A Question of Impact: Evaluating the Implementation of the Aviation Drug-Trafficking Control Act of 1984

David Clark


In the 1980s a remarkable number of agencies became involved in anti-drug efforts; however, many of these programs have been deemed ineffective. Could the Federal Aviation Administration, whose primary mission was airspace safety, and the Aviation Drug-Trafficking Control Act of 1984 produce effective results by giving the agency more power to revoke pilot licenses and aircraft registrations in instances of suspected illegal drug smuggling? This paper tackles that question by engaging in an evaluation of the act's implementation and effectiveness. Due to varying public sentiment and governmental involvement, the act underwent several modifications in the years after its original passage. The act's journey through a number of environments with different actors, perceptions, and desires saw it evolve into an important resource for law enforcement officials. Within a conflict-ambiguity framework, evaluative standards developed by political academics Daniel Mazmanian and Paul Sabatier are used to argue that the bill made a significant impact only once it reached its final formulation in the early 2000s. Each stage in the implementation process, though, provides insightful information into the nature of the policy process in the United States.


Public Policy, Implementation, Drug-Trafficking

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