Ernst: use Defense Department to cut fentanyl influx

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says she wants to increase the oversight authority of the Department of Defense as a way to stem the flow of fentanyl at its source in Mexico.

“The DOD plays a leading role in the nation’s counterdrug intelligence and monitoring operations. However, the lack of interagency cooperation over classification and inadequate resources have hampered our government’s counter fentanyl efforts,” Ernst says.

The Republican from Red Oak says the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act of 2023 has bipartisan support. “This important measure would classify fentanyl trafficking as a national security threat to the United States to provide a response proportional to the problem,” she says. “Second, it would encourage U.S. military forces to support counter front fentanyl efforts more actively.”

Ernst says it would direct the Pentagon to develop a fentanyl-specific counter drug strategy, including enhanced cooperation with Mexican defense officials focused on putting the Pentagon’s tools to use to save lives. Ernst says she is partnering with Democrat Senator Tim Kaine  of Virginia — who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee with her — and says they have Democrats and Republicans, both in the House and the Senate who support it.

“We are very hopeful that we’ll either be able to get this introduced into the National Defense Act for passage this year, or we can work through other channels as well,” Ernst says. She says this is completely legal and there already have the counter drug efforts within DOD. “It is completely congruent with what’s already existing in law. We are just expanding those authorities to work more with those Mexican officials,” she says.

Ernst, who is retired from the Iowa National Guard, says she has already gone into Mexico and spoken with the Mexican Navy and Army leadership about how everyone can work together to curb fentanyl trafficking.