- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

Teen drug use is down and funding for drug treatment and research is up, but "a lot remains to be done," drug czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey said yesterday during his farewell press briefing at the White House.

Chronic abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol are "the heart and soul" of almost any social, medical, legal or international problem, said Gen. McCaffrey, whom President Clinton appointed director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1996.

"There is no question that we're still looking at a U.S. society in which 6 percent of us, last month, used an illegal drug 14 million Americans, 52,000 dead a year, $110 billion in damages," he said.

Still, after concerted efforts by his office and other top Clinton administration officials, "I think the numbers are starting to respond," said Gen. McCaffrey, citing decreases in U.S. cocaine use and improvements in local and international law-enforcement strategies.

Gen. McCaffrey leaves the ONDCP today for a job at West Point teaching national security studies.

He plans to remain active in the fight against illegal drug use "I have to," he told The Washington Times as well as write a book about the issue.

Mr. Clinton praised Gen. McCaffrey's efforts, saying the latest reports show that the nation is "making real progress" on drug control.

"We must never give up on making our children's futures safe and drug-free," the president said.

Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican, also commended Gen. McCaffrey, for his "valiant attempt" to try to "repair the damage of the first four years" of Clinton administration drug policies.

"McCaffrey, given what he inherited, did the best he could, but now whoever takes over has almost an insurmountable task," said Mr. Mica, chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources.

The congressman said Mr. Clinton's first drug czar, Lee Brown, made unwise changes that brought "a flood of drugs" into the United States.

The drug situation in Colombia is now "so out of control" that it is destabilizing "the entire Central American and South American continents," said Mr. Mica. Domestically, he said, the lower use of marijuana has been "eclipsed" by increases in use of methamphetamines and "club drugs."

Gen. McCaffrey yesterday released several reports, including a new one on drug use in sports.

He cited as achievements:

• Creation of a comprehensive drug-control strategy and a new intelligence-gathering program.

• Creation of 28 "high-intensity drug trafficking area programs," which coordinate local, state and federal law-enforcement efforts.

• Anti-drug budget increases from $13.5 billion in fiscal 1996 to $19.2 billion in fiscal 2000, with more money going to prevention, treatment and research.

• Creation of some 700 drug courts.

• Creation of cooperative strategies with "key drug transit and source countries" such as Colombia, Mexico and Thailand.

Among the retired general's disappointments were the "widespread, explosive increase" in Americans' use of "club drugs" such as "ecstasy" and low recognition for the value of drug treatment.

Regarding his successor, Gen. McCaffrey said he was "very upbeat about the new team," based on his experiences with people associated with President-elect George W. Bush.

"I can't imagine that there isn't widespread unanimity of view that we need to continue working on prevention, education and treatment issues as well as multinational cooperation," he said.

Mr. Mica, however, said he was "very concerned" about the fate of the drug czar post, which he has heard may be downgraded to "less than Cabinet" status.

The new drug czar has to have access to the president and should be someone with a high profile, said Mr. Mica. Otherwise, "we're headed for an incredible disaster."


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