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US Border Protection and Drug Policy Term Paper


The United States of America has always given special priority to the homeland security. The U.S. Border Patrol is the primary governmental authority responsible for border control of lands and ports. However, the U.S. Military Forces take the active part in the so-called supporting Border Patrol in executing their functions.

Since the 1960s, the role of the military involvement in border security increased. The situation changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. After this terrible event, the U.S. made everything possible to reinforce the homeland security. The U.S. drug policy is often criticized for being ineffective.

The drug policy commenced with the “war on drugs” during the Nixon’s administration. Since that time, little has changed in the drug policy of the country except for the legalization of marijuana. The issue with marijuana legalization for recreational usage is still controversial. Nevertheless, it is the only law concerning drug policy that has been altered drastically since the 1960s.


The borders security has always been of great significance for the United States of America. The homeland security became of extreme importance after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Since that time, the level of the involvement of the U.S. military in border protection increased.

The drug policy in the U.S. is the second significant aspect. Since the 1960s, the government aimed at reducing the level of the abuse of the illegal substances. Still, modern scholars argue that the U.S. drug policy has not changed significantly over the last forty years. One exception refers to the usage of marijuana for recreational purposes.


The United States Military Forces are not responsible for controlling borders in the country. Despite this, the role of the military should not be underestimated in the U.S. border security. The primary law enforcement agency is the United States Border Patrol. The aim of the military is to support Border Patrol if needed.

Nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should monitor and prevent potential terrorist attacks, control border protection, and immigration. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a part of DHS. It has the primary responsibility to secure the borders of the country.

CBP should prevent terrorists from entering the country and enforce all trade and immigration laws. Finally, the U.S. Border Patrol, which is the part of CBP, has the key goal to indicate and prevent all illegal activities across both borders. The international Canadian and Mexican borders comprise 7000 miles while coastal borders — 2000 miles.

The History of Military Assistance

The history shows that the U.S. did not face significant challenges in protecting the Northern Border. Southwestern border region has been always problematic for the country. As it has been already mentioned, the military forces do not have a direct right to protect borders. Nevertheless, the indirect support is conducted under the general legislation of the military to safeguard the borders on the federal, state, and local levels.

Since the 1980s, the Congress legally expanded the authority of the armed forces to provide support for local law enforcement agencies. In 1981, the basic authority for military assistance was introduced in Chapter 18 of the U.S. Code — “Military Support for Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies”. According to this law, the Department of Defense had the right to support Border Patrol in operations aimed at fighting terrorism attacks or the enforcement of customs requirements, immigration laws.

Since 1989, the level of the authorized military involvement in border protection increased. The Congress continued to expand the military role. For instance, the Congress made DOD the primary federal body aimed at monitoring and identifying maritime and aerial transmission of the illegal drugs (Mason, 2013). Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, have become a watershed moment in the U.S. homeland security.

Since that time, the modern era of the border protection began. President Bush considered that border security should be increased and changed. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security was established. As Vina (2006) states: “After September 11, for example, President Bush deployed roughly 1600 National Guard troops for six months to safeguard officials of the state border and provide a heightened security presence” (p. 5).

The main restriction that prohibits military participation in the civilian law enforcement activities is known as the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA). According to it, the Army and Air Force, the Navy, and Marine Corps are not authorized to execute the domestic laws. Nevertheless, the increasing number of potential threats always gives the government the reason to provide the military with more authority to protect borders. Currently, PCA is the subject of many arguments as far as numerous laws contradict it.

Reasons for the Increasing Military Involvement

Chambers (2013) dwells on the fact that the high level of the military involvement in the U.S. border protection is predetermined by the fact that there are many threats to the safety of the country. The first significant threat deals with the terrorist access to the U.S. borders. Currently, the most dangerous threat is the border with Mexico.

This border represents an entering route to the U.S. for terrorist organizations. What concerns the Canadian border, experts are sure that it is highly protected against terrorist attacks. The second issue refers to the Transnational Organized Crime. Drug smuggling, human trafficking, and terrorism are the most urgent issues in America.

