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Military Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies

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Violence perpetrated by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) increased dramatically in 2006 and continued to rise dramatically through 2010.  According to the National Drug Intelligence Center's “National Drug Threat Assessment, 2010”, published in February 2010, “Mexican DTOs dominate the transportation of illicit drugs across the Southwest Border.  They typically use commercial trucks and private and rental vehicles to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin...” (National Drug Threat Assessment, 2010).  The increase in DTO activity has resulted in an increase of military involvement in counterdrug operations along the U.S. southwestern border region.  The tables in the appendices outline the statistical extent of the problem and the geographic penetration of Mexican DTOs within the United States.  America's densely populated southern border with Mexico stretches nearly 2,000 miles in length and possesses several established crossing points.  In areas along northern Mexico, DTOs organize and equip themselves with resources that out match Mexican military forces (McCaffrey 2009).  With these developments, it is necessary to consider increased U.S. military support to drug interdiction along the southwest border, as DTOs are a national security threat that directly plays a role in destabilizing the heavily trafficked areas in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Problem Statement

The problem is to determine what Military Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies (MSCLEA) should be brought to bear against Mexican DTOs to interdict and reduce the flow of drugs across the Southwest Border.

Research Objective

This research aimed at answering and elucidating the following objectives:

  1. What capabilities does the U.S. military already have in the southwest border region to counter drug trafficking?
  2. What is the DTOs current capability to interdict drugs across the border (e.g. weapons, funding, resources)?
  3. What are the American laws and regulations governing the use of MSCLEA? 
  4. Is it financially feasible to increase MSCLEA?


The main premise to this research is based on the assumption that increasing the resources used to interdict the drug trafficking in the southwest border region will have a positive impact in disrupting DTOs operations, decreasing the amount of drugs trafficked and aiding in stabilizing the southwest border region.  Some groups advocate other approaches to the problem such as legalization and establishing additional treatment programs for users and abusers of illegal drugs.  Moreover, on the supply side, the assumption is diplomatic pressure on the countries that produce the drugs or assistance to their military and police organizations is necessary to increase the effectiveness.  This proposal assumes that enhanced interdiction efforts on the Southwest border will negatively impact Mexican DTOs and reduce use of illegal drugs within the United States.

Additionally, the results and recommendations for this research assumed that all military assistance falls within Title 32 Duty and Article I, § 8 of the Constitution that allows the National Guard to be used under the command and control of the governor to execute the laws of the Union, in order to suppress rebellion and deter invasions (Withers, 2010 p. 6).

Definition of Terms

Military Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies (MSCLEA):  Technical assistance rendered to civilian law enforcement agencies.  This can include military resources that are not available to civilians such as aerial surveillance, technical assistance with these resources, and tactical advice.  It does not include actual law enforcement powers (Sergienko, 2006, p. 395).

Interdiction efforts:   All efforts used to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States on the ground (or underground) across the Southwest border.  Success equals increased levels of drug seizures.

Southwest border:  The land border between the U.S. and Mexico; also called the U.S.-Mexico border.

Limitations and delimitations

This study is limited to ground interdiction.  Drug smuggling is an incredibly profitable enterprise.  If ground interdiction efforts are to prove effective, it presumes that DTOs would attempt to move their operations into marine and aerial operations.  However, this study will only consider the deployment of marine and aerial assets as they relate to ground operations.  This study will limit its focus of the Southwest to the three major DTO interdiction routes located in Texas, New Mexico, and California. 

The strategies proposed or dismissed in this research may or may not be appropriate to compare with the interdiction efforts on other borders such as the northern border with Canada.

This study will be limited to cooperation with civilian law enforcement agencies within the United States.  It will not consider support for Mexican civilian law enforcement agencies nor will it consider cooperation with the Mexican military although it will acknowledge that they are now the lead agency in struggle with DTOs within Mexico.

All proposals for MSCLEA will be governed by the U.S Constitution, relevant U.S. laws and the USNORTHCOM directives on MSCLEA, “Military support to civilian law enforcement is carried out in strict compliance with the Constitution and U.S. laws and under the direction of the president and secretary of defense” (USNORTHCOM).

CHAPTER II: Literature Review

This chapter provides an overview of the literature examined.  It identifies the dominant literature and sources that will provide arguments addressing DTOs drug smuggling, MSCLEAs and the current situation along the Southwest border.  The academic debate concerning MSCLEA on the border focuses primarily on the issue of illegal immigration and second on drug interdiction.  There are only a few books on the topic.  Therefore, research will focus on scholarly articles, government studies, and statistical data available through the U.S. Border Patrol and Department of Enforcement Administration.

Timothy Dunn's 1996 book, The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home is a study that compares data collected through interviews with military doctrine, law enforcement, congressional documents, and personal observations.  Dunn's intent is to illustrate that increased activity along the southwest border escalated forcing military involvement in immigration and drug enforcement to a level unintended by Congress and defense officials.  Dunn provides insight to the difficulty associated with MSCLEA along the southwest border.  This historical data requires comparison to the post 9/11 challenges.

There are numerous government studies and reports related to previous and current U.S. counterdrug program.  The Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) prepared most reports for members of Congress.  The National Drug and Control Policy also have a number of useful products.  Stephen Vina CRS report in 2006, Border Security and Military Support: Legal Authorizations and Restrictions outlines military support legal and policy limitations with in the U.S.  His study states military support to DTO is feasible however, it must be restricted to the employment of Nation Guard for border security missions vice the employment of active duty (GAO, 2003). 

