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Admiral Kurt Tidd, Commander, U.S. Southern Command April 06, 2017

Department of Defense Briefing by Admiral Tidd in the Pentagon Briefing Room


ADMIRAL KURT TIDD: Well, good afternoon, everybody. It's a pleasure to join you once again. And I just want to be on the record as saying this, I always look forward to these briefings with you.

So this morning, I joined General Lori Robinson to update the Senate Armed Services Committee on our respective efforts to defend the homeland. Since I last spoke to the committee, SOUTHCOM has had a very eventful year. We're working closely with our partners across the United States government and the region to address threat networks. These threat networks undermine regional stability and security.

At SOUTHCOM, we've made countering those threat networks our number one focus area and we've redoubled our cooperation with interagency and international partners to detect criminals or extremists. We're examining new capabilities and technologies to help law enforcement target their predatory and menacing activities in the places and in the spaces where those networks are present.

Our second focus area, rapidly responding to crises or to contingencies, was tested by Hurricane Matthew in October, and more recently by the floods in Peru. And I believe you're aware today was the first flights provided by a pair of our C-130s flying out of Peru to help provide humanitarian supplies from Lima up to the hardest-hit areas in northern Peru.

Today is also the day that a Navy P-8 aircraft deployed from Jacksonville, Florida down to Uruguay to join an international effort in search of the Republic of Korea vessel, the Stellar Daisy.

Our third focus area, to be partner of choice in this region, reflects the importance that we place on security cooperation. It reflects the importance that we place on building trust and on developing strong ties with equal and respected partners who share our desire for a safe hemisphere, and our commitment to working collaboratively towards a common goal.

We look to the future, and as we look to the future, we will continue to explore new and creative ideas to deepen our dialogue with partners and to learn from their expertise, from their experiences, and to gain their perspectives. We want this future to reflect the strength of our relationships with defense and security partners because that's the best approach for our command, for our country and for this important region.

So what I'd like to do now is yield the rest of the time available, and I look forward to addressing your questions.

Dina? Lita? I'm sorry. Lita.

Q: Admiral, first, thank you. And if you could pass along how much you enjoy these to your other compatriots, we'd appreciate that. (Laughter.)

I wanted to just follow up on some of your comments that you made to the AP earlier, and that you talked about this morning on ISIS. You talked about the threat on Trinidad-Tobago. Have you seen any movement back into the region? You talked about movement out. Have you seen any movement back in to the region?

And can you just discuss efforts of collecting intel in that area, with your already constrained resources? How -- how does that look for you?

ADM. TIDD: So, I know you'll appreciate, we won't discuss the way that we gather information and certainly any of the operations that we engage in from the podium. We are watching closely, and that is one of the risks that we are all mindful of, particularly as -- as the coalition forces are enjoying greater and greater success in Iraq and Afghanistan, is to look for that back-flow of ISIS individuals back to their home nations all around the world.

So we're watching for it closely. The greater danger, frankly, is self-radicalization from this message from ISIS that is being transmitted back to -- across this region. And as, you know, as we've all seen, from the attacks that occurred in Europe to -- or the attacks that occurred here in the United States in San Bernardino and in Orlando, it's that self-radicalization that poses a very worrisome threat.

My counterparts across the region, we've had these discussions at our various security conferences. And all recognize that radicalization is a phenomena that can occur in any of their countries.

Q: Just as a follow-up, have you seen this move to any other of the -- of the islands in the region? And which ones (inaudible)?

ADM. TIDD: I would say, the answer is yes we have to a number of them, and I'd prefer not to discuss the specific ones in this forum.

Q: If I could ask you about Venezuela and the political instability there. How concerned are you about that? And how is that affecting your AOR generally?

ADM. TIDD: Well, the entire region obviously is watching very closely. You've seen from the recent activities by the Organization of American States, the degree of interest that's been expressed. The other, I think, challenge that we have obviously is we watch as the economic situation continues to grow worse and worse and worse. And so, it is -- it's an item that I think worries the entire region.

