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US Southern Command

The Commander in Chief of SOUTHCOM is responsible for all U.S. military activities on the landmasses of Central and South America, the island nations of the Caribbean, and the surrounding waters south of Mexico. The dimensions and diversity of this theater are often not well understood by US citizens. From north to south the distance is approximately 7,000 miles, and from east to west more than 3,000 miles. Brazil is larger than the continental United States; Peru is three times the size of California. There are 32 sovereign nations in this theater, each one committed to the development of social and political systems appropriate to its culture and circumstances.

SOUTHCOM is a joint command comprised of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine elements. Headquarters SOUTHCOM has approximately 850 men and women of all services and 130 civilians. It is the smallest of all the unified command staffs. The headquarters includes representatives from the Department of State, DEA, DIA, NSA, the Coast Guard, and Customs.

There is one subordinate Joint Task Forces (JTF) and one Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) within SOUTHCOM. JTF-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, operates a C-5 capable airfield and supports regional confidence building activities. Joint Interagency Task Force-East (JIATF-E) is an interagency organization designed to facilitate coordination of military counterdrug efforts in the Source and Transit Zones. (JIATF-South, which was located in Panama, merged with JIATF-East effective 1 May 1999.) JSSROC is a fusion cell for sensitive reconnaissance missions. It reports counterdrug radar and link information and provides radar control to aircraft during contingency operations. Finally, there are 26 Security Assistance Organizations (including one in Mexico, even though it is outside the command's AOR) representing SOUTHCOM on U.S. country teams throughout the region. (NOTE: SAO in Guyana established summer 1999.)

SOUTHCOM has had clearly derived advantages from a forward presence in Latin America over the years. U.S. military facilities in Panama and in Honduras have provided strategic leverage points from which SOUTHCOM supported important hemispheric goals. Until recently, our U.S. bases in Panama funneled critical support to regional counterdrug efforts, humanitarian operations, military-to-military contacts, and defense of the Panama Canal.

The challenge is to continue providing this critical support without the basing structure in Panama. To do this SOUTHCOM relocated the headquarters to Miami, Florida, where it occupies a state-of-the-art command and control facility. United States Army South, Special Operations Command South, and an Air Force element have moved to Puerto Rico. JIATF-South merged with JIATF-East in Key West, Florida, in May 1999. Additionally, SOUTHCOM retains Joint Task Force Bravo in Soto Cano, Honduras. SOUTHCOM has successfully negotiated Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) in Comalapa, El Salvador, Manta, Ecuador, and the Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Curaçao. With these locations, coupled with training deployments and joint military operations, SOUTHCOM continues to support Latin American neighbors.

The Unified Command System was created in 1947 to provide strategic direction to U.S. forces worldwide. There are nine unified commands responsible for the effective integration of naval, air, and land forces. Five of