The 2010 report Department of Defense Needs to Improve Its Performance Measurement System to Better Manage and oversee Its Counternarcotics Activities demonstrates congressional interest in measures of effectiveness to justify MSCLEA in the early 1990s.  The 1993 Heavy Investment in Military Surveillance is Not Paying Off  report  findings suggest some military assets, such as rotary wing transport and lower-end unmanned aerial vehicles are relatively inexpensive and within the potential budget of federal law enforcement.  Other assets such as large multi-role aircraft and naval vessels, are very expensive operate and maintain.  The GAO (2009) study concluded that military surveillance is costly particularly when modern technology systems designed to detect and control highly sophisticated weapon systems in combat situations are employed against a DTO smuggling threat.

Together, these two reports support content from the recent Washington Office on Latin America report that strongly suggest there must be a separation of military and police roles in America.  George Withers would agree there is a lack of measures of effectiveness justifying military support on the border.

The GAO study, Secure Border Initiative: Observations on Deployment Challenges discusses the challenges of integrating sensors and obstacles along the 2000-mile Southwest border.  Conversely,  the 2007 report, U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts, but Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow Into the United States clearly demonstrates the difficulties of combating the supply of drugs.  This study bring about discussion to identify the gaps in capability could be leveraged with unique available military resources. 

The Rise of Mexican Drug Cartel and U.S. National Security hearing conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice illustrated the success of interagency cooperation against targeting DTOs.  The report provides an overview of the capability of the DTOs operating along the southwest border and describes their ability to conduct drug trafficking, kidnapping, bribery, extortion, money laundering and smuggling of profits, and trafficking and use of dangerous firearms.  The report concludes that the best strategy to combat the full spectrum of the drug cartels' operations is a holistic approach that employs the full spectrum of our law enforcement agencies and its resources, expertise, and statutory authorities. 

The Mexican border states have become much like a war zone with heavily armed military units on the street (since the President deemed local police too corrupt to deal with the cartels) and frequent firefights between the military and the cartels.  According to L.A. Times, as of November 29, 2010, 28,288 people have died in Mexico since January 2007 because of the drug wars.  In relative terms, that number is higher than the number of American troops that have died in Iraq in the last seven years (Mexico under Siege - The Drug War on Our Doorstep, 2010).

“Mexico Under Siege - The Drug War on Our Doorstep”, is an L.A. Times website that includes all of their coverage of drug smuggling along the Southwest border along with interactive maps, links to television coverage and a host of other information.  This website is the principle primary source for details of recent events and media coverage of the situation.  Additionally, the website “Drug Trafficking in Mexico” maintained by latinamericanstudies.org traces the history of the drug trafficking between Mexico and the U. S. from 1998-2009.  This website provides links to hundreds of other articles on the subject as well.

The Congressional Reporting Service publication “Terrorism: Some Legal Restrictions on Military Assistance to Domestic Authorities Following a Terrorist Attack” by Charles Doyle and Jennifer Elsea presents the legal definition of MSCLEAs in the wake of post 9/11 developments (Doyle and Elsea, 2005).

Increased MSCLEA issues emerged in the 1980s and 1990s with regard to the interdiction of drugs.  However, since 9/11 they have largely revolved around the role of MSCLEA around terrorism related incidents.  The official policy of the United States Army on MSCLEA is contained in the Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook “Appendix I: Legal Considerations/Law Enforcement” published by the United States Army Combined Arms Center in May 2006.  This document is supplemented by a paper prepared by Colonel Thomas W. McShane entitled, “United States Northern Command's Mission to Provide Military Support to Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies: The Challenge to keep Homeland Security and Civil Liberty Dancing in Step with the Current Legal Music” (2004).

There are varieties of publications that deal with the history of MSCLEA for Counter-drug Operations.  Most of the U.S. policy affecting domestic counterdrug MSCLEA require updates and fails to reflect the realities of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.  Two of these stand out as having particular importance for this proposal.  The first is The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home by Timothy J Dunn, published in 1996.  The second is a Rand Corporation report entitled Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction written by Peter Reuter, Gordon Crawford, and Jonathan Cave published in 1988.  Both of the documents are dated however, they will provide a historical context to compare to current operations.  Reuter concludes that military support provided in the war on drugs in the 1980s was costly, ineffective, and distracted military forces from preparing for interstate combat missions.

Both documents are roughly twenty years old and this means that their consideration of everything from the technology of interdiction efforts to the scope and influence of DTOs is dated.  On the other hand, both documents precede the emergence of the overwhelming threat of terrorist attacks and therefore the focus is on MSCLEAs in a pre-9/11 context with the emphasis on drug interdiction, not anti-terrorism operations.

Most importantly, both of these documents present a negative image of interdiction efforts.  The U.S. military interdiction efforts, although criticize provides an approach from two different perspectives.  The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low-Intensity Conflict Doctrine Comes Home published by the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin focuses on the negative effects of the militarization of the border in terms of lost economic opportunities and threats to civil liberties.

More condemning, however, is the Rand Corporation document, Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction.  It concludes that interdiction efforts in general have little impact on the flow of drugs into the United States.  Furthermore, it concludes that an increase in military involvement did not improve the interdiction effectiveness efforts and was unlikely to do so in the future.  The Rand study strongly suggests that the military cannot be the primary interdiction agency and that a major increase in military support is unlikely to reduce drug consumption significantly in the United States (Reuter, Crawford and Cave, 1988).

The findings are not practical for exploring renewed efforts to employ enhanced MSCLEA in the interdiction effort in the twenty-first century.  There are numerous reservations about applying this study directly to the current situation.  This study will examine interdiction in terms of interdiction (seizure) rates, not reduced consumption, and the price of illicit drugs as examined by the Rand study.

In addition, the circumstances of the drug trade across the Southwestern border have changed considerably over the past nine years, as have the military resources available to employ against interdiction effort.  The DTOs are now using RPGs and other military type weaponry consequently the military has UAVs and other surveillance equipment that was not available in the 1980s.

The Rand study is incredibly important to understanding the history of military involvement in drug interdiction on the Southwest border.  However, the findings do not constitute the final word on the subject today as it is over twenty years old.

It is imperative to examine literature that relates to the policies and procedures for MSCLEAs and the organization of cooperative efforts between the MSCLEAs.  Doctrine for this already exists for both the military and civilian organizations.  The Joint Task Force North, “JTF-North Operational Support Planning Guide 2010” outlines the military perspective on joint military-civilian operations.  The police understanding of the relationship is outlined in “Civilian and Military Law Enforcement Cooperation” published in The Police Chief (Awtry, 2004).

The study Preach What You Practice: The Separation of Military and Police Roles in the Americas argues that military employment to assist law enforcement agencies falls the Posse Comitatus Act limits however, there is no imminent “threat of attack” on the United States.  Therefore, they question the need for a heightened militarization of the southwest border (Withers, Santos, & Isacsoni, 2010 p 8).  This report suggest that instead of supporting a military response, the U.S. government re align its resources to focus on additional aid for police and law enforcement capabilities within Mexico.  They recommend this aid be in the form strengthening law enforcement training, equipment, and technology rather than merely training in counter-drug tactics. 

The JTF North website lists the following capabilities as "operational support" the U. S. military is prepared to provide federal law enforcement agencies: aviation transportation, including both insertion and extraction of personnel; aviation reconnaissance; air and maritime surveillance radar; unmanned aircraft systems; ground surveillance radar; listening post and observation post surveillance; ground sensor operations; and ground transportation.  The consensus within NORTHCOM appears to be the military is capable of supplying resources that enhance law enforcement ability to interdict the threats along the southwest border.  Under USNORTHCOM, the military conducts a variety of domestic exercises aimed at using the military and National Guard under the president's control in a wide range of U.S. homeland emergencies such as terrorist events and even domestic violence.  Which is the threat currently demonstrated by DTOs.  The exercises do not involve any Mexican entities, NORTHCOM suggest that an exchange of military personnel and cadets with Mexico as a means of gaining Mexican involvement in NORTHCOM, as well as regular talks about cooperation could increase the effectiveness of combating DTO activity along the border. 

Jose Palafox addresses militarization of the border and the applicability of military counterdrug operations along the U.S.-Mexican border in 1990.  He closely examines the 1996 structure of JTF-6 and then concludes that a JTF consisting of only a brigade-size unit could effectively conduct sustained operations to interdict border drug trafficking along the two-thousand-mile boundary.  JTF-6 was renamed JTF North in a ceremony Sept. 28, 2004, and its mission was expanded beyond the drug war to include providing homeland security support to the nation's federal law enforcement agencies.

The article states the Pentagon is spent approximately $800 million a year to help enforce the drug trafficking laws alone.  The missions ranged from ground reconnaissance, training, logistics, and research.  In 1995, the Department of Defense transferred military technology equipment to Border Patrol in order to upgrade legacy Vietnam War error equipment.  Due to a joint effort by the Justice and Treasury Departments and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Border Patrol also has its own high-tech Border Research and Technology Center near San Diego.

The article suggests that JTF-6 operations supporting DTO activity was a success and a necessity for future operations between military and civilian organizations.  Although, Border Patrol received significant upgrades gaps along the porous border remain specifically training and intelligence collection.

Major Mark Van Drie's 1990 monograph titled Drug Interdiction: Can We Stop the New Pancho Villa, addresses the feasibility of military counterdrug operations along the border in the 1990s.  The study states that drugs are a legitimate national security threat and the vulnerability of drug cartels to military operations.  Drie conclusion supports employment of military forces along the border where legal restraints are not clear and domestic opposition is less likely.  He further articulates that effectively securing the southwest border in 1990 would require a cordon force of 65,000 U.S. troops.

Both the article and monograph fail to mention the 1997 tragic death of a U.S. citizen at the hands of a military service member that exposed the difficulties and inherent risks in employing combat focused forces in training missions in support of domestic counterdrug MSCLEA.  Marine Corps Corporal Manuel Banuelos shot and killed Texas high school student Esequiel Hernandez with a single shot from his service rifle.  The incident inspired a backlash against armed military patrols along the border and resulted in cease of the practice.  The current approach is indirect support to law enforcement such as intelligence, engineering, and surveillance (Dunn, 2001, p 14-17). 

In summary, this chapter discusses corroborative information relating to drug cartel along US-Mexico borders and its perpetuation within the region which caused escalation of violence, increasing number of death tool and its serious implication to Mexico's politico-economy as well as its diplomatic relation with nations, specially United States.

The succeeding chapters will discuss the methodology.

CHAPTER III:  Methodology

This chapter tackles the research methodology that will be used to assess the military resource requirements to counter drug activity along the Southwest border.  The author will conduct analysis of secondary information by using (a) timeline analysis to account the historical context about the war on drugs, (b) evaluate the laws and regulations associated with MSCLEA and current MSCLEA support in order to determine the most appropriate MSCLEA to counter drug trafficking along the Southwest border, (c) illustrate key developments in the war on drugs and military involvement in supporting the domestic counterdrug effort and (d) evaluate the significance, extent, resource capacity and feasibility of deploying MSCLEA to assist in the interdiction of DTO's across the Southwest border.

Research Design

This chapter will examine the issue by means of qualitative and quantitative analyses using variety of sources from media accounts, government reports, academic works, and historical documents.  To a lesser extent, opinion pieces will be used when the information is valid and appropriate opposing viewpoints are available for inclusion. Analysis of the results will provide statistical validity to the interpretation of results for the military and for the other agencies such as drug threats provided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).


Sampling is irrelevant in this study. Researcher is not using survey method but will be maximizing secondary information from government reports and earlier studies conducted related to the issue on Mexican drug interdiction. Other related relevant sources will also be inclusively considered.


The study will be conducted within American soil although it will also make use of documents from Mexican government which will be accessed, reviewed and evaluated accordingly.


This is a qualitative and quantitative longitudinal case study that will use a combination of timeline mapping, conflict-analysis, and triangulation to understand the complex and unending illegal drug trade within the region that has been affecting neighboring and the international communities worldwide due to increasing violence within the area despite security management measures. All historical accounts, records, testimonies and researchers from incessant intervention done by the United States of America will be reviewed, analyzed and be maximized in crafting conclusions and recommendations at the end of the study.

Data Collection

To address research objective number three, DTOs current ability to interdict drugs across the border, the author will review publicly available information from books, journal articles, and corroborated news media accounts.  The book, Drug Smugglers on Drug Smuggling, will be used to substantiate data from the perspective, motivation and experiences of DTO smugglers. This book interviews experienced smugglers who at one time successfully in defeated drug interdiction measures.  The purpose of this research objective is to identify the nature and extent of DTO exploitation of US Southwest border. Specifically, this question serves to identify DTO resources and methods that are uniquely vulnerable to US military capabilities or where the US military resources can augment civilian law enforcement agencies. 

Researcher will further use all information that can be sourced from government agencies, libraries, online research institutions, magazines, journals, court documents, magazines and journals.

Data Analysis

The author will use historical mapping as an instrument to gather information to assess the length of period and extent of the drug trafficking problem within the region. Historical mapping will also be used to determine the MSCLEA method(s) of involvement introduced by US Southwest region, including the outcome and impact of these interdictions.  Historical mapping will also be used to outline the laws and policies governing MSCLEA that were legislated as a response to countering illegal drug trade in the region. Additionally, analysis of government documents produced by Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) will be analyzed to determine the MSCLEA ability to adequately curtail drug trafficking across the southwest border.

Lastly, the author will identify and compare the relative combat power of DTO's and US law enforcement personnel operating along the Southwest border.  Determining the capability gap will exhibit the necessary MSCLEA requirement(s) to effectively reinforce the combat power of law enforcement agencies in order to adequately curtail drug trafficking in the region. 

As a mixed quantitative and qualitative study, researcher will present an integrated analysis and inferences into coherent conclusions toward a comprehensive and meaningful explication of the subject studied.

Validity and Reliability

This research is undertaken with serious consideration of the international and professional standard. Inferences and sequential presentation of information are drawn from primary and secondary sources that are critically evaluated based on acceptable standards of sources. Some information used came from government authorities and decision-making bodies who are honored with their credibility as authorities of the state. Readers who may conduct follow-up research may triangulate information and database used here to further validate reports.

Ethical Considerations

Researcher observes the highest standard of professional ethics required by the institution. Matters of confidentiality are held sacred while authors, writers, and agencies whose contributions to these subjects are wisely utilized were credited and recognized in the references.

The succeeding chapter will substantially discuss the theme of this study.


Resolving the complex issues on narcotics in the south west border require in-depth reflection on historic interventions made by USA which help increase interdiction on illegal drug-related cartel; evaluate the political capacity of DTO to sustain its illegal operations; triangulate policies of USA in its decision to assist in decreasing the movements of illegal drug trade; and assess the fiscal capacity of the American government to allocate against increasing demand of budget for operations.

US Military Capacity vs Drug Trafficking

In mid-19th century, United States deployed US Army on its southern border and was mandated to protect the border, interdict bandits, secure lives and properties, conduct regular patrolling and support civil law enforcement against illegal drug cartel business (Matthews, 1959). More than a century have passed, USA is still deploying National Guard Soldiers to the Mexican border as post-9/11 politico-military undertakings (Matthews, 1959).

To reckon, from 1846 towards this millennium, US Army sustained its security mandates at the border's hard and rugged terrain (Matthews, 1959).  Reports mentioned that amid disputes, there is also a demand to increase numbers of soldiers (Matthews, 1959).  This is further compounded with critical Mexican politics and US-Mexican diplomatic relations that is affecting Army's operations (Matthews, 1959).  Contextualized in such distinct social character, Army's role was fitted to support to local, state, and Federal civilian agencies. Such nature of intervention is already evident since 1920s (Matthews, 1959).

During President George W. Bush's administration decided to deploy about 6,000 Army National Guard Soldiers in 2006 to conduct security border patrol as issues relating to potential terrorist infiltration, increase of illegal drug syndicates activity, and leveling-up of apprehension about illegal immigration to United States en route through Mexico (Matthews, 1959). Though this was regarded with disapproval, there is however recognition to improve border security works albeit controversial use of military personnel to support law enforcement (Matthews, 1959). Both America and Mexico shared ambivalent relations since the former tightened its political control in that shared border coupled with cross-border violent aggressions done by Indians and bandits which accordingly increased the level of enmity (Matthews, 1959).

There was however a historic epoch when America and the Mexican governments explored revitalization of goodwill when Major General Philip H. Sheridan waged a campaign against the French.  That provided an opportunity to resolve issues relating to US Army's disposition at the border from 1870 to 1886, including its inherent weakness about lack of personnel and passive defenses against cross-border raids. It also discussed the raid in Mexico in 1873 led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie's  and that pre-emptive strike led by Lieutenant Colonel William “Pecos Bill” Shafter's. There was subsequent reduction of attacks but this generated political conflict which grind down American and Mexican goodwill (Matthews, 1959).

In 1911 to 1917, the Mexican Revolution caused insecurity in the border and US soldiers realized that static defenses and patrolling couldn't cease terrorist raiders who maintained interest to cross the border. This was also same period when Major General Frederick Funston's attempted to stop the Plan of San Diego plotters and Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched punitive action against Francisco “Pancho” Villa. The military strategies enforced hot pursuits and preemptive strikes into Mexico to restore order to the border (Matthews, 1959). US Army have also conducted responses to WETBACK Operation in 1954 until they increased their presence in 1978 in Mexican border as a response to same issue on illegal US immigration and anti-drug cartel. The military supports for law enforcement at southern border have also evolved (Matthews, 1959). The historic problem remained in these 20th centuries and the issues pertaining to military's disposition reverberates (Matthews, 1959). It still re-echo the need for defensive position and the discussion on conducting counterraids and pursuits operations across the border was revived albeit consideration that increasing Mexican security in its own border might decrease the conduct of raids in US-side of the border.

Developments in the border also include urbanization in the mountain side as population settled in the twin border encouraged by farming and tourism.  The population reached 10.6 million in 1995 but the problem on illegal alien and drug syndicates persists. Defense Authorization Act of 1982 was thereafter passed to assist law enforcement against illegal drugs smuggling although the act relaxed on specific rules pertaining to Posse Comitatus Act (p.  21.) Under Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Officials, military operates, maintain equipments and train law enforcers and document or report criminal movements. For soldiers back then, this is considered as the expanding role in anti-drug effort in the region with high-tech facilities and surveillance ops and trainings.

In 1986, government launched Operation ALLIANCE to trace illegal drugs in Mexico using upgraded and advance technologies. Government later on legislated 1989 Defense Authorization Act which permeates the use of equipment for War on Drugs and for campaigns. In 1989, Joint Task Force-Six (JTF-6) was established under Bush's administration which served as the planning and coordinating opera­tional headquarters to support law enforcers to interdict the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. JTF-6's covered four Border States of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. This is about 660,000 square miles (p.24). The War on Drugs became high-priority national security mission which deployed military personnel to the border. JTF primary North's four support categories covered operational support using aviation, 24 hours operation, ground collaborative threat assessment surveillance, sensor and transportation. It also includes intelligence support collaborative threat assessment, geospatial and use of engineering facilities. US soldiers got involved in Counterdrug Narco-Terrorism Personal Protection, Counterdrug Special Reaction Team Training, Drug Trafficking Organization Targeting and Interrogation among others (Louma, 2002).

The campaign is sustained nowadays. Just this April 2011, a mass grave was discovered abut 80 miles away from the US border where 59 dead persons were exhumed in San Fernando, Mexico (AFP 2011). This is same location where another mass grave were unearthed in August. The discovery took place after a bus hijacking incident which ended with the arrest of 11 kidnappers and freeing five kidnap victims (AFP 2011). Authorities attributed this violence to the Zetas, a Mexican-based criminal organization working for illegal drug trade. Protests loomed in the 20 cities across Mexico against drug-related violence. More reports mentioned about indiscriminate killing of 72 migrants coming from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil who were allegedly killed after refusal to work with drug traffickers (AFP 2011).

Data bared that there are about 34,600 killings done since 2006 (AFP 2011). FBI Director Robert Mueller reported that the scale of violence heightened as warring factions are in a full-scale of retaliation and retribution relating to drug wars (AFP 2011). Mueller used these facts in his lobby at the US Congress for the agency's budget for 2012 (AFP 2011).

DTOs current capability

Friedman (2008) opined that there is an alteration of the cartel landscape. The increasing number of arrests caused many DTO to suffer some setback; it is however projected that the Sinaloa Federation will be emerging as the next dominantMexico drug traffickers. The Zetas are also illustrating its cruelty these days in a rampage of gruesome crimes. On the list of authorities, there were 55 drug cartel groups on the list and 20 of them are Mexican enterprises (Breuer, Hover, & Placido, 2009).

Economically, Stratfor analyzed that drug cartel is bringing in an estimate of $35 billion to $40 billion annually. In an estimate, it's presumed that the manufacturing sector got revenue of $40 billion per year through exports (Friedman, 2008).  If the profit margin is 10%, profit would be pegged at $4 billion a year. In the case of narcotics, profit margins may get around 80%. The net of $40 billion is $32 billion (Friedman, 2008). Drug money at Mexico is an exceptional trading with such tremendous high profit margin but analysts suspected such is just circulating in Mexico and is partly used to manipulate and influence domestic politics to ensure their sustainability and its monies reinvestments for its economic flow through legit institutions. Friedman (2008) infer that Mexican government is benefiting from this too and speculated that since drug monies are accumulated and invested, it is maybe used for businesses that generates jobs. Oddly, this is where the Mexican government is perceived hindered to fully stop drug trade because of the flow of money benefited domestic market. Aside from that, Mexican government lacks the capacity to address potential escalation of violence that will have geographic impact. Friedman (2008) argued that Mexico will appear to be endeavoring to stop drug trade to wade-off critics that they are supporting the illegal activities. The country will be fine with disruptions provided monies are coming in constantly and can lay a pointing finger against United States for failure to control demand and by apparently considering the legalization of drug trades.  While its true that Mexican government has its own leadership and policies, but it lacks the competence and motivation to take risks because they benefit more from being ineffective (Friedman, 2010).

Reports pointed that drug-related murders in Mexico increased from 2006 to 2007. Figures of death toll further increased to 6,200 murders in 2008 of which 10% are law enforcers and in 2009 death toll escalated to 3,500 persons in Mexico.  This year, 183 dead bodies were exhumed in a mass graves where 72 dead persons where identified as central American migrants (Redaccion, 2011). Recently, there were 27 farm workers whose body were decapitated including two women and two children, were found at the northern Guatemalan province of Petén. The Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas, were suspected of these gruesome incidents. Authorities perceived that DTOs moved to Guatemala for operations due to is territorial remote location and lack of police visibility (Redaccion, 2011).

The escalation of violence and number of death tool in Mexico is attributable to the increasing number of firearms systematically harbored and used by DTOs. The arms strengthened them. GAO (2009) reported that firearms confiscated by American soldiers from the borders showed that 87% thereof are traced coming from United States. This is affirmed by the investigations done by Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Of those confiscated, only a few percent were traced due to restriction in the collection and reportage of information relating to purchases of firearms. GAO (2010) also viewed the inability of ATF and Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to coordinate their mandates and functions. Both offices failed to analyze and reported data as fundamental bases to address illegal arm deals in the region. Mexico unfortunately excluded from its aims to genuinely quell and stop drug trafficking, does the absence of truant fulfillment of agreement which hindered U.S. agencies' to provide technical or operational assistance at some levels (GAO, 2010).

Mexico also didn't utilize the ATF's electronic firearms tracing system as instrument in U.S. arms trafficking investigations. The influx of firearms for DTO's use is further compounded with systemic corruption within the system as evidenced by illicit or occult collaboration of some Mexican officials in drug and arms trafficking.

Some political experts made some conjectures that Mexico is so cultured with violence, hence made gun as a natural tool. The remission of government's duty to regulate its and influx made guns look like basic necessity at its black market with price pegged 300% than its original value. It's a highly probable that only members of DTO can trade with guns noting their financial capacity, in fact this is thought as a traditional pattern (Stewart, 2011). Other weapons could have been sourced from networks in South and Central America where arms are smuggled to support insurgencies and counterinsurgencies (Stewart, 2011) or from partners involved in syndicated arm trades who have the capacity to fabricate receipts and defraud documents. While there are those who'd speculate that persons of authority who can purchase arms can be paid to perform such acts to legitimize purchase of arms but this posits that deals can be made by anyone, including those from the ranks who can compromise legal mandates just so to meet financial interest. Sourcing guns through theft are petty ways. What the Mexican affirmed and the GAO found is that guns produced from America are sold to DTOs in all possible ways.

Budget for civilian law enforcement & its use

Luoma Jr. (2002) pointed that American government has been allocating hundreds

Table 1. Comparative budget for the DOD form 2005-2010 for counternarcotics activities.  Table showed increasing allocation in the last six years. (GAO, 2010)

of millions of dollars for the Department of Defense to Joint Task Force-6 and to the National Guard Counterdrug programs for Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California's borders to defray expenses for its counternarcotic law missions. More funds were poured

in this campaign after the 9/11 attack to secure the borders by preventing entry of alleged terrorists and the weapons of mass destruction.

The War on Drugs also evolved into an epoch where military is supporting civil authorities whilst maximizing technology for intelligence operations.  Some lawmakers believed that increasing law enforcers in the international borders is essential for national security (Luoma Jr., 2002) to accordingly stop narcotic traffickers and terrorists. To improve security management, lawmakers supported the improvement of security management by developing and employing:

  1. Intelligence Analysts - conduct research and gather information for deep analysis of drug flow and DTO organizations as foundation for more actions relating to the interdiction of suspected criminals. These analyst should be imbued with knowledge on law enforcement and operational strategies;
  2. Aviation Support- this refers to men specialized in aircraft management and other related facilities needed for reconnaissance and intelligence ops. The aviation support is essential for critical operations;
  3. Ground Sensor Placement/Maintenance—these are electronic devices which detect vibration and ground disturbances to indicate vehicular or foot traffic in suspected smuggling passage areas;
  4. Engineering Support—this refer to military engineering assets that operate along the U.S.-Mexican border which helped improve hazardous desert trails;
  5. Reconnaissance/Observation Support-- intelligence team deployed in critical locations;
  6. Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP) -teams that are expert on highly specialized night imaging equipment to authorities in detecting the flow of illegal narcotics at the border at night time;
  7. Cargo Inspection Support - these are military personnel who are supporting U.S. Customs Service at the Ports of Entry into USA from Mexico by conducting cargo inspection that specialized with advanced scanning equipment for more critical law enforcement duties.

