Drugs: The Largest National Security Threat for 2024

Drugs: The Largest National Security Threat for 2024
Department of Homeland Security flag at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Washington on June 28, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Antonio Graceffo
In its recently published Homeland Threat Assessment 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identifies drugs as the largest national security threat.
More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2022, and the number is increasing. Because the Biden administration has made Narcan, a drug used to save the lives of opioid overdose victims, more readily available, the number of total overdoses is considerably higher than the number of deaths. The White House estimates there were 181,000 non-fatal overdoses last year from opioids alone.
In contrast to the DHS report, the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community identifies China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Islamic extremism as the biggest threats to the United States. The same actors have been in the top five for several years and are expected to remain the top threats for 2024.

The reason for the discrepancy in the two reports lies in the differences in the mission and composition of the National Intelligence Community compared with those of the DHS.

 Seven suspected drug dealers are facing federal charges for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced narcotics that caused fatal overdoses, announced at a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., on April 22, 2022. (Carol Cassis/The Epoch Times)
Seven suspected drug dealers are facing federal charges for allegedly selling fentanyl-laced narcotics that caused fatal overdoses, announced at a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., on April 22, 2022. (Carol Cassis/The Epoch Times)
The U.S. Intelligence Community is composed of 18 organizations. This total includes two independent agencies—the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—nine Department of Defense elements (such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and intelligence agencies of the various branches of the military), and seven elements of other departments and agencies (such as the FBI, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis).
“The Intelligence Community’s mission is to collect, analyze, and deliver foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to America’s leaders so they can make sound decisions to protect our country,” according to its website.
The DHS has 80,000 officers across nine agencies and offices, focused on customs, border, immigration enforcement, emergency response to natural and manmade disasters, antiterrorism work, and cybersecurity. As a result, the DHS is more involved with securing the borders against illegal immigration and narcotrafficking, as well as law enforcement, within the United States.
From the DHS standpoint, drugs are the greatest threat because they kill more Americans in any given year than any military or foreign government. In fact, more Americans die of drugs each year than have died in any U.S. war since World War II.
The leading cause of drug overdose deaths, roughly 75 percent, is synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, most of which are smuggled into the United States through the Southern Border. Transnational criminal organizations (TCO) in Mexico, particularly the Sinaloa Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, purchase chemicals needed to make fentanyl from China.
Using human trafficking and other means, the cartels smuggle the drugs into the United States, where they are distributed by street gangs, often with ties to the cartels. The Texas Department of Public Safety reported that the Tango Blast group, a Latin gang with as many as 25,000 members, and the Mexican Mafia have direct ties to the cartels. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, major Mexican cartels, such as the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, have factions operating in Chicago and other U.S. cities.
In addition to overdoses and deaths, the DHS warns that these illicit drugs pose dangers to U.S. citizens by “supporting violent criminal enterprises, money laundering, and corruption that undermines the rule of law.” For this reason, the FBI’s Transnational Anti-Gang Task Force has established offices in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to counter street gangs that now qualify as TCOs, such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street gangs—both are considered among the most violent in the United States.
In addition to drugs entering the country through the Southern Border, the DHS has noted an increasing “number of individuals in the Terrorist Screening Data Set, also known as the ‘watchlist.’” The DHS expects terrorists to continue to attack U.S. critical infrastructure in the coming year and that the Chinese regime will continue with its espionage activities.
Growing numbers of Chinese and Russians are using the turmoil at the Southern Border to sneak into the United States. During a hearing earlier this year, Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, stressed “increasing encounters of illegal aliens connected to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the southwest border.”
In May, President Joe Biden falsely identified white supremacy as the No. 1 national security threat. The president’s statement conflicts with the annual threat assessments of the DHS and the Intelligence Community. The president’s gaffe is alarming because it was repeated throughout mainstream media and social media. Such mistakes can distract attention from real issues and real threats, leaving the nation vulnerable to attacks.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., is a China economic analyst who has spent more than 20 years in Asia. Mr. Graceffo is a graduate of the Shanghai University of Sport, holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University, and currently studies national defense at American Military University. He is the author of “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” (2019).