The other challenge that we have, obviously, and you all are very, very aware -- anytime I open my mouth and utter the word "Venezuela," tomorrow morning there will be stories in the Caracas newspapers that will talk about how I'm planning the invasion of Venezuela. That is not true.

Q: The level of concern that you have, you specifically?

ADM. TIDD: Just that we watch it closely because it's -- it is of concern to the entire region.

Q: Can I follow up on that? You said this morning in your testimony that the deteriorating situation in Venezuela may necessitate a regional response. What do you mean by that?

ADM. TIDD: I -- that -- I would leave that to -- again, that's -- this is the activities that the OAS, the discussions, the diplomatic activities that they're engaged in. Diplomatic activities that the OAS are engaged in.

Q: Just a quick question on counter narcotics. A couple weeks ago it seems there was a large seizure of cocaine coming from some of the -- some of the organizations in Colombia on route to Eastern Europe moving through trafficking lines through western and northern Africa. It seems that there has been an uptick in that sort of movement into European markets from organizations in Colombia and elsewhere.

One Colombian official mentioned that there is cooperation between SOUTHCOM, his government, and other regional governments to sort of track what it moving from your AOR into Europe and vice versa. Can you comment on that at all as far as what sort of activities you've seen?

ADM. TIDD: I know some of you have had the opportunity to go to Key West, Florida to visit our Joint Interagency Taskforce South and -- and it's at that headquarters that frankly is made up of the full interagency. It's -- it's a joint taskforce that is under SOUTHCOM command but there's -- it's a Coast Guard two star, a Navy one star, a senior FBI officer, a senior customs and border protection officer as the senior leadership.

But literally all federal law enforcement agencies, intelligence community, diplomatic as well as multinational -- we've got both military and law enforcement from not just Central America, South America, Latin America but we have partners now from Europe as well as from -- from Australia. So we recognize these networks, these threat networks that I spoke about are global in nature.

And they connect and so Joint Interagency Taskforce South has been working very closely with counterparts over in Europe and in Africa to try to build greater awareness and understanding of where those networks operate and then to share the information that we are able to develop with the appropriate agencies whether it's law enforcement agencies or governments that have the authority to be able to disrupt those activities.

Q: Follow-up outside of narcotics, though, is there any concern that men, material, messaging moving through Northern and Western Africa back into your AOR can play into this sort of self- radicalization threat that you've been talking about?

ADM. TIDD: You know, one of the reasons why we have shifted our focus from just looking at one of a number of illicit commodities in the case of drugs to a counter-threat network approach, it lets us look more strategically at the networks writ large. And it's in doing that that we've been able to recognize there are networks that are engaged in smuggling people that are moving from the Middle East and Africa into South America and up through Central America and heading towards our border.

So understanding what those flows are, how those flows operate and again, sharing that information with partner nations so that they can take advantage of opportunities to -- if nothing else, to be able to send them home.

Q: And one last question on Peace Colombia, sorry. Really quickly.

ADM. TIDD: It's your colleagues that are the ones that are going to be upset, not me.

Q: Really quickly, it's -- from my understanding, it's a three to five year program to build upon the peace deal that's being reached with the FARC. Where does that stand, what kind of efforts are your organization making towards kind of getting that off the ground?

ADM. TIDD: Early days, obviously. I mean, you know, the critical element of signing the peace deal that the government (inaudible) FARC secured is the first step. And so now it's the implementation of the peace deal that we're -- there's going to be significant hard work ahead. We will continue to stand with our partners, the men and women who make up the Colombian armed forces and the national police who will be engaged in the difficult business of ensuring that that peace extends to all the people of Colombia as they -- the government gets into parts of the country that they've not had -- had a presence in for many, many years.

Q: Admiral, you spoke to this somewhat this morning, the Coast Guard budget. Originally there was a proposal for a major cut. General Kelly said last week, perhaps earlier, that probably that would not happen. But there it is up in the air, Coast Guard budget. It's in flux. What are the implications for SOUTHCOM of a significant cut of Coast Guard budget and particularly in terms of your efforts at interdicting drug running?