This is consistent to Mérida Initiative as collaborative endeavor of experts funded to (1) employ federal prosecutors in Mexico for prosecutorial function; (2) assign forensics- expert in Mexico; (3) help facilitate Mexican law enforcers to strengthen teams to partner with U.S. federal law agents to attack DTOs across the range for their criminal activities; (4) hasten fugitive apprehension based on U.S. laws as well as process extradition with our Criminal Division experts; (5) help Mexico develop asset management system specially those confiscated due to criminal cases; (6) help Mexican law enforcement and prosecutorial offices to strengthen internal integrity; (7) assist them on law enforcement and in prosecution  by scaling up collection, preservation and admissibility of evidences as well as (8) offer expertise on consultations on victim assistance and witness protection issues (Breuer et.al., 2009). All these are essential for the DoD in making collaborative undertakings with the Mexican government against cartel-related public corruption and investigation.

Note that in 2009, the DoD/Security/WoT spent $738 billion and $663.7 in 2010. Though there is an observable decrease in the budget but be reminded that in the overall overlay of budget appropriation, the DoD has budget almost proportional to that of social security or with income security, medicare and health. From this budget, the table above illustrated that there is an increasing budget allocation too annually for anti-narcarcotics campaign too. That is where the ATI and the ECI got its allocation to finance its varied operations, dubbed in many codes but pointing at the same intent.

American Laws and MSCLEA

The national policies of America in relation to national security and protection of its people are stipulated in its Constitution. This fundamental law of the land stipulated specific provision on the function of the Department of Defense (DoD) with corresponding regulations on its administration and security management. DoD had issued directives 5525.5, 5210.56, and 3025.1 that stipulated guidelines for participation and conduct of DOD forces in MSCLEA. CJCS Instruction 3121.02 defines policy limits about the use of force by military members participating in MSCLEA and defines its current limits. MS Technical assistance rendered to civilian law enforcement agencies.  This can include military resources that are not available to civilians such as aerial surveillance, technical assistance with these resources, and tactical advice.  It does not include actual law enforcement powers (Sergienko, 2006, p. 395). DoD takes care of three multi-agency intelligence and operational centers dealing on tactical, operational, and strategic support on its counternarcotics  program  at Mexican borders but will focus on enforcement resources. The El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) engaged more than 20 agencies and provided critical and case-specific tactical intelligence to law enforcement focused in Southwest Border though it also tracks broad data. ATF on the other hand is the central repository for all intelligence relating to firearms. FBI is part of EPIC and scaled up its participation by creating Southwest Intelligence Group (SWIG). The latter coordinate information and intelligence relating to the Southwest Border as well as aimed at dismantling the ongoing violent criminal activity. SWIG head acts as Assistant Deputy Director of EPIC. SOD, meanwhile, led by DEA, provides operational strategies and coordination for multi-agency investigations. SOD targets the command and control communications of major drug trafficking and narco-terrorism organizations specially the promoinent narco-terrorism organizations that operate at a large scale level in coordination with OCDETF investigations. They were responsible of Operation Xcellerator and in deconflicting operations. Moreover the, OCDETF Fusion Center (OFC) deals comprehensive information containing drug and financial data from DEA, ATF, FBI, IRS, the USMS, the U.S. Coast Guard, CBP, NDIC, EPIC, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs, and other key players on counternarcotics activities. The OFC provides intelligence on strategic and large-scale investigations in complementation with SOD and does cross-jurisdictional integrated analysis using Compass database. NDIC, is the third intelligence agency which provide information for policy makers and for strategic drug intelligence on specific threat assessments. These cover OCDETF Regional Assessments, including the Southwest Region.

Despite its wide network, GAO (2010) assessed that there is poor coordination and utilization of information of network in its operations.

Feasible to increase MSCLEA budget?

The increase of budget for MSCLEA in the previous years were caused by the augmention of forces at the borders to fight against terror by controlling the movements of arms for DTOs , improving its facilities for operational use, and the need to scale up security measures at the border following 9/11 attack. Some authorities argued then that allocating more budget for deployed forces at the hinterlands will increase the effectiveness of DTOs interdiction. But this is however contrary to the assessments made by GAO in the past years about the performance of soldiers in the counterdrug missions. This result will be expounded in the succeeding paragraph.

This researcher perceived that with Democrats-Republican hot debate relating to budget that nearly ended with government shutdown, there is a lame chance that more budgetary allocation be provided for the MSCLEA due to the following observable developments:

  1. The recent arrest and death of Osama bin Ladin at Pakistan this year negatively impact to leading terrorist organizations and weaken its community. The manner of the Navy Seals cost-efficient operation to get Bin Ladin on exact target models an operational scheme that can be done to anyone under terrorism list.
  2. The US military forces have it's own motorpool and engineers who can adequately perform tasks to improve and repair damages to military facilities and equipments.
  3. DTOs strength is weakened by the arrests of some of its key leaders and they are presently divided into small fractions. Their movements are monitored in the isolated regions.
  4. There are disturbing questions about the absence of standard measure of performance appraisal. The latter is an instrument to truly ascertained that the deployment of more forces in the borders demonstrate effectiveness in interdicting DTOs specially that GAO's finding indicated that armaments used and seized from DTOs came from USA's market itself. This has serious implications to the mandates of the soldiers deployed at the borders how they become contributory to the strengthening of DTOs through times.

