The U.S. Coast Guard and British Royal Fleet Auxiliary recently seized $37 million worth of cocaine off the coast of the Dominican Republic that was headed to the United States. The success of this interdiction is due in large part to the cooperative efforts of the nations and agencies involved, but budget constraints on the U.S. Coast Guard could jeopardize future efforts to combat such illicit activities.
A vital element to the Coast Guard’s continued drug interdiction mission is its new flagship vessel, the National Security Cutter (NSC). The NSC will also be tasked with enforcing the law in U.S. waters along both coasts and even in the Arctic Circle. Yet over the past several years, the Coast Guard has seen this program cut time and time again. The Coast Guard had originally requested 16 NSCs, but budget constraints forced a reduction to only eight. The NSC is an unprecedented cutter in virtually every way: range, power, speed, and versatility of missions. Shrinking this fleet further—as the Obama Administration has attempted to do—would severely hamper the Coast Guard’s ability to perform its missions.
The abundance of smuggling attempts could be further reduced if the U.S. were to strengthen its focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes increasing cooperation and support for our southern allies in counternarcotic operations and denouncing the authoritarian, anti-American political shifts taking place throughout the region.
The Dominican Republic is embroiled in one such political upheaval in which the leftist majority party, the Dominican Liberation Party, is attempting to convert the country into a one-party state by forcibly expelling opposition party leaders. A government in such disarray could potentially undermine cooperative security efforts.
As the U.S. works toward rebuilding relations with Latin America, it should also sustain its Coast Guard fleet to weaken the illicit drug trade. Such efforts serve to support security and prosperity for America and its allies in the Western Hemisphere.
Andres Martinez-Fernandez and Richard Moxley are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.