US Navy Withdraws From the Drug War

By McCarton Ackerman 03/11/13

Due to budget cuts, the Navy may stop "testing" new military technologies in the drug war.

Drone practice. Photo via

Budget cuts are forcing the US Navy to withdraw deployments supporting the drug war in Latin America, and the US could be losing one of its main "technological testing grounds," Wired reports. The US navy has long used the region to test out new-age military technologies, like drones and high-speed submarines, in the hunt for drug traffickers. A high-speed Littoral Combat Ship ran down drug traffickers in the Caribbean in 2010, while a Fire Scout drone helicopter flown that same year from the U.S.S. McInerney in the Pacific coast of Central America spotted a fishing vessel full of cocaine. "When they’re out there doing this kind of testing, not only can they get valuable data, they’re doing something real,” says Capt. William Ipack, deputy chief of counter-narcotics for the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). But budget cuts have stripped the Navy of $9 billion in 2013, resulting in far fewer military technologies being sent to the region for "real world testing." The region had expected deployments of a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance drone and a maritime surveillance plane, “But we can all probably agree those plans are all being rewritten as we speak,” says Ipack. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Vincent Atkins, SOUTHCOM’s director of operations, has told troops that they may have need to "get creative" as fewer technologies are sent to the region. According to Ipack, the admiral said, "The fight we were in yesterday is not the fight we are in today, and we have to go and figure out how we are going to do this job."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.