April 19, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed top Navy officials regarding the need for to coordinate with the Coast Guard to increase the resources available to combatant commanders to stop shipments of drugs from entering the country. The questioning, which took place during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, comes days after Senator King participated in a congressional delegation (CODEL) with the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South) to learn more about the challenges to interdicting illicit narcotics entering the U.S.
“I spent some time earlier this week with the joint force in Florida that does drug interdiction,” said Senator King. “We are only able to interdict 25% of drug shipments by sea that we know of. In other words, we have intelligence to tell us there are 100 units out there, we can only stop 25 of them. The problem is assets, particularly in the Coast Guard. My request is simply that you think creatively, cooperatively, with the Coast Guard, to see if there’s a way to improve that miserable record…I understand limitations, but since we’ve been talking in the last hour, four people in America have died from drug overdoses…we’re under attack, and this is a place where we should be able to shore up our defenses.”
The CODEL referenced by Senator King, which took place earlier this week, was a visit to the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South). During the CODEL, he received classified briefings and participated in demonstrations regarding the detection and interdiction of illicit narcotics trafficking, and saw first-hand the challenges and limitations facing law enforcement in this important fight against drug trafficking.
Senator King has made the fight against opioids one of his top priorities in Washington, and has held eight roundtable discussions in Maine, in Farmington, Paris, Portland, Brewer, Milo and three in Bangor. Each of these focused on a different aspect of the opioid and heroin crisis, and each of which have helped inform his work in Washington where he has been a leading voice on the immediate need to address the heroin and opioid epidemic and has continually fought to provide adequate funding to fight the crisis, which kills more than one person per day in Maine. He has repeatedly called on Congress and both the Obama and Trump administrations to fund laws and agencies that help address the drug epidemic. This fall, he led a letter to the Trump Administration urging additional funding for the opioid epidemic, and in October he joined with a group of colleagues to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act legislation that would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids. Senator King also recently wrote to President Trump urging him to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone.