Intercept That Drug Runner–Sorry, Not Enough Ships

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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?

17 thoughts on “Intercept That Drug Runner–Sorry, Not Enough Ships

  1. Why should General Fraser speak out on behalf of the Coast Guard when their own Secretary throws them under the budget bus?

  2. Why do you think that an Air Force General should speak on our behalf? You don’t see ADM Papp advocating for the Joint Strike Fighter on behalf of the Air Force/Navy/Marine Corps do you???

    The CG provides a 6.0 presence to SOUTHCOM, it is the Navy which is decreasing its numbers they can provide.

    Defense policy and the global force management process does not seem to be your strong suit Chuck…

    • Chuck raised an excellent question, and is on point here.

      ADM Papp isn’t responsible for the accomplishment of missions related to the procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter.

      As the current SOUTHCOM commander, Fraser is very dependent upon Coast Guard assets to accomplish his assigned missions. Losing the last two NSC’s will hinder the ability of his successor to accomplish those missions. IF the Secretary of Homeland Security hadn’t screwed over the Coast Guard by deleting the last 2 NSC’s from the DHS budget, I’m sure GEN Fraser would have been happy to take a public stance in support of that particular budget request. But when the Coast Guard’s own Secretary abandons the needs of the service, GEN Fraser has good reason to hold back.

  3. Genl Fraser is a COCOM, he is supposed to be totally JOINT and advocate for whatever assets are needed in his AOR. But I have seen this SOUTHCOM be somewhat myopic in the past such as in Haiti when they tried to FLY everything in and guess what airlift was not enough. Took them days to ask for more support fromt the sea services. And as I recall also the USCG were the FIRST to provide aerial recon of Haiti and to establish a medical relief station ashore.

    IMHO it will be years before there are LCS available to SOUTHCOM they are going to CENTCOM and PACOM first.

    I like the idea of the USCG doing FMS to countries in THIS hemisphere.

  4. Maybe 2 of 3 shipments of drugs are government sponsored? It wouldn’t be the first time the government has been caught shipping drugs into this country. All of this could just be distraction talk.

  5. No politician will have a specific Coast Guard plank but there will be a law enforcement/anti-drug plank. I thought a year ago that some politician would make a stronger connection between drugs and terrorism. It appears to apply only to South and Central America.

    • The Europeans probably have good reason to make a connection between drug trafficing in South Central Asia and Radical Islamic Terrorism.

      Maybe in African nations could make a similar connection, trafficing and revolutionary activity in their country.

      In the US the connections are much less obvious, our drug consumption finances violence and revolution in other countries (not to say we don’t have drug related violence but is much less pervasive than in Mexico or Colombia).

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