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May 04, 2023

“The Most Immediate Threat to American Lives” is Drug Overdose Crisis – King Demands Stronger Action on Intelligence, Surveillance Against Foreign Narcotics

King calls for “action rather than just simply expressions of concern,” as he expresses frustration about a lack of resources dedicated to the crisis

Watch or download Senator King’s questioning HERE

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee today on “Worldwide Threats,” U.S. Senator Angus King stressed to administration officials that more action and funding is needed to address the opioid epidemic that’s causing 300 American deaths a day. During his questioning of witnesses, King asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines why the Administration has not dedicated more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to prevent drug shipments from entering the country.

“Since we've been sitting here this morning, about 15 people have died in this country from drug overdoses just in the last hour and a half… We're under attack, and yet we're not really responding. We're sort of numb to it. We had testimony in a previous hearing that between 1 and 2% of the [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] resources, globally under our control, are involved in looking at the drug importation problem from the south of our country. I think that's a gross misallocation of resources,” said Senator King. “If this were a terrorist attack, killing 110,000 people a year, we would be turning this country upside down to counteract it. And to not be allocating the most basic important intelligence resources of ISR in this fight, I think is unconscionable. I hope that you will go back to the Administration, particularly to the intelligence community, and say ‘this is a worldwide threat that is the most immediate threat to American lives.’ Can you make that commitment to me?”

“Yes, absolutely, Senator. I think you know that… and we've indicated this in other testimony, but the leaders of the Intelligence Community completely agree with you that this is absolutely critical,” Director Haines replied. “Each of us are involved in a whole series of efforts to try to expand, effectively, our collection.”

I've been asking these questions for years, and everybody agrees, but I keep seeing 1 or 2 percent. I'm looking for action rather than simply expressions of concern,” Senator King concluded.

Senator King has made combating the opioid crisis one of his highest priorities in Washington. In the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, King secured significant investments to improve drug shipment interdiction, an area where he has long called for more resources. In the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, he secured new federal investments in our nation’s response to the ongoing opioid and substance use disorder (SUD) epidemic. He also secured nearly $1 million for SUD treatment for Maine through the American Rescue Plan.

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