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Defense Dept. Requests Funds to Stem Drug Flow in Southwest

Associated Press

The Defense Department said Friday it is asking Congress for authority to spend an additional $183 million on aircraft and other equipment to help federal law enforcement agencies stem the flow of drugs into the United States.

Chapman B. Cox, assistant defense secretary, also said the Pentagon has provided assistance worth more than $130 million to that effort in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, including an extensive training exercise in the Caribbean. That operation helped authorities confiscate drugs valued at $27 billion, he said.

Cox said the department, while still observing laws barring it from getting involved in the actual arrest of traffickers, will step up its efforts in light of a new presidential directive that defines drug smuggling as a threat to national security. Parts of the secret directive were revealed two weeks ago by Vice President George Bush.

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Cox said the new measures, if approved by Congress, would include $62.5 million for five Aerostat observation balloons along the Southwest border and $79.4 million for two C-130 intelligence-gathering aircraft to be stationed in Panama.

Other items include $14 million for maintaining four more Hawkeye E-2C surveillance aircraft to be loaned to the Customs Service or the Coast Guard, $12 million for classified intelligence equipment and $15 million for transferring six Air Force helicopters to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for possible use in interdicting low-flying aircraft from Mexico.

Part of $232-Million Plan

Cox said those items were part of a $232-million plan submitted to selected members of Congress on Wednesday by the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board, a government-wide panel headed by Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.

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Cox said much of the military effort went into “Hat Trick II,” a surveillance training mission in the Caribbean involving many ships and hundreds of aircraft, in which “we practiced on drug traffickers as targets of opportunity.”

Because that operation was so successful, he said, much of the drug traffic has been diverted to the Southwest, where the new military efforts will be focused.


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