Sequestration spending cuts are letting 38 more metric tons of cocaine into the U.S., Coast Guard Rear Adm. Charles D. Michel told the Defense Writers Group on Wednesday.
Michel also serves as the director of the Joint Interagency Task Force South that targets cocaine smuggling into the U.S. — estimated by the Coast Guard to be an $85 billion-a-year industry.
“It breaks my heart to see multi-metric-ton cocaine shipments go by that we know are there and we don’t have a ship to target it,” he said. “Once it gets on land, it becomes almost impossible to police up.”
The task force looks to U.S. Southern Command for support, and that has “always been an economy-of-force theater,” Michel noted. Still, he said, ships and aircraft were devoted to the mission in the past.
“With sequestration, as well as other Department of Defense cuts, those resources become scarcer,” he said. At his interagency group based in Key West, Fla., resources have been on a “multi-, multiyear downward trend,” Michel said — doubling the prefix to illustrate the length of the trend — “particularly for aircraft and vessels.”