.S. fleet’s own interception capability but also, and perhaps more importantly, some could be transferred to friendly countries that are currently short on assets to intercept drug boats moving through their own territorial waters.
Nationaldefensemagazine.org also reported he made reference to the possibility of terrorists entering the US by using the drug smuggling routes.
There was much made of the lack of assets available to partner nations.
Here is a proposal, The Coast Guard still has 10 WHECs and 29 WMECs that are due for replacement. If we can get them replaced, we can turn them over to partner nations. That should essentially totally eliminate any shortage of vessels in SouthCom. The sooner we replace them the more useful they will be.
Why couldn’t the General have put in a good word for the Coast Guard?