December 09, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a confirmation hearing today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today urged the nominee for Commander of United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which oversees all military operations in Central and South America, to work to reduce the flow of heroin from those countries into the United States.
“We are, at this moment in time, suffering – literally – from a heroin epidemic all over the country, including, tragically, in my state of Maine. What is it that you need to interdict more of those ships [carrying heroin]?” Senator King asked. “We’re spending a lot of time here talking about the threat of ISIS and in the meantime we’ve got this other threat that is killing, in my state, two or three hundred people a year.”
“Assuming that you are approved at SOUTHCOM, you’re going to be at the point of this, and to the extent that you can tell us what you need – not necessarily in terms of military assets, but comprehensively – because this is a true crisis in this country today and supply is part of the problem,” Senator King continued. “Obviously we need to talk about treatment and prevention and all of those issues, but supply is part of it and my understanding is a great deal of this heroin is coming up through south of our borders.”
In March 2015, General John Kelly, the current Commander of SOUTHCOM, testified before the Armed Services Committee that one hundred percent of the heroin entering the United States is produced in Latin America, with approximately half of it being produced in Mexico, which is a part of United States Northern Command’s area of responsibility.
In his testimony today, nominee Vice Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, USN said that demand for heroin has more than doubled since 2007, and that in response, criminal organizations have increased heroin production in Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala. In fact, according to Vice Admiral Tidd, Mexican transnational criminal organizations that control drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share of U.S. illicit drug markets, particularly heroin markets.
Senator King’s exchange with Vice Admiral Tidd today represents another part of his comprehensive approach to combating the heroin epidemic in Maine. In addition to addressing the supply of heroin, Senator King has focused on improving addiction prevention and treatment, hosting two roundtables in Maine, cosponsoring legislation would expand specialized treatment for prescription drug and heroin addiction, and proposing a national prescription drug mail-back program.