ADM. TIDD: So I'm not going to comment on any department or agency's budget at this point. But what I will say, and as I said this morning, the Coast Guard plays an absolutely critical role in U.S. SOUTHCOM's ability to execute the missions that we've been assigned. So as I -- as I mentioned, because the Navy -- the U.S. Navy has been tasked to meet demand signals, higher priority demand signals in other parts of the world, the U.S. Coast Guard is shouldering the -- the burden there.

And the Coast Guard has doubled the number of cutters that they provide to SOUTHCOM over the last year, for which we are enormously appreciative and I can't think the commandant enough for -- for meeting that particular need. So we would -- we would be very, very challenged to be able to execute that piece of the mission without the Coast Guard.

Q: How many cutters do you have now?

ADM. TIDD: Right now, on average, going and coming probably six to seven large cutters, the medium endurance or high endurance cutters. In the back.

Q: Gordon Lubold from the Wall Street Journal.

I have a Gitmo question. As the steward of the infrastructure and the facility there, as I understand it, can you give us -- kind of update us on your assessment of it, the physical infrastructure and if the president who has signaled that he would like to fill it up, if that kind of continues, like how -- what position is the facility in, in terms of absorbing more and what improvements would that be (inaudible)?

ADM. TIDD: The detention facilities are state of the art, frankly and are in good condition. What became clear was -- and it was obvious to me when I went through there right after Hurricane Matthew brushed by eastern Cuba, that the accommodations -- the temporary accommodations for this temporary mission where the men and women who are charged with guarding the detainees were -- the deteriorated shape that they were in and just recognizing that they were not designed to withstand hurricane force winds and frankly are long past their -- their -- the date that we expected that we would be using them.

And so we have -- the time has come for us now I think to -- to provide barracks -- adequate barracks facilities for the men and women who are charged with that mission. And so that's what we're focusing on right now, is given that this mission is -- is continuing, we think it's time that we make the investments that frankly we've -- for 15 years now we basically have avoided making.

Q: Can you characterize roughly what kind of a financial (inaudible)...

ADM. TIDD: ...Not right now because it's -- it's in a budget that is -- that has not yet been submitted. Right now we've -- there's a small amount of money in the FY '17 supplemental request for the planning and so as we get that planning figure, we'll have a better sense but basically it's to provide adequate barracks and some of the other support infrastructure for the joint task force that's engaged in the mission.

Q: One final thing. Would you need more personnel do you think? Or do you see more personnel need?

ADM. TIDD: You know, it -- it -- it -- I -- I -- that's kind of a -- it's a little bit speculative at this point because right now, we have the -- the people that we need for the size of the population that we're charged with I guess guarding. So...

Q: Hi, Admiral Tidd. (Inaudible) Defense One.

I would ask about the executive order with one of -- one of them that the president signed back in February, creating a working ground to study the threat from transnational organizations.

I know their report isn't due out, say, for another month or so, or a little more. But do you have a sense of the progress? Have you interacted at all with them?

ADM. TIDD: No, and -- and that -- you know, the -- the work on that, I'm familiar that the -- that there is a study going on. We're not part of that study. We're kind of at the -- you know, at the -- at the -- the operational level. So, we look forward to -- to reading what comes out of this study.

Q: Are there anything specific that you would like to -- that you would like to have come out of it?

ADM. TIDD: I -- you know, I think that I'll -- I'll just let the -- the people engaged in the study have a -- a free feel to be able to -- to -- to work that one. But, thanks.

Q: Carla Babb, VOA. Good to see you, again.

Going back to Lita's...

ADM. TIDD: OK, I just have to acknowledge Tar Heel and excellent job. So, we got that behind us. We don't have to say anything more about the -- about the Final Four.

Right? We're good?

Q: Oh, never.

ADM. TIDD: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. TIDD: All right, thanks.

Q: But going back to Lita's question on extremist groups in the area, can you give us a little more understanding into the size of this threat? You said a number of countries in the region. Can you get more specific on the number of countries we're looking at and the size of some of these cells?

