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Coast Guard Reemphasizing Drug Interdiction Mission


March 1995

The United States Coast Guard will be stepping up its drug interdiction program now that immigration control operations involving Haiti and Cuba are ending (Bill Stump, "Back to the War on Drugs," Navy Times, Mar. 6, 1995, p. 24).

During the 1980's the Coast Guard spent almost one quarter of its total operating budget fighting the flow of illicit drugs to the United States. The Clinton administration diverted drug control funds to demand reduction, and as a result the Coast Guard was involved in fewer interdiction operations. In the meantime, the agency was involved in immigration control from Haiti and Cuba. As those operations subsided, the Coast Guard has been directed to spend more time on interdiction efforts off the Florida coast.

The Coast Guard comes to the interdiction operations with new state-of-the-art technology. One such piece of equipment is the Ionoscan (capitalized, one device in the field of "ion migration technology") which is able to detect very small trace amounts of cocaine and heroin.

"Tactically, it's another tool to locate contraband," said Commander Jim Stark, head of the drug interdiction branch of the Coast Guard. "It's more effective and more sensitive than a drug-sniffing dog. We seized some drugs with [the Ionoscan] after the dogs missed."