Budget cuts have forced the Navy to cancel its deployments to Latin America supporting the drug war. And what happens in Latin America doesn't stay in Latin America. The region is one of the Navy's premier technological testing grounds, meaning what the U.S. doesn't do south of the border today could limit what it can do around the globe tomorrow.
U.S Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is best known as the hub for the Pentagon's part in interdicting drug traffickers. In that fight, the Navy has tested some of its most cherished new technology in the hunt for 70-knot "go-fast boats" full of illicit pharmaceuticals and cocaine-laden drug submarines.
Before the U.S.S. Freedom left for Singapore on March 1, the Navy's high-speed Littoral Combat Ship ran down drug traffickers in the Caribbean in 2010. The same year, in one of its first deployments, a Fire Scout drone helicopter flown from the U.S.S. McInerney in the Pacific coast of Central America loitered in darkness and spotted a fishing vessel packed with cocaine. In 2011, the robo-copter deployed to northern Afghanistan before hunting pirates off the eastern African coast.