ADM. TIDD: Yeah, I -- I -- I would prefer not. At this point, right now, that's one of the things that we're trying to do is gain better insight and understand in -- in terms of the size.

So, right now, I think what's important is to recognize they're there, whereas in the past, I think there was a -- we just -- we were not aware that -- that they were there. But as we look, as we determine, as we talk to our partners, we begin to gain a greater understanding.

So, the important work is we're at the front-end of that important work of trying to understand. And of -- and of course in terms of size, it does not compare at all with the size of cells in other parts of the world that we have much greater understanding of. But we've been watching those and looking at those for a much longer period of time.

That's what we're asking to do is -- is -- is what we want to be able to is -- is have greater understanding and -- and to work this problem. So, you know, I think we'll -- we'll -- we will get to the point where we got that understanding and be able to share with -- with our leadership.

Q: Can you give us a little ballpark? Or are you looking at five countries? Are you looking at a dozen countries?

ADM. TIDD: Let me just say right now there are a number of countries that we're looking at. It's -- it -- and -- and it's -- and it -- it -- part of this is a matter of -- as you begin to look, it -- it just takes time to -- to develop this understanding.

So, over here?

Q: (Inaudible), sir. Thank you for doing this.

Can -- can you talk about any trends that you've been seeing with this problem?

I mean, it's something that you identified last summer. Your predecessor talked about it as well. Are you seeing it increase, decrease, that kind of thing?

And also, you talked about how it's self-radicalization and people perhaps returning home, having try -- tried to get into the warzone. Do you see any indication that ISIS headquarters is actually deploying people either from there originally or not?

ADM. TIDD: Well, I -- you know, you've -- you've read the articles that -- in -- in Dabiq that basically directs people now, stop trying to come to the -- to the -- to the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, stay home and conduct attacks there. So, I -- I would -- I mean, I would call that operational direction to -- to individuals who might be radicalized.

In terms of trends, you know, two years ago, what we were looking at were people who were trying to leave and actually go and engaged in the -- in the ongoing fight. That flow globally -- that -- that -- that flow I think you've heard some other leaders have talked about has -- had declined dramatically. And so, now, it's the what's next and the -- the being prepared for what's next, and trying to -- to look beyond.

And so, it's the understanding of there may be some who try to go, didn't make it far, came back home again. They've obviously expressed a -- a clear intent. And so, they are troubling.

And so, part of it, the -- the challenge is to work with our partners and -- and to help them develop their capability to be able to -- to identify those individuals and then to be able to keep track of them because it's a very difficult challenge.

Q: And then separately, sir, I've heard quite a bit of concern about a sense under this new administration of emphasizing limited resources both financially and practically, more on, sort of, building walls metaphorically and actually, and less on actually going forward in addressing these threats before they get to the U.S. border. I wonder if that's a trend that you've observed as well, in the few beats under this new administration? And could you talk about the importance of that difference?

ADM. TIDD: Yeah, I think I would -- I would kind of challenge the -- the -- the premise a little bit. The role of all of the geographic combat and -- combat and commanders is to -- to work within the areas that we're responsible for to extend the defense of the United States.

I mean, the -- the -- the goal has always been -- you know, we never want to fight a home game. We -- we're -- we're always interested in is trying to deal with security challenges as far away from home as possible. And so, that -- I mean, that really is the role of the geographic combat and commanders is to -- to provide the means to be able to do that.

One down here, and then I'll...

Q: Can you speak to the challenges and your AO of continuing to operate under a -- a continuing resolution? Any specifics on what -- you know, what SOUTHCOM looks like, what the intended funding of the...

ADM. TIDD: Let me describe it this way. You know, in the prioritization for resources, SOUTHCOM is -- is -- has -- has always been at the -- at the -- at the end of the line. Because of the nature of the threats in other parts of the world, we understand that. And so, our -- our challenge is to do the very best we can with the resources that are available.

A continuing resolution, you -- you know, you heard the service chiefs all talk yesterday at -- at great lengths about the impact that it would have on them. We depend on the services to provide forces. We have no assigned forces in -- in U.S. Southern Command.

