September 13, 2012

R. Gil Kerlikowske
Director
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Washington, DC  20503

Dear Director Kerlikowske:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the 2013 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy (“Strategy”).  NCSL appreciates the willingness of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to consider the views of state policymakers in the development of a strong Southwest border strategy. We believe that the best way to curb the rising tide of drugs and trafficking and the crimes that go along with them is to employ a comprehensive and multidisciplinary collaborative approach between federal and state governments and law enforcement agencies. We think it is important for the federal government to be mindful of strategies employed at the state-level when crafting a Strategy for the Southwest border.  We also recommend that our federal partners assist and build upon existing frameworks rather than encourage states to reinvent their protocols. Finally, we recommend that ONDCP have in place sound mechanisms to determine what pieces of the Strategy are working and which portions need to work better. This information should also be timely and effectively communicated to state and local partners so that all levels of government can respond appropriately. NCSL suggests the following:
 
Further enhance intelligence and information sharing capabilities and processes associated with the Southwest border  
Federal, state and local governments can all agree that timely and accurate intelligence and information-sharing is a key component to reducing the flow of illicit drugs, drug proceeds and associated instruments of violence along the Southwest border. Law enforcement agencies in the Southwest  have their own intelligence units. For example, Texas has established Joint Operations and Intelligence Centers (JOICs) to coordinate intelligence gathering activities among various agencies. The Texas Department of Public Safety has recommended adding additional JOICs to further thwart the influx of illegal activities within the state. This, however, will take additional resources to purchase enhance intelligence software and to train and hire additional personnel to man the new JOICs.  We ask the federal government to work with our border states to enhance their intelligence and information sharing capabilities.
 
Better interdiction of drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence at the ports of entry along the Southwest border
NCSL supports increasing the capabilities of the federal government to interdict drugs, drug proceeds and weapons at the ports of entry along the Southwest border because this is essential to stopping the flow of drugs, weapons and bulk cash throughout the nation. This portion of the Strategy will affect more than just the Southwest border states. Many states, such as Iowa, have included in the objectives of their public safety agency the goal of reducing the impact of substance abuse as contributing factor to criminal activity. If we can dramatically decrease or even halt the flow of drugs, cash and weapons into the United States, it will go a long way to helping states like Iowa to fulfill their goal of reducing the impact of drug-related criminal activity in the state.
 
Better interdiction of  drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence in the air and maritime domains along the Southwest border
NCSL supports the goal of federal agencies to improve their technological capabilities in maritime and air domains, but states often bear the brunt of costs for improving their own technology. For example, in order for Texas to improve its air surveillance capabilities, it would cost the state approximately $8.5 million. Again, improving coordination among federal, state, local and tribal counterparts is an integral component to any drug interdiction strategy. 
 
Disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating along the Southwest border
Modifying federal grant rules to allow funds to be used for hiring and overtime would go a long way to help border states who would like to increase the work day of law enforcement personnel.
 
In addition, NCSL would like to call attention to the Strategy’s mention of increasing cooperation between state and federal prosecutors to develop policies regarding special cases such as kidnapping and juveniles. Arizona has investigative task forces that work in tandem with a corresponding prosecutorial component.  These prosecutorial components work out jurisdictional issues from the outset of investigations increasing cooperation among investigators and various levels of prosecutors.  The federal government should be mindful of such arrangements and integrate its activities into and be supportive of existing Arizona policies and practices in this area.
 
Developing strong and resilient communities that resist criminal activity and promote healthy lifestyles
Federal programs that provide grant money and technical support to communities in the Southwest border who are vulnerable to the effects of drug-related crime will aid the efforts of states to keep their communities safe and healthy. It is also important for ONDCP to be mindful of programs states and localities have already developed to address drug-related ills in their communities. For example, the Arizona Meth Project (based on the Montana Meth Project), a prevention program aims to reduce meth use through public service announcements, public policy, and community outreach. Integrating state and local models into federal strategies will improve the flow of public policy strategies between the Border states.

NCSL looks forward to working with you and others at ONDCP as this Strategy is finalized. Please contact NCSL staff Susan Parnas Frederick (202)624-3566, for more information or to answer any questions you may have. Again, thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on this very important issue.
 
Respectfully,
       
Senator Joni Cutler, South Dakota                 Representative Tommy Reynolds, Mississippi
Co-Chair, NCSL                                               Co-Chair, NCSL                                    
Committee on Law and Criminal Justice          Committee on Law and Criminal Justice