WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Rick Scott, Kyrsten Sinema and Todd Young introduced the Coast Guard Drug Detection and Interdiction Act, which expands the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to help identify and interdict illicit drugs. Currently, the USCG has actionable intelligence on over 80% of drugs being smuggled into the United States from South America, but it only has the ability to interdict less than 10%. Senator Scott also co-sponsored a bill today to require the USCG to coordinate with the Secretary of Defense and other relevant agencies to identify and report on resource gaps that contribute to low interdiction rates of illicit drugs.

Senator Rick Scott said, “The U.S. Coast Guard keeps families in Florida safe by patrolling the beaches, shore waters, and maritime territory of our state and by conducting search and rescue operations. But one of their most important jobs is to intercept boat shipments of illegal drugs and the victims of human trafficking. By providing our U.S. Coast Guard members with additional ways to identify and prevent drugs from coming into our country, we are keeping American families safe.”

Senator Kyrsten Sinema said, “Arizona leads the way in developing and deploying unmanned aircraft systems, which are proven tools in our work against drug smuggling. Providing the U.S. Coast Guard access to these critical tools will help keep Americans safe.”

Senator Todd Young said, “Our country is safeguarded by the skilled men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard who keep Americans safe and secure. This important legislation will help provide the Coast Guard with the necessary funding to continue to patrol our coast, identify potential threats, and keep illegal drugs out of our Hoosier communities.”

The Coast Guard Drug Detection and Interdiction Act authorizes the Commandant of the Coast Guard to provide funding for the following items for fiscal years 2020 and 2021:

  • $2 million in each fiscal year for assessment of the expanded use of medium range unmanned aircraft systems
  • $5 million in each fiscal year for additional long-range maritime patrol aircraft within the program

This piece of legislation follows Senator Scott’s trip to Panama, Colombia and Argentina, where he was briefed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Drug Enforcement Agency on the ongoing efforts to rid Latin America of the narco-terrorists that are wreaking havoc on our Hemisphere by creating economic, political and national security instability and flooding our country with illegal narcotics. The Coast Guard Drug Detection and Interdiction Act will help address the crisis by providing more tools to identify and interdict illicit drugs coming from Central and South America.