And so, anything that makes it more difficult for them to allocate forces anywhere, but especially to -- to U.S. SOUTHCOM, is -- is -- is going to have a negative impact on us. So, that's why the -- the -- the ability to have a budget, to provide the predictability for the services so that they can begin to plan to meet some of the unmet demands of the various combat and commands is -- is critically important.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on like -- I don't know, without that -- what are the first missions, you know, to -- to really be degraded....

(CROSSTALK)

ADM. TIDD: A -- a -- a million, but I probably won't discuss em here. So, thank you.

Q: Just -- just going back to some of the influence that you're seeing from the extremist groups, your -- your area, your predecessors have testified before Congress before that there has been a presence of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah in -- in Central and South American. But mostly for -- for fundraising purposes.

Now, the groups that you're talking about -- the presence you're talking about now, does that fall along the same line? Or are we looking at something different where it's more of an operational-type kind (inaudible) cells that you're tracking or looking at?

ADM. TIDD: Sure, I think when -- when -- when my predecessors talked about the Hezbollah being very, very active -- as you well know, they've been here for decades in -- in this -- in this theater. They have in fact been -- were responsible for the two attacks that occurred in Argentina a couple of decades ago.

What I'm talking about now are ISIS or ISIS-inspired, ISIS- affiliated but extremist Islamist individuals that follow that -- the Sunni (inaudible).

So, that's the -- the group that I'm talking about that's new. And what's worrisome is that the direction to them is for them to conduct attacks. They've not yet and so it's obviously -- all of our responsibilities working again in very close cooperation with our U.S. partners, but more importantly with our international partners in the region, to share that information that we have so that they can take the opportunity to take action before they're able to conduct an attack.

Q: (inaudible) fundraisers there. They're actually looking (inaudible).

ADM. TIDD: We know that there was some fundraisers that supported some of the foreign fighters that traveled over. Some of that has happened, but what's of concern now are individuals who may in fact be radicalized to the point of conducting attacks. That's the -- that's the danger.

Q: Just to follow up on that, and how -- is there, as far as you're able to tell, constant communication with them and Raqqah? Or did they sort of -- was it fire-and-forget? And what is the sophistication level of the cells and their technical expertise? Are you looking at simple chemical weapons attacks from them? Or are they bomb-makers?

ADM. TIDD: And again, you know, you're asking me to get into some of the details that I think is premature to discuss. At this point, I think it's -- we're looking at aspirational efforts and no specifics on any of the means that would be employed.

Right now, we're trying -- what we're trying to do is identify the individuals themselves so that the countries can begin to try to pay attention to them and see what else they might be up to.

OK?

Q: OK. Thanks for taking my question. I'm Kanwal Adibi from Metro One News.

My first question is on January 27th, President Trump signed an executive order on military readiness to include new ships, planes and weapons. So what are your plans for your region?

Secondly, has secretary of defense carried out the 30-day review on military readiness and one on ISIS. A lot of females are joining ISIS, and they call themselves "jihadi brides," and they are being recruited like through internet. So what are your counter- strategies on it?

And...

ADM. TIDD: Can I answer a couple of those first, because my memory is not that good. So -- so -- obviously, the services are the ones who are charged with developing the forces. We put in a request for forces. And the way the -- the process then works is there's an allocation of forces and we get -- we get some portion of what we have asked for.

And so we will -- we will be in the receive mode for any additional forces that the services are able to generate. And with regard to readiness, we, you know, we, too, obviously, are -- are interested in what will come out of -- out of that report because readiness is a key to being able to provide forces to meet the request from the component -- or from the combatant commands.

Now, with regard to female jihadists, we know in the case of, and has already been reported, of some of the individuals who left Trinidad-Tobago, they left as whole families. And so -- and we know that some of the children of those families have been on film engaged in terrorist acts and have some pretty -- as the individuals committing murders in Syria.

