03/07/2013 11:21 am ET Updated Mar 07, 2013

Sequestration Will Likely Mean More Cocaine On America's Streets

Here's a possible effect of the sequester you probably didn't see coming: more cocaine on America's streets.

That's because the deployment of at least four crucial drug-busting Navy ships is being suspended, according to reports from the Virginian-Pilot and the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) published earlier this week.

The ships whose deployments are being suspended -- the USS Kauffman, Rentz, Gary and Thach -- are part of Operation Martillo, an international program that's been cracking down hard on drug traffickers along the Central American coastline since January 2012.

Operation Martillo is no small affair; it involves the participation of 13 countries from Europe to Latin America (in addition to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and aircraft from U.S. federal law enforcement agencies) and can take credit for busting more than 260 tons of cocaine worth $4 billion since its inception, according to USNI. That's no small feat.

But this year, the U.S.-led operation should probably lower its expectations.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp told USNI that more drugs would reach American shores if the two frigates are suspended.

“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.

And it may be more than just a couple ships the Navy is taking out of service. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy would be canceling or deferring the deployments of up to six ships because of the "regrettable" failure of Congress to avoid sequestration.

The budget cuts from the sequester that took effect on Friday will have even wider implications for the war on drugs.

As Reason Magazine points out, the Department of Defense's Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities budget will be reduced by more than $150 million, and the Department of Justice's Interagency Crime and Drug Enforcement budget will be cut by $43 million, among a handful of other cuts to federal drug-control programs.

(h/t Mother Jones)



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