Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, chief of U.S. Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday the command is cutting its budget by 26 percent without the additional cuts under sequestration.
With sequestration, Kelly said Southcom could have no assigned surface assets to conduct detention and monitoring operations as part of efforts to counter the illicit drug trade in the Western Hemisphere, American Forces Press Service reports.
The cuts are “potentially allowing hundreds of tons of cocaine and other illicit products to flood into our cities,” he said written remarks, according to AFPS.
Kelly, a 33-year Marine Corps veteran, also cited China’s efforts to grow its influence in Latin America as he warned that some may perceive the U.S. reducing its own presence in the region because of the sequester.
China has made three naval deployments to Latin America since 2008 and deployed a hospital ship in 2011, Kelly said, AFPS reports.