So -- so we know that that radicalization is taking place. Now, I -- the scope if it beyond that remains to be seen. But I think, again, we all have to be very mindful as we watch the various other self-radicalized events that have occurred in other countries around the world, including our own, that this is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to one gender. It is -- it -- it has a way of being found in -- in men and women.

Q: OK. Thank you.

ADM. TIDD: One more question, and then...

Q: OK.

ADM. TIDD: I think I'm not supposed to do five parts. That was the one rule that I remember from my training. But...

Q: The current figure of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and a quick question, son-in-law Jared Kushner just recently went to Iraq. So is there any readout of them of his meeting with U.S. ambassador there?

ADM. TIDD: You know, I apologize. My responsibilities are for Latin America. So Central America, South America and the Caribbean, so I'd have to have you talk to some other folks about that one.

(CROSSTALK)

Q: A year ago, the Air Force started coordinating with Southern Command on their training flights from B-1s, B-52s, to other flights in the Gulf, to coordinate with in interdiction of drug trafficking. How often has that been happening? Has that shown to be very effective?

ADM. TIDD: Periodically, and we -- you know, we work with the Air Force to try to -- to put together a package. And actually, it's our 12th Air Force -- our Air Component Command out in Tucson that is -- has been very, very successful in working with the larger Air Force to coordinate packages of reconnaissance aircraft and aircraft that are capable of -- of doing the -- you know, we talk about the detect, illuminate and disrupt piece. So a package of different types of aircrafts that may be available, generate them in a -- in a coordinated sortie over a period of a number of days. And so, we've been able to do that a couple of times now. We're always -- we're looking for ways that we might be able to continue those sorts of training opportunities because the Air Force gets training benefit in conducting those types of activities. The coordination that's required is beneficial for the training. The ability to identify very difficult to detect targets out at sea, and then be able to conduct intercepts on those -- on those vessels is all very, very helpful.

The biggest challenge that we have, and you're right -- occasionally, a low-pass from a B-1 bomber can have a clarifying effect in the mind of a potential smuggler. But for the most part, the finish piece needs to be an interception platform that can put a boarding team on board of individuals with law enforcement credentials, that can -- can conduct an arrest so that we are able to -- to take those -- those individuals and take them into our court system and be able to gain information from them that helps us further clarify and understand what the network is up to.

So, it's -- it's important pieces, but it's not the entire chain that we require in order to be able to get from detect to illuminate to disrupt.

Q: Yes, Admiral, what are the -- what would be the effects for SOUTHCOM of the border wall if and when it happens, if it ever gets funded -- wall, system of sensors, whatever it's going to be? What does this -- what are the pluses and minuses for SOUTHCOM as you see it? Do you coordinate with General Robinson on how you're going to be deal with this thing?

ADM. TIDD: So, you know, I should let her talk to, you know, the actual physics of the land border because that's her -- her area of responsibility. The piece that we focus on, obviously, and we try to, you know, remind folks there is a maritime border as well through the Caribbean. And so we need to make sure that we have the means in place to be able to detect movement of, you know, in the vicinity of all of these borders and to be able to apply technology and the -- and the means to be able to deter individuals from coming to the United States.

I mean -- those of you will recall that for the movement of drugs, initially the main path for the movement of drugs was through the Caribbean, up the Caribbean Island chain and into Southern Florida.

Enormous effort was put in place to -- to choke that down and that squeezed it over into Central America and -- and moving up through the Isthmus.

Efforts have been put in place in the -- in the Caribbean and now the majority of the -- of the cocaine movement coming out of -- out of South America goes well out to see in the Eastern Pacific and then comes north and makes landfall in Mexico, Guatemala and sometimes further to east, in that vicinity.

So -- so this is one of those -- the -- when we talk about taking a network approach, we've got to have the means to be able to apply pressure across the length and the breadth of these -- of these networks. Otherwise, you squeeze in one place and that balloon effect; it just pops out in -- in a different area.

So it'll take a -- a holistic approach, it will take the efforts of Department of Homeland Security, obviously U.S. Northern Command, but also our partners in U.S. Pacific Command, because that's part of the -- of the area that some of these networks run through, SOUTHCOM obviously plays a role and that -- we will continue to work with others.

