Vice President Mike Pence stopped by Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego on Thursday to honor the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Munro, which offloaded nearly 20 tons of cocaine seized during recent counter-narcotics operations.
“I came here today on behalf of your commander in chief and the American people to say thank you for a job well done,” Pence told the crew. “And welcome home.”
The patrol by the three cutters across large swaths of the Eastern Pacific confiscated more than 18,000 kilograms of cocaine — plus 423 kilograms of marijuana — that officials estimate is worth $569 million on the street.
Officials also released harrowing footage of a drug bust at sea that featured Munro’s crew members leaping onto a narco-sub as it tried to flee.
During his address, Pence touted President Donald J. Trump’s support for the Coast Guard, telling the crew they “have a commander in chief who will always have your back.”
It was sparked by White House demands for $5.7 billion to fund fortifications along the international border with Mexico, appropriations Capitol Hill refused to allocate.
Less than 20 miles south of Naval Air Station North Island runs a large steel wall separating California from the Mexican city of Tijuana, a barrier Trump wants to extend across much of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Pence said that the White House would continue to build a wall along the border and compared the Coast Guard’s cocaine interdiction operations to seizures of other narcotics such as heroin by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on land.
“And make no mistake about it, these two issues are linked,” Pence said. “The proceeds from cocaine sales are often used to fund opioid trafficking as well.”
Unless Congress acts this week, Coast Guard members likely won't get paid at all in January, and retirees will start missing out on benefits next month.
To help combat drug smugglers on the high seas, Pence pointed to recent and robust budgets for the Coast Guard.
“We are committed to fully funding our Coast Guard and replacing old ship with new ones, just like the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Munro,” he said. “Get ready, more help is on the way.”
Homeported in Alameda, California, the $487 million Legend-class Munro was commissioned two years ago.