by Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), chairman, Criminal Justice, Drug Policy
and Human Resources Subcommittee, October 12, 2000
JOHN L. MICA
Getting U. S. Aid to Colombia
October 12, 2000
Today this Subcommittee will
once again examine the U.S. response to the growing crisis in Colombia.
In July, the Congress passed a $1.3 billion Supplemental aid package to
support PLAN COLOMBIA. I voted for the aid because U.S. assistance is
critical to combating drug trafficking and maintaining Colombias
democratic way of life. But, I am very concerned that the Colombian people
may not see real help for months, even years to come. My concern stems
from this Administrations poor track record of delivering previously
authorized counterdrug aid and equipment. At this Subcommittees
request, the General Accounting Office (GAO) examined the Administrations
efforts to date (namely those of the Department of State and Department
of Defense). What they found is not encouraging. As noted in the title
of their draft report, "U.S. Assistance to Colombia Will Take Years
to Produce Results," the prognosis for future aid delivery is not
As we enter the 21st century,
our hemisphere is facing one the greatest challenges to our national security
as the situation in Colombia continues to deteriorate. Left unchecked,
the nacro-terrorist threat in Colombia has continued to spiral out of
control and now threatens Latin Americas oldest democracy as well
as stability in the region. As the illegal drug trade continues to grow,
it fuels narco-terrorism; undermines legitimate government institutions
and leads to increasing violence in the region. The impact of further
destabilization of the region will have a devastating impact on our vital
national security interests in the area.
After years of pleading and
pressure by House members, the Administration finally submitted a Colombian
aid proposal to Congress in February of this year. It arrived seven months
after General McCaffrey sounded the alarm calling the situation in Colombia
an "emergency" and four months after the Pastrana government
submitted PLAN COLOMBIA officially asking for U.S. assistance.
Because the U.S. response
has been slow to materialize, Colombia now supplies 80% of the worlds
cocaine and the vast majority of the heroin seized in the United States.
Furthermore, over the last several years, there has been an explosion
in coca cultivation in Colombia. The recent explosion in opium poppy cultivation
in Colombia is equally disturbing. Through the DEAs Heroin Signature
Program, we now know that Colombia (not the Far East) accounts for nearly
70% of the heroin seized on U.S. streets. All of these facts point to
Colombia as the "center of gravity" of the drug supply line
for the United States.
But, despite years of Congressional
pleas for counterdrug assistance to Colombia, countless hearings, and
intense congressional pressure, resources approved by Congress have failed
to be provided to Colombia in a timely and effective manner.
First, information sharing
was denied in 1994, turning the situation into "chaos" as my
colleague from California Steve Horn so aptly described: ("As you
recall, as of May 1, 1994, the Department of Defense decided unilaterally
to stop sharing real-time intelligence regarding aerial traffic in drugs
with Colombia and Peru. Now as I understand it, that decision, which hasnt
been completely resolved, has thrown diplomatic relations with the host
countries into chaos." - Congressman Steve Horn, August 2, 1994)
In 1996 and 1997, when this
Administration decertified Colombia without a National Interest waiver,
it severely undermined the legitimate drug fighting efforts of General
Serrano and the Colombian National Police (CNP), cutting off International
Military Educational Training (IMET) and critical equipment.
Even worse, today, with the
absence of U.S. intelligence sharing, due in part to the reduced air coverage
after the forced closure of Howard Air Force Base in Panama our counterdrug
efforts in the region has been further crippled. Without an adequate contingency
plan, there now exists a gap in coverage as the new Forward Operating
Locations (FOLs) come on line. The Commander-in-Chief for the U.S.
Southern Command testified at one of our hearings this year that the Department
of Defense can only cover 15% of key trafficking routes only 15% of the
time. It may be after the year 2002 before our anti-surveillance capability
The Congress passed a supplemental
aid package in July to increase the funding for counternarcotics work
in Colombia. This wasnt the first time we pumped money into counterdrug
efforts in Colombia. Colombia received almost $300 million funding under
the Fiscal Year 1999 Supplemental Spending Bill passed when Dennis Hastert
(now our Speaker) was Chairman of this Subcommittee. Sadly, less than
half of the equipment Congress funded in that bill has been delivered
or is operational. This Administrations poor track record was the
subject of the GAO investigation [hold up the report].
