|Six Predator B drones like this one are authorized to operate against marijuana smugglers|
Program Costs Taxpayers
$2,608 Per Seized Pound of Marijuana
U.S. border patrol agents are using drones — the same type used to fight the Afghanistan war — to locate illegal shipments of marijuana being smuggled across the Mexican/American border.
But based on the federal government’s own statistics, it remains to be seen if use of the expensive, unmanned aircraft to supposedly halt the flow of weed into the United States can be financially justified, reports Noel Brinkerhoff at AllGov.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently operates six Predator B aircraft from two locations. Four of them are based in Sierra Vista, Arizona, according to the agency, and two in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The drones — which CBP prissily insists aren’t drones at all, but “remotely piloted aircraft” — patrol the U.S.-Mexico border from eastern Southern California to Texas.
Each Predator, manufactured by General Atomics, costs you, the happy taxpayer — get ready for it! — about $20 million.
Since CBP began using the unmanned drones in 2005, the agency says it has seized 46,000 pounds of marijuana with the drone program. That may seem like a lot, but it represents only 0.003 percent of all cannabis the agency has seized over the past six years, according to Tom Barry, author of the book Border Wars.
With the tab for six Predator B drones running about $120 million — never mind the operating costs — it seems that CBP has spent $2,608.70 per pound on what little weed they were able to stop with the unmanned craft.
For that price — hell, for a third of that price! — they could have just BOUGHT the damn stuff and burned it.
The unmanned aircraft operate under several FAA-approved Certificates of Authorization that enable CBP to deploy them in American airspace.
On the Southwest border, the first certificate allows access into Texas from Arizona to just west of the Big Bend border area. The second certificate allows CBP to launch and recover the craft from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, and to operate along the entire Texas land border with Mexico, the coast, and over open water.
Since the inception of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program, CBP claims it has flown more than 12,000 UAS hours “in support of border security operations and CBP partners in disaster relief and emergency response, including various state governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency” (FEMA).
We’ll just have to trust them when they claim that none of the border patrol Predators are armed like the ones responsible for so many civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan.