U.S. Navy frigates will stop patrolling for drug runners by April due to the sequester budget cuts, according to the U.S. Naval Institute News.
With the frigates out of the picture, the amount of drugs entering the country will increase, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp said.
“We already don’t have enough surface assets down there to interdict all of the drugs that are smuggled from South America into North America,” Papp said.
“If those [frigates] go, we don’t have enough platforms to put Coast Guard Law Enforcement Teams on. We would be down to the point where we would only be using Coast Guard cutters and we don’t have enough [of those] to meet the demand JIATF South has for us.”
Along with Coast Guard cutters, help from Navy and Air Force reconnaissance aircraft and limited international involvement, the Navy helps stop about one-third of illicit drugs bound for the United States. Ships from the U.S. Navy and other international navies host U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments. The LEDET teams provide ships with the legal authority to interdict suspected traffickers and make arrests as necessary.
Since its start, Operation Martillo (Spanish for hammer) has intercepted more than 160 tons of cocaine—worth about $4 billion—125 tons of marijuana, and $3.5 million in drug money, Barker said.