|USS Thatch will not busting drug runners next month.|
If you notice an abundance of schwag out on the east coast and in Florida, you can thank your United States congressperson. The U.S. Navy announced this week that they won’t be patrolling the Caribbean for drug runners starting in April thanks to forced budget cuts by Navy officials.
According to the U.S. Navy Intelligence blog, two frigates with the Navy’s Fourth Fleet will be suspended until congress can iron out the budget. The Fourth Fleet is responsible for the Caribbean and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans surrounding Central and South America. The boats – USS Gary and USS Thatch – are normally used to patrol the Caribbean for speedboats and submarines running cocaine from Central America to the United States.
“Because no budget deal had been reached, the budget control act required setting in motion the automatic, government-wide cuts known as sequestration,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a release. “Given that reality and the associated impact of budgetary uncertainty imposed by an indefinite continuing resolution, the department of the Navy intends to commence some reductions immediately.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has already come out and said that taking the Navy boats out of the picture will increase the amount of drugs entering the U.S. “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,” U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp told USNI. “If those [frigates]go, we don’t have enough platforms to put Coast Guard Law Enforcement Teams on.” On top of that, budget cuts in Great Britain, France and the Netherlands have forced ship reductions in the area as well.
The effect on drug running could be large. Navy officials say that since January of 2012, they have seized more than 160 tons of cocaine and 125 tons of marijuana totally more than $4,003,500 in street value. The Navy estimates that even at the best of times they only intercept about one-third of the total amount of drugs being smuggled. Other cutbacks in the Navy include cancelling introductory flight screening for future Navy pilots, a reduction in advertising and recruiting efforts and an end to all Blue Angels appearances.