These threats explain the reason for the military involvement in US border protection. Still, many people argue that the U.S. Army has nothing to do with border protection and consider that the federal government abuses its responsibilities.

Criticism of the U.S. Drug Policy

The American government is often criticized for being passive in improving and developing the drug policy. Most critics describe the drug policy as ineffective, extremely punitive, racially not fair, and too expensive. The legal regulation remained almost unchanged for the last forty years. The only exception concerns marijuana. The new law has increased the accessibility of the drug in several states.

The representatives of African Americans more often commit drug offenses. The number people who take narcotics increased drastically since the 1960s until the 2000s. The decline in drug abuse followed these years. Such a situation brought a relief and drug policy lost its urgency. Current problems with the U.S. drug concern several issues. The first question refers to the level of severity of sentencing for drug offenses.

Second, some scientists believe that the government should take into consideration the idea of harm reduction. This principle underlies the fact that the administration should pay attention to the harmfulness of the drug, and not only to the number of drug users.

The third issue deals with the legalization of such substances as heroin and cocaine. This case is very controversial and is not widespread among the population. However, the representatives of the educated elite consider that the legalization of heroin and cocaine will lead to the decreasing interest in these drugs (Reuter, 2013).

The Timeline of the U.S. Drug Policy

In the 1960s, the U.S. faced the period of the rebellion of the youth. Drugs were symbols for social upheaval and freedom. President Nixon was the first to realize the threat of narcotics. People started experience health problems due to the drug abuse. The government had to react and reverse disaster. In 1971, Nixon declared “war on drugs”.

He did his best and promoted the establishment of various agencies aimed at monitoring and fighting the situation with drug abuse. The most significant step in the war on drugs concerned the formation of the Controlled Substances Act. This act classified types of narcotics into five sub-classes and presented laws that regulated the distribution and the usage of substances (Robinson & Scherlen, 2014).

It should be noted, that suggestions to decriminalize marijuana possession and usage occurred but Nixon rejected the offer. Carter’s administration became even more concerned with the situation. The marijuana use became popular among youth in schools. Carter stated that the punishments for the substances use should be more severe that the effect of drugs.

Since 1980, the drug hysteria began. President Raegan established the first step to the creation of tolerant drug policies. He popularized anti-drug campaigns “Just Say No” and formed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program (A Brief History of the Drug War n.d.). An extreme concern about drug abuse continued until the end of the 20th century.

Bill Clinton’s administration aimed at changing the measures of sentencing. As far as many offenders were very young, parents became deeply anxious about the strict sentencing. President Clinton was the first who comprehended that the treatment should be of primary importance. At the end of his office, Clinton stated that the American drug policy should be re-examined.

George Bush’s administration changed the direction to the prevention and treatment. America stopped blaming Latin America for the smuggling of drugs. Besides, the dangerous effects of marijuana became popularized among youth. President Obama did not make any significant changes in the drug policy. For a long time, he even did not approach the problem.

Besides, the director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program avoided the issue of the “war on drugs” and promoted the implementation of more human and tolerant approaches to the drug use prevention. Currently, the most evident changes relate to the marijuana use. The primary problem concerns not only the right to possess marijuana, but also the authorized bodies who should monitor the situation. The federal government did not allow the usage of marijuana while several states did it. Thus, the issue of the clash of authorities occur.


The level of the involvement of the U.S. military in the border protection has always been a controversial subject. Although the U.S. Armed Forces have no direct authority to protect borders, the role of the military increased drastically since the terrorist attacks on September 11 in 2001.

The drug policy commenced when Nixon declared the “war on drugs”. Many people believe that little has changed since that time. The U.S. drug policy became more interested in the prevention of the drug use. Besides, the only significant change concerned the legalization of marijuana.


. (n.d.). Web.

Chambers, S. (2013). . Web.

Mason, C. (2013). . Web.

Reuter, P. (2013). Why has US Drug Policy Changed So Little over 30 Years. Crime and Justice, 42(1), 75-140.

Robinson, M., & Scherlen, R. (2014). Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics. New York, USA: SUNY Press.

Vina, S. (2006). . Web.

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