1988 RAND study: Sealing the borders : the effects of increased military participation in drug interdiction
May 23, 1988: Study: Military Can't Curb Drugs
March 4, 1988: Military support would have little effect on drug smuggling, study says
Exceprt: Pentagon's Support Role Increases September 1, 1989
Exceprt: Dissenter in the Drug War November 4, 1989
Sealing the borders : the effects of increased military participation in drug interdiction
By: Peter H. Reuter, Gordon Crawford, Jonathan Cave, Patrick Murphy, Don Henry, William Lisowski, Eleanor Sullivan Wainstein
The analysis strongly suggests that a major increase in interdiction activities, even including the military, is unlikely to significantly reduce drug consumption in the United States.
Study: Military Can't Curb Drugs
Newsday (New York)
May 23, 1988, Monday
By Robert E. Kessler
A two-year study by the Rand Corp. think tank has concluded that the use of the armed forces to interdict drugs coming into the United States would have minimal or no effect on cocaine traffic and might, in fact, raise the profits of longtime, entrenched cocaine cartels and manufacturers.
The 175-page study, "Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction," was prepared by seven economists, mathematicians and researchers at the National Defense Research Institute, a branch of Rand funded by the Defense Department.
The researchers noted that seven previous studies in the past nine years, including ones by the Center for Naval Research and the Office of Technology Assessment, have come to similar conclusions.
The report was released in March, about the time that many members of Congress began to clamor for a military role in drug interdiction, but it has received almost no publicity.
"It's become too politically dangerous not to do something about the drug problem, and the military offers you something immediate and visible even if it won't work," said Peter Reuter, the senior Rand economist who was the main author of the report.
Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), who favors a miltiary role in interdiction, has criticized the report as being paid for by the Pentagon to support its longstanding opposition to military involvement in drug interdiction. Reuter, who is considered one of the country's leading authorities on the economics of organized crime and drug dealing, said he was commissioned to do the study before he even knew the Pentagon's views.
The major difference from the previous studies is that the Rand report made extensive use of computerized, mathematical models of varying methods of interdicting cocaine traffic. One model assumed the ability to have almost complete intensive surveillance on 11 prime smuggling routes.
Even then, the report concluded, after presumed expenditures of billions of dollars, the end result would be only a 25 percent reduction in cocaine consumption in the United States.
Reuter said even that reduction would require more resources than the military currently has for all purposes as well as the searching of most vessels, planes and cars coming into the United States.
More realistic interdiction efforts, using current armed forces resources, would have almost no effect on cocaine importation into the United States, the report concluded.
The reasons, explained Reuter, are that the demand for cocaine in the United States is so great, the profits are so large, the supply in Colombia is so abundant, and the smugglers have shown an ability to adapt to new routes when longstanding ones have been placed under intense surveillance.
A military role might even lead to greater profits for both the major Colombian cocaine cartels and manufacturers, the study concluded, because the cartels are long entrenched, have trusted and tested personnel and routes. Increased interdiction would most likely catch the employees of newer, less professional groups, eliminating competition for older groups allowing them to drive up their prices.
Military support would have little effect on drug smuggling, study says
United Press International
March 4, 1988
Increased military support for U.S. efforts against drug smugglers is not likely to limit the amount of cocaine available or reduce drug consumption, according to a RAND Corp. study released Thursday.
''Increased drug interdiction efforts are not likely to greatly affect the availability of cocaine in the United States,'' said the study conducted for the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
The study, which used a computer model of smuggling behavior, also said a major increase in military support for drug interdiction efforts ''is unlikely to significantly reduce drug consumption'' in the United States.
Peter Reuter, the study's principal author, said that although interdiction raises the smugglers' risks, they adapt to it and alter their methods very quickly. And even if the smugglers' costs are raised somewhat, the increase amounts to only a fraction of the final street price of the drug and does not significantly affect demand.
''Smugglers diversify in the face of increased risk and that reduces the effectiveness of interdiction,'' Reuter said. ''Unless you can raise the risk on almost every route, than it is very difficult to raise the cost of cocaine in this country.''
Reuter said that because demand for cocaine in the United States is ''relatively insensitive'' to the smugglers' wholesale selling price, seizures may actually increase the earnings of South American producers and cocaine smugglers even though it raises the smugglers' costs.
Interdiction may have a greater impact on marijuana smuggling, however, because of its greater bulk and ease of detectability, said the study titled, ''Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction.''
Military expenditures on interdiction rose from $1 million in fiscal 1981 to $196 million in fiscal 1986 and non-military expenditures from $236 million to $605 million during the same period, the study said.
The White House has opposed increasing the involvement of the military in drug interdiction beyond its current generally limited role of notifying the Coast Guard, Customs Service or Immigration and Naturalization Service of possible drug shipments.
But Senate Republican leader and presidential contender Robert Dole told a White House conference Thursday that the only way to win the war on drugs is to combat the multibillion-dollar criminal drug empire with the ''full force of the military and intelligence community.''
Breaking with the administration, Education Secretary William Bennett also has called for greater use of the military in battling drug smugglers.
The RAND study's analysis does not conclude that ''the military should cease to support the drug interdiction program'' but ''strongly suggests ... that a major increase in military support'' will not likely affect drug consumption to any great degree.
The RAND Corp. is an idependent, non-profit research organization based in Santa Monica.
Pentagon's Support Role Increases
Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)
September 1, 1989, Friday
A 1988 report by the Rand Corporation also held that efforts to inderdict the flow of drugs at the United States border were not likely to affect the availability of cocaine, and that increased military involvement in the drug fight was "unlikely to significantly reduce drug consumption."
Dissenter in the Drug War
The National Journal
November 4, 1989
Vol. 21, No. 44; Pg. 2692
By W. John Moore
A 1988 RAND Corp. study for the Defense Department concluded that even the most stringent interdiction efforts would not slash cocaine consumption. "If you spent more money on interdiction, could you cut imports by, say, 10 per cent?" asked Peter Reuter, co-director of RAND's drug policy research center in Washington. "The answer is that it would be extremely unlikely."