Unless the DoD are able to make a comprehensive assessment of its strategies, output and outcome and are able to present strategic program based on concrete conditions, the question relating to budgetary allocation of these institution can only be discussed based on contextual condition at the field.

The government, as a corporation, allocate budget in accordance to needs and urgency of matters. Up to these days, the fractious nature of the DTOs and the subsequent death of Bin Ladin actually lower the threats even if security managers prepare against potential retaliatory plans against US which could be still at the budding state.

At end, let it be remembered that MSCLEA started from former president Richard Nixon and George W. Bush and sustained by president Baraack Obama through legislated laws, presidential directives, executive orders, national security decision directives, and presidential speeches e.g.  National Defense Authorization Acts of 1982, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1991 which led to the increase of counterdrug operations. It's only through laws too by which Congress can direct DOD to participate in counterdrug ops under MSCLEA. Only lawmakers can decide whether an increase in budget is indeed feasible and if its operations will consistently contribute and demonstrate to overall national goals to curb if not end narcotics. 


Time and again, it's constantly affirmed that deployment and military-based solution will not completely resolve the influx of illegal drugs nor totally dismantle DTOs. While these are considered essential as part of the processes, it is however recognized that illegal drug trafficking require a multi-stakeholder movement to discourage this ailing economy as this breads violence, human rights violations, and conflict of nations.

The researcher therefore wishes to affirm and appreciate the following points:

  1. The increased deployments of US forces in the US-Mexican border led to the seizure of narcotics and are therefore appreciable and can be considered as contributory to the general objective of interdicting or suppressing DTOs within the region.
  2. American government fully supported the War on Drugs in the borders of Mexico, thus the constantly increasing budget as observed in its allocations in the last six years.
  3. While presence of the US soldiers limit the mobility and transport of drug along the borders and resulted to confiscation of illegal drugs, as depicted in the reports, but still the century old operation has not ended the production of illegal drugs, the DTOs still regroup and strengthen their ranks, and has not change the tension between American and Mexican governments.
  4. As operation been sustained for many decades and whilst operatives submit report to the congress and to proper authorities, there remains a cognition that the report are merely quantitative and narrative, often excluded or lacking information about effective performance appraisals measurement based on standards and criteria to enable an empirical -based decision-making. The appraisal will become a database to manage counternarcotics activities and to tract progress (GAO, 2010).  This researcher therefore adopts the recommendation that DOD must develop a standard of measure in security and counternarcotics performance management for US soldiers deployed in the borders of USA-Mexico.

As this campaign on War against Drug require multi-stakeholder, interagency and international involvement of all affected states or nations, it is relevant to consider the following:

  1. Develop network and linkage with international community, especially nations who are victims as transshipment areas of drug smuggling syndicates.
  2. American government to improve diplomatic (Valencia, 2011 & Urdaneta, 2011) thrust and relation with Mexican government by setting models of governance and development which consider peace and narcotics-free society as requisite for sustainable economy. Such can be done if the War on Drugs will inspire or motivate Mexican government and its populace to lead the course of the campaign whilst beefing them up to put teeth on their laws against narcotics.
  3. As borders of Mexico is the haven of illegal drug trade operators, it is but appropriate to  put on the shoulders of Mexican government and their military or police authorities the major responsibility of interdicting DTOs while US soldiers will only take a pro-active defensive position across the border unless pre-emptive operations or retaliatory tactics are necessary when attacked. US soldiers may however provide education and training to Mexican soldiers about HR-sensitive policing, if perceived necessary.
  4. Discourage the proliferation or entry of firearms for DTOs and sustain the campaign in tracing narcotics-sourced money laundering. Stop the influx of firearms and munitions in to Mexico from US; arrest those who are collaborating on this arm deals within the US military.
  5. Strategize campaigns by exposing human rights violations done by DTOs. Responses of Mexican populace and from the international communities will help pressure Mexican government make a firm position to end illegal drug cartel.
  6. Facilitate and support reform agenda for Mexico government, specially its police and military structures. This strategy will pressure domestic leaders to remove their complicit network with government officials and DTOs and weaken illegal drug traders, ultimately toward dismantling of  DTOs structures too. It's hope that this could lead toward genuine peace and development of the nation as an outcome.
  7. DoD must develop a standard measure of performance appraisal as instrument to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the forces' performance, evaluate its strategy, and improve coordination among inter-agencies involved in anti-narcotics program as recommended by GAO (2010) and mainstream the number of forces in accordance to performance targets defined by plans, program, budget and execution timeline.
  8. DoD's counternarcotics activities cost $.7.7 billion from 2005 to 2010. This includes $ 6.1 billion budget for counternarcotics central transfer account and the $1.5 billion supplemental budget (GAO, 2010). There is a need to streamline budget for cost-efficiency.

While the MSCLEA and its network of forces have relatively achieved some targets, there are however expected outcomes that were not performed. The result of the comprehensive assessment of DoD with its allied networks under MSCLEA with its anent strategic plan will determine the direction, programs, budgetary allocation and the operational mandates of this counternarcotics activities. The forces must, at all times, be programmatic and result-oriented to ensure that plans and targets are done cost-efficiently and effectively. 

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