Carbajal-Bice Bill to Combat Threat of Fentanyl Included in Year-End Defense Policy Agreement

Defense policy legislation crafted by bipartisan compromise committee, which included Carbajal, contains bicameral effort to affirm illicit drug trafficking as a national security threat

House Armed Services Committee member Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) are highlighting that the final agreement announced today on this year’s annual defense policy legislation includes their bill to increase federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense (DoD) and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat this crisis and disrupt drug cartel and trafficking activity.

The Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act, originally introduced by the lawmakers with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in May, was first included in the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (FY24 NDAA) as amendment to both chambers’ versions of the bill. The House passed their NDAA in July.

The bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee worked with the FY24 NDAA conference committee to craft a measure now headed for final passage in Congress and to the President’s desk in the remaining weeks of 2023.

“The Central Coast of California has been devastated by the scourge of fentanyl on our streets, with some areas seeing a 700% spike in overdose deaths in recent years. We need an international and all-hands approach to curbing these overdose deaths–and it starts with cutting off the supply before it reaches our communities,” Representative Salud Carbajal said. “As one of this year’s NDAA conferees, I was proud to see the final agreement include our bipartisan measure to declare fentanyl trafficking a national security threat and enhance cooperation with Mexico to crack down on the flow of this deadly drug.”

“I am proud that the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act has been included in the final version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation is critical in empowering the Department of Defense to take steps to halt cartel trafficking. Fentanyl is killing countless Americans, and we must take steps to halt this crisis. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues in the House and Senate as we worked to ensure this legislation was included,” said Rep. Bice.

The lawmaker’s measure was added as amendment to the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act with the help of Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA). Senators Ernst and Kaine also included the measure in the Senate Armed Services Committee version of the legislation via amendment in June.

Fentanyl is a leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45, and an estimated 196 Americans are dying every single day due to fentanyl.

Of the 168 overdose deaths in Santa Barbara County in 2022, 115 were fentanyl related, compared to 75 in 2021 and 32 in 2019. In Ventura County, fentanyl-related overdose deaths have risen more than 800% in recent years – with 181 deaths in 2022 compared to 22 in 2017. In San Luis Obispo County, overdose deaths involving fentanyl climbed from 9 in 2019 to 74 in 2021.

The Department of Defense plays a crucial role in the nation’s counter-drug intelligence and monitoring operations, and these operations are meant to provide federal law enforcement with actionable intelligence to further investigations. However, a lack of interagency cooperation has hampered our government’s counter-fentanyl efforts.

Specifically, the Disrupt Fentanyl Trafficking Act of 2023 will work to strengthen these efforts by:

  • Declaring fentanyl trafficking a national security threat stemming from drug cartels and smugglers,
  • Directing the Pentagon to develop a fentanyl-specific counter-drug strategy, including enhanced cooperation with foreign nations,
  • Requiring the Secretary of Defense to increase security cooperation with the Mexican military, and
  • Addressing coordination efforts between the military and federal law enforcement agencies.

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