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Retired Army General Named Counterdrug Chief

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 1996 – Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey has a new command. He's hung up his uniform and left his post as commander in chief of U.S. Southern Command to take on another job for the country.

President Clinton named McCaffrey to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and as he did during his nearly 36year military career, the general is taking charge.

"I'm going to be a coordinator, an energizer, a manager, a watchdog," McCaffrey said following his swearingin ceremony at the White House March 6.

During the ceremony, Clinton said drugs are as much a threat to American society as any outside enemy. He said McCaffrey has faced down many threats to America's security, "from guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Vietnam to the unprecedented ground war in the sands of Desert Storm. Now he faces a more insidious, but no less formidable, enemy in illegal drugs."

For the last two years, Clinton said, McCaffrey has been on the front lines of U.S. efforts to stop drugs at their source in his role as commander of U.S. Southern Command. "As part of our counternarcotics team," he said, "he displayed decisive leadership in strengthening the efforts in Latin America, including forming one of the most successful international coalitions against drugs that has ever existed in that region."

Clinton tasked McCaffrey to prepare a plan to amend the fiscal 1996 budget reallocating $250 million to the counternarcotics effort. "America must never send its troops into battle without adequate resources to get the job done," he said.

McCaffreys appointment and the added resources will increase drug control efforts across the board, according to Defense Secretary William J. Perry. DoD's ongoing support for counterdrug operations will increase, Perry said.

During a recent interview en route to U.S. Southern Command areas in Central and South America, where counternarcotics is a major part of the military mission, Perry said the president wants a more effective effort. "What Gen. McCaffrey understands is that in order to get greater effectiveness, you're going to have to put more resources and a greater effort into it," he said.

The Pentagon will not take on any new or different missions, he said, but will be doing more of, and more effectively, what it has been doing providing support for the law enforcement mission.

Brian Sheridan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for drug enforcement policy and support, said he expects McCaffrey will focus on restoring resources in the interdiction programs in the Customs Service, Coast Guard and State Department.

"Those have been severely cut by the Congress over the last several years, and I think Gen. McCaffrey will be focusing on those problems first and foremost," Sheridan said. "I think we're in relatively good shape in the Department of Defense."

While some experts consider controlling drugs a hopeless task, Clinton said the antidrug struggle will require a combination of prevention, education, enforcement and interdiction. McCaffrey said he is optimistic, pointing to the military's success in combating drug use.

"The U.S. armed forces went through the decade of the '70s with just an atrocious problem," he said. "The impact of [drugs] on our discipline, our physical health, our spiritual health and our ability to be professionals was just devastating. It took us the better part of a decade to get it back on track."

Controlling drugs is more difficult in society than in the confines of the military community, McCaffrey acknowledged. But, he said, "the young men and women of the armed forces are the same beautiful young people that are out there in civilian life that we're trying to reach."

Drugs killed 100,000 people in the 1990s and cost society $300 billion, McCaffrey said. At any one time, 60 to 70 percent of the nation's 3 million chronic addicts are in the criminal justice system for drugrelated crimes. Even so, he said, there is room for optimism.

"We went from about 22 million illegal drug users in 1979 to around 12 million today," he said. "In the last three years, cocaine use dropped 30 percent. Eighty or 90 million Americans maybe a third of the country tried illegal drugs and then stopped mostly on their own. In the grossest measures, the problem has gotten a lot less threatening."

McCaffrey will hold cabinet rank. The drug control policy office staff was cut from 146 to 25, but is now being increased to about 150. Plans also call for McCaffrey to take 30 people on detail from the Pentagon to the Old Executive Office Building.

The president is seeking congressional approval for $3.4 million in supplemental spending for the drug control office in addition to the $250 million from DoD's fiscal 1996 budget.

McCaffrey said he understands the congressional skepticism he's heard about whether money appropriated to fight drug abuse is helping the cause. Billions in federal, state and local funds are used for drug treatment and prevention programs, he said.

The policy office will examine which drug programs work. Some clearly don't work, McCaffrey said. Others costing as little as $24 a day, in which groups of released convicts live together in spiritual communities, do work.

"We've got to go out and examine the evidence and persuade the American people that some of these things pay off," he said.

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