The report concluded that
the United States "has encountered long-standing problems in providing
counternarcotics assistance to Colombian law enforcement and military
agencies involved in counternarcotics activities." The report went
on to say, "these problems continue." The report cites that
the Department of State "has not provided enough financial or logistical
support" to the Colombian National Police helicopter program.
This Administration has resisted
congressional efforts to ensure that needed drug-fighting equipment makes
it to Colombia in a timely manner. The Administration has fought the Congress
for years on Blackhawk utility helicopters for the Colombian National
Police and has a pathetic track record of delivering this type of assistance.
In fact, even 3 helicopters, which account for the bulk of aid dollars
in fiscal year 1999, when finally delivered to the Colombian National
Police sat idle for lack of proper floor armoring and ammunition.
Despite this poor track record,
this Administration once again requested helicopters (this time for the
Colombian Armed Forces) as the bulk of the aid proposal submitted this
past February. Given the high cost of these assets and the poor delivery
track record of the State Department (INL), I am deeply concerned about
committing hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to a program
that has not worked well in the past. As Chairman of this Subcommittee,
I want to pursue programs that have a proven track record of success.
Complicating the equation
is the increased activity by Colombian rebels, namely the 17,000 member
narco-terrorist army known as the FARC and the 5,000 member ELN. This
army of insurgents now controls nearly 40% of Colombian countryside. The
FARC army has gone largely unchecked and is now expanding beyond Colombias
borders. I am deeply concerned about reports of FARC incursions into neighboring
countries. The rebels are heavily financed by the illegal drug trade and
earned an estimated $600 million per year from illicit drug activity.
The basic tenet of the Administrations
aid package is to use the Colombian military and the Colombian National
Police to push into Southern Colombia. I know it, you know it, and the
rebels know it. We have been advertising this fact for over a year now.
As a result the rebels have done two things, they have fortified their
defenses in the area in anticipation of the Colombian troops and they
are exploring other areas of cultivation in and outside Colombia. When
I asked about defensive countermeasure capability to ensure the safety
of the Colombian security forces and protect our investment, State Department
said they dont have "definite proof" of a Surface to Air
missile (SAM) threat in Southern Colombia. I can tell you that any organization
that can build a submarine a few miles from Bogota capable of carrying
an astonishing 200 tons of cocaine, can buy Surface to Air missiles.
One of the points that needs
to continually be reemphasized to the American public is that Colombia
matters: economically and strategically.
With 20% of the U. S. daily
supply of crude and refined oil imports coming from that area and with
the vitally important Panama Canal located just 150 miles to the north,
-- the national security and economic implications of Colombian rebel
activity spilling over into neighboring countries are enormous. For all
of these reasons, the United States can ill afford further instability
in the region.
Effective delivery of promised
U.S. aid will likely make the difference between success and failure of
PLAN COLOMBIA. And that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders
of the Executive Branch and the Department of State and Department of
Defense in particular. This Subcommittee will continue to play a key role
in ensuring that United States counterdrug aid to Colombia is sufficient,
appropriate and delivered in a timely manner.
As we face this serious and
growing challenge in Colombia, our vital national interests are undeniably
at stake. Drug related deaths now exceed homicides in the United States.
The flow of deadly high purity heroin and cocaine now flood our streets.
The average beginning age of a heroin addict under the Clinton Administration
has dropped from age 25 to 17. I believe that the influx of illegal drugs
to the United States is our greatest social challenge and most insidious
national security threat. I know that many of my colleagues share this
The situation in Colombia
requires immediate attention, but the execution of U.S. aid for PLAN COLOMBIA
needs to be carefully considered, especially in light of this Administrations
past track record. This hearing will shed light on their past record,
as we look for ways to ensure more timely and effective delivery of future
aid. The lives of hundreds of brave men of the Colombian Security Forces
and the lives of countless American children here at home depend on us.
As of October 14, 2000, this
document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/reform/cj/hearings/00.10.12/MicaOpening.htm