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Bennett Drug Proposal Seeks to Cut Use 50%

August 10, 1989|DOUGLAS JEHL | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In a marked shift in the nation's anti-drug strategy, a plan nearing approval by the Bush Administration would direct hundreds of millions of dollars to cocaine-producing nations and crack-blighted inner cities while providing no new assistance for border interception programs, officials said Wednesday.

The sweeping plan--drafted by William J. Bennett, director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, and undergoing final Administration review this week--pledges to cut drug consumption in the United States by 50% within the next decade.

The strategy would move away from the border campaigns that were the hallmark of the war on drugs under former President Ronald Reagan to step up pressure in regions responsible for both the burgeoning supply and demand for cocaine.

"Instead of concentrating in the middle of the burden, we'd prefer to concentrate on the ends," an Administration official said. "We think that's more effective."

The plan calls for more than tripling military and economic assistance for the cocaine-producing countries of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, including the assignment of U.S. advisers to train troops there in anti-drug techniques.

While the National Security Council has yet to approve the plan, officials said that the State Department and the Pentagon are believed likely to endorse the effort at White House meetings scheduled for later this week.

At home, the plan calls for more than doubling federal aid earmarked for state and local law enforcement efforts and for a 50% increase in federal support for drug treatment programs, according to a draft copy of the proposal and officials familiar with its contents.

It also embraces President Bush's previous commitment to a $600-million prison construction effort designed to increase the number of federal prison cells by as much as 85%.

In all, the strategy urges that the nation increase its anti-drug spending next year by "many hundreds of millions" of dollars beyond what Bush already had proposed, officials said.

The proposal is to be presented to Bush on Friday during meetings of the NSC and the Domestic Policy Council. After reviewing the plan during a summer vacation at his home in Kennebunkport, Me., the President will unveil the strategy to the nation during a prime-time television address Sept. 5, a deadline set by Congress.

Few Changes Expected

The current proposal is based on five months of research by Bennett and his staff. While some federal agencies have expressed reservations about parts of the Bennett proposal, knowledgeable officials said Wednesday that they expect it to survive essentially intact.

If approved by Bush and adopted by Congress, the plan would launch a federal anti-drug effort of unprecedented scope, with an overall budget of more than $6.1 billion, some $2 billion greater than 1989 outlays on anti-drug programs, officials said.

The draft copy of the Bennett plan does not propose a source of funding for the increased effort. A White House official said that the Office of Management and Budget had prepared a financing plan but declined to say what agencies might suffer cutbacks as a result.

To multiply the effect of the spending, the strategy would use federal money as a lever to force states and municipal governments to tighten laws against illegal drug users and commit more money to the anti-drug effort.

For example, as a condition of receiving federal highway money, states would be required to revoke the drivers licenses of convicted drug users and to impose a delay on the issuance of licenses to juvenile offenders. To receive federal grants and student aid, universities would be required to establish anti-drug programs on campus.

Reflects Changing View

The plan would more than double, from $150 million this year to $350 million next year, the amount of direct federal aid to state and local law enforcement. An increase of that magnitude, long opposed by the Reagan Administration, reflects the new Administration's view that the explosion of street crime caused by crack cocaine represents the most urgent drug-related problem facing the nation.

A draft of the report lists Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston and the southwest border as potential "high-intensity drug-trafficking areas" that could qualify for infusions of federal law enforcement aid. But a knowledgeable official said that no final designations will be made until early next year.

In rejecting new spending for drug interdiction along the U.S. border, the plan would delay the implementation of several programs once envisioned as playing a central role in the war on drugs, an official acknowledged. One program likely to be postponed is a U.S. Customs Service-Coast Guard proposal to line the borders with radar balloons, the official said.

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