Rep. Glenn English (D-Okla.) said yesterday he will introduce legislation today to place a huge radar surveillance balloon over Colombia to track drug manufacturers and traffickers operating in the Guajira Penisula.
English said he will introduce the bill at the request of House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), who has asked a number of Democratic congressmen to draft various portions of an omnibus antidrug bill. English's assignment was military drug interdiction.
English's bill would provide about $1 billion for stepped-up surveillance and interdiction, mostly by increased mobilization of the military. Three other bills to strengthen civilian measures against drug trafficking also are to be introduced today to form the core of an ominibus antidrug measure.
The radar would tip off the Colombian government to suspicious movements so its law enforcement officials could move in on illegal operations before cocaine and other drugs could be exported.
Radar surveillance from two miles up is one of several House proposals drafted over the last several days that would push the U.S. military deeper into the war against drugs.
The radar would be kept aloft by an Aerostat balloon twice the size of a 747 jetliner, tethered to its land base by cables two miles long. Specialists said the radar balloon could see trucks, boats and even bicycles used by the drug trade in manufacturing and smuggling.
English said that his bill and others will be reviewed by House Democratic and Republican leaders and various committees over the next several days and then moved through Congress on an expedited schedule. He said lawmakers all across the political spectrum feel the heat from their constituents to do something quickly about the drug menace.
The military would get $440.3 million in the coming fiscal year for its hardware and activities under the proposal, to be sent to the House Armed Services Committee today.
Besides $75 million for six Air Force Aerostats, big-ticket items in the measure include $82.5 million to the Navy to modify four P3 antisubmarine planes or C130 transports for surveillance and turn the aircraft over to the Customs Service; $79.4 million for the Air Force to pack two C130s with sensors for detecting drug traffickers and flying them from Panama on interdiction missions, and $61.4 million to the Air National Guard and Army National Guard to upgrade C130s for drug interdiction and pay for 80 days of antidrug operations in the coming year.