The National Guard Counterdrug Program could help get more illegal drugs off the street if it had more resources, according to the Guard Counterdrug Advisory Council.
Since 1989, trained Guardsmen have worked alongside law enforcement agencies to combat the drug crisis in every state, territory and the District of Columbia.
But the CDB's appropriations have been static since the 1990s, while costs have risen.
"The money does not go as far," Col. Paul R. Boyd, the CDAC chair, said of the Guard’s CDP funding in Washington, D.C., Oct. 18. "And now, we’re getting to the point where we’re doing less with less."
Boyd was among 30 CDP Guardsmen who attended an open house for the program hosted by NGAUS on Capitol Hill last week.
The event —which coincided with the CDAC Northeast Region’s quarterly meeting — also attracted 60 congressional staffers to the Rayburn House Office Building.
Attendees learned about what the CDP is doing nationwide.
Through the program, the Guard provides much-needed criminal analysts, drug-demand reduction outreach, ground reconnaissance, aviation and linguists.
Senior Master Sgt. Chris Wutsch said the CDP is a "force multiplier" for law enforcement agencies, often providing assets they can’t get anywhere else.
"All the agencies I’ve been with, they can’t say enough good things about the Guardsmen that we have working within the agencies supporting them," said Wutsch, the senior enlisted advisor for the CDAC’s Northeast Region.
The CDP also helps educate law enforcement officers about current drug-trafficking threats.
In fiscal 2022, the CDP trained more than 68,000 students at schoolhouses at Camp Blanding, Florida; Johnston, Iowa; Meridian, Mississippi; Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania; and Camp Murray, Washington.
Unfortunately, stagnant funding has forced the program to lay off more than 100 full-time Guard personnel annually since 2018.
For fiscal 2023, CDP funds covered the cost of 1,600 Guardsmen, even though federal law authorizes 4,000 Guardsmen for the program.
The drop in personnel is occurring while the nation struggles with a growing fentanyl crisis that took nearly 110,000 lives in fiscal 2022, according to CDP officials. Another 200,000 people were saved from fentanyl overdoses by medical rescues during the same year.
"Every state is a border state now," Boyd said. "It is because we all are suffering from what’s coming across now."
NGAUS considers fully funding the CDP’s personnel and schoolhouses as authorized by federal law a legislative priority.
The association is seeking $460 million in federal funding to support all 4,000 Guardsmen authorized for the CDP along with another $30 million for the program’s schools.
Current House appropriations for fiscal 2024 would provide $300 million in program funding and $30 million in school funding.
But the Senate version would only provide $209 million for program funding and $25 million for school funding in fiscal 2024.
The House and Senate must reconcile these differences before sending final appropriations to President Joe Biden for his signature.
— By Mark Hensch