Drug Smugglers Hitting High Seas as Coast Guard Faces Budget Cuts
More drug smugglers are shifting their traffic to the waters surrounding the nation’s coastline making it tough for the U.S. Coast Guard to protect the border. Meanwhile, federal spending cuts have forced the agency to reduce its operating costs by 25 percent.
Capt. Jim Jenkins, Coast Guard commander for Los Angeles and Long Beach said that in recent years, Homeland Security has seen an increase in drug smuggling by boats. Some of the modern smuggling boats have three engines and can hold up to 20 tons of drugs. Cartels now operate in an area that is roughly the size of Montana. The Coast Guard is the only U.S. military service able to make drug arrests hundreds of miles offshore.
“There's thousands of acres, or square miles, of water that we are actually responsible for securing,” said law enforcement chief Casey Hehr. “It is like finding a needle in the haystack out there."
The Coast Guard patrols 95,000 miles of coastline, covering 4.5 million square miles of maritime area.