Q: Do you see the wall as a plus?

ADM. TIDD: I'm not going to, you know, comment on the -- on how the wall will play out.

My job is to make sure that I work as far away from the land borders of the United States as we possibly can.

Q: Well, then can you talk to -- I believe you've expressed this in the past, the need for SOUTHCOM to become more involved with -- particularly the countries in Central America, Honduras, Guatemala...

ADM. TIDD: Right.

Q: ...improving the situations there so that you don't have the flow.

ADM. TIDD: And that's -- you know that is a -- is a program that SOUTHCOM partners with primarily with U.S. Department of State, USAID, in order to work at the -- the developmental issues and the -- and the governance issues to help those countries as they attempt to extend governance across their country so that security is established.

They've got some very -- very -- very difficult challenges. My -- my predecessor and the current Secretary of Homeland Security has commented on that at some length.

But we recognize that dealing with the security -- or the insecurity problems in Central America will be a key component in reducing the push factors that cause people to flow north.

Q: I think I remember reading an article relatively recently about U.S. Army looking to put their maybe QSATS and possibly dispatching them to SOUTHCOM to help meet ISR needs there or maybe exploring using commercial companies who already have them deployed. Can you talk a little bit about...

ADM. TIDD: Sure. One of things that we also attempt to do is advertise ourselves as a -- a -- very much interested in new technologies and, you know, the motto, try it here first.

So we've been working very closely with a number of our partners in the services and in the -- in the intelligence community to be able to look at -- at how can we take advantage of some of these new technologies that are out there.

The -- the small satellites that you've talked about to give us better situational awareness on a broader scale are one of the mechanisms.

Using publicly available information -- I will give you an example of a particularly useful instance. In the response to Hurricane Matthew, we had a very difficult time having a good understanding of the extent of the damage in the immediate passage of the -- of the hurricane as it passed the -- the Southwest corner of Haiti.

And so trying to understand, what would be the most important, unique military capabilities that we might be able to offer to help deal with the immediate aftermath of the crisis. So taking advantage of some of this publicly available imagery that -- be able to see just exactly where were the areas that looked like there might be a problem and then laying over that images that were generated from individuals taking pictures of washed out bridges, you know, that were geo-tagged to a particular area.

Being able to build out a picture and see, you know, from both an overhead and from a ground-based level where the real immediate demands and then understanding you know that that was along one of the major thoroughfares to be able to move humanitarian supplies from storehouses up in Port-au-Prince out to the hardest hit areas at the southwest tip. Having that information available immediately allowed us when the basically the day after the hurricane passed, we had already begun moving helicopters from our -- our Joint Taskforce Bravo in Honduras.

Army helicopters as well as Marine helicopters from the seasonal special purpose MAGTF that was there, move them to the Port-au-Prince right away. By the time they landed and got themselves organized and ready to go, we already had a pretty good idea of where we were going to need to deliver humanitarian supplies, where we were going to have to supply the Haitian national police force that was providing some of the initial security, so we were able to move much more quickly than if we waited on getting the helicopters there, sending the helicopters out on traditional road reconnaissance flights that you would do, and then come back and figure out how you would execute the mission.

We already had a kind of a leg-up on the problem. So, you know, try it here first. I mean we're -- we're very much interested in trying to leverage some of these new capabilities, new ideas and as I said previously, the commitment that I provided is we will -- we will in turn provide a meaningful operational environment and meaningful feedback on how some of these capabilities work, what's the pros, what's the cons, and at the same time, you know, my commitment as a commander is that I'm going to do everything I can to eliminate the bureaucratic impediments to being able to bring it down and operate it in its theater.

Because we gain something out of it and hopefully the person who's developing this new capability will too. OK. All right? Over to you. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time today, I know it's a busy day, lots going on that is not part of Latin America but thanks very much for the time that you spend looking out to what goes on in SOUTHCOM, we appreciate it. Thanks.

 

https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1144531/



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