BRIAN E. SHERIDAN
I am pleased to have the opportunity to testify before this to discuss the Department of Defense’s perspective on the growing
Colombian drug threat as well as our integrated programs designed to
assist the Government of Colombia in its efforts to address this scourge.
As you are aware, drug abuse is an undeniable threat to our national security that is measured in thousands of lives lost and costing our country billions of dollars annually. Reducing the supply of drugs on our streets is an integral component of our National Drug Control Strategy and the Department of Defense (DoD) plays a key supporting role in creating the opportunity for law enforcement agencies, both our own and those of foreign nations, to interdict the flow of drugs into our country. DoD is committed to this counterdrug mission. The programs I will outline today were developed in conjunction with US Southern Command, our interagency partners and the Government of Colombia, and form the core of a sound, responsive, and timely assistance package that will significantly enhance Colombia’s ability to conduct effective counterdrug operations.
Over the past two years Colombia, specifically the area east of the
Andes, has become the center of the cocaine trade, largely as a result of
successful interdiction and eradication efforts in Peru and Bolivia.
The remoteness of eastern Colombia and the lack of government
control in large areas of this region has precluded Colombian interdiction
operations to the point that the expansion of coca growing areas,
especially in the Putumayo Department, has progressed virtually unchecked.
Most of the world’s coca is now grown in Colombia and over eighty
percent of the cocaine consumed in the US is manufactured in Colombia. The United States, the nation with the greatest cocaine
demand, currently consumes over 200 metric tons annually from the Andean
Source Zone Programs
To disrupt illegal cocaine cultivation and production throughout
the source zone, DoD, working with host nations and our interagency
partners, has developed and selectively implemented a threat based,
intelligence driven, counterdrug interdiction strategy which has focused
on air, riverine/coastal, and ground programs.
DoD has worked closely with source zone nations to improve their
organic air interdiction capability by funding upgrades to their aircraft
that conduct counterdrug missions. To
support the detection and monitoring (D&M) of airborne traffickers,
the Department has fielded Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radars (ROTHR),
and deployed ground based radars along with airborne tracker aircraft
equipped with air-to-air radars. Our
counterdrug riverine and littoral efforts have provided equipment and
training support to source zone nations, thereby facilitating effective
operations along the vast river networks of the Amazon basin, a major
supply route for precursor production chemicals.
Finally, DoD’s ground interdiction assistance has concentrated on
training selected military units – those which have been vetted for
human rights compliance -- in the light infantry tactics they require to
support law enforcement interdiction and eradication operations. These source zone programs have been enhanced through the
development of intelligence and command and control networks.
These efforts, in conjunction with law enforcement and eradication
programs, have proven to be successful in both Peru and Bolivia, however,
the conditions necessary to implement a coordinated response throughout
the Colombian cultivation and cocaine production regions have not been met
– until now.
Colombian President Andres Pastrana has developed a comprehensive
and integrated approach to address Colombia’s current problems.
This plan, known as “Plan Colombia,” would strengthen the
Colombian economy and democracy while fighting narcotics trafficking.
Further, this plan demonstrates that Colombia is moving forward
aggressively, exercising its political will to address, and ultimately
solve, domestic problems that have persisted for decades. The US has a vital material interest in the success of this
plan. We must now step
forward with the Government of Colombia by enhancing our current strategy,
based on proven source zone interdiction programs.
This effort is responsive to Plan
Colombia and consistent with current US policy.
Colombian Supplemental Source Zone Enhancements
The proposed fiscal year 2000 supplemental request will provide the resources necessary to promote essential facets of the Department’s assistance to Colombian interdiction efforts. We feel that the supplemental is a balanced and executable plan -- not without challenges which I will address later -- that is necessary to attack the strategically vulnerable aerial cocaine transportation network while expanding ground interdiction and eradication operations into the densest coca cultivation areas of the Putumayo region. Let me outline for you how this supplemental funding would enhance each of our baseline counterdrug programs in Colombia in support of our overall source zone strategy.
Colombia requires aircraft that can track drug traffickers engaged
in aerial smuggling. The supplemental will fund the installation of air-to-air
radars in two Colombian aircraft. These
radars will provide the Colombian Air Force the organic ability to conduct
terminal aerial intercepts of drug smugglers.
Aerial intercepts are intricate operations and require adequate
ground based coordination. Therefore,
the supplemental will also fund the upgrade of the Colombian Air Force
radar command and control center as well as additional ground based radars
to assist in detecting and sorting aircraft operating in eastern Colombia.
Critical to this air interdiction effort are supplemental
initiatives, under State Department authority, that will upgrade Colombian
Air Force counterdrug aircraft for the air intercept mission.
The supplemental also requests funding for US Customs Service
airborne early warning aircraft upgrades to ensure that these crucial
platforms will continue to be available for the source zone interdiction
Basing airborne D&M aircraft, as well as aerial
intelligence collection platforms, close to the historical airborne
smuggling routes is of the utmost importance to the successful
implementation of the integrated strategy in Colombia.
For this reason, funding for the forward operating location (FOL)
at Manta, Ecuador, is included in the supplemental.
General Wilhelm will expound on the operational requirements;
however, I want to ensure that you understand that the Department views
the completion of the site upgrades to the Manta FOL as a critical
component of the overall source zone effort.
The supplemental funding focuses extensive resources on improving
Colombia’s counterdrug ground interdiction programs.
The Department has completed training of a counterdrug battalion
that is now operational in the Putumayo region.
The supplemental will support the training and equipping of two
additional counterdrug battalions which will be operational by the end of
this calendar year. Funding, if appropriated, will also be used to develop a
suitable counterdrug brigade headquarters to oversee the operation of the
three counterdrug battalions.
The Colombian National Police (CNP) will be
conducting counterdrug interdiction and eradication missions in remote
regions of the country where the coca growing fields are located. Therefore, the counterdrug battalions will require adequate
airlift to move troops to support the CNP.
The required helicopter lift is provided for under State Department
authority, however, DoD will use proposed supplemental funding to
establish the necessary Colombian Army aviation support infrastructure.
Enhanced counterdrug intelligence collection efforts are also
required to develop and plan counterdrug operations.
Consequently, the supplemental will provide sufficient funding in
this area to further enhance the intelligence programs that already serve
as a foundation for our source zone strategy.
All these programs that I just outlined build on our current
strategy – no change in DoD policy is required to execute the programs
funded by this supplemental. There is nothing new here for DoD. However, there will be challenges to confront in the course
of our efforts to attack the center of the cocaine industry in eastern
Colombia. It will not be
easy, but it is worth the effort. Let
me share with you my concerns.
Colombian Military Organization
First, the Colombian military, by their own admission, is not
optimally structured and organized to execute sustained counterdrug
operations. They are heavy on
“tail” and short on “tooth.”
They need to better coordinate operations between the services and
with the CNP. The military
has limitations based on resources, training practices, lack of joint
planning and operations. The
restructuring of the military is essential if Colombia is to have
continuing operational success against the drug threat.
Colombian military needs help and we plan to use a small portion of
supplemental funding towards this end.
I am also concerned, as are many
Counterdrug vs. Counter Insurgency
Lastly, let me address the “targets” of this supplemental
package, and our source zone strategy as a whole.
The targets are the narco-traffickers, those individuals and
organizations that are involved in the cultivation of coca and the
subsequent production and transportation of cocaine to the US.
The Colombian military will use the equipment and training that is
provided by this supplemental request, in conjunction with the assistance
that has already been delivered, to secure perimeters around CNP
objectives -- coca fields and cocaine labs -- so that the CNP can safely
conduct counterdrug interdiction and eradication operations.
Only those armed elements that forcibly inhibit or confront these
joint military and CNP counterdrug operations will be engaged, be they
narco-traffickers, insurgent organizations, or paramilitaries.
I know that many are concerned that this aid package represents a
step “over the line,” an encroachment into the realm of
counterinsurgency in the name of .
It is not. The
Department has not, and will not, cross that line.
While I do not have the time to elaborate on all of the
restrictions, constraints, and reviews that are involved in the approval
of the deployment of US military personnel on counterdrug missions, in
Colombia and elsewhere, it suffices to say that it is comprehensive.
I personally look not only at who is deploying and what they are
doing, but at the specific locations to which they are going.
Furthermore, each and every deployment order states, in no
uncertain terms, that DoD personnel are not to accompany host nation
personnel on operational missions. This
will not change. As I have
said, this supplemental does not require a change in US policy.
Is there risk to US personnel providing counterdrug support? Yes there is. Is
the risk increased as a result of the programs being enhanced by the
supplemental? The answer is
The Department of Defense enthusiastically supports this
supplemental. US Southern
Command and my office participated extensively in its formulation.
It integrates fully our source zone strategy, affording the
opportunity to enhance those counterdrug programs that have proven
successful in Peru and Bolivia. President
Pastrana has asked for international support to address an internal
problem that has international dimensions -- fueled in part by our
country’s demand for cocaine. It
is time to move forward and, I hope, with congressional support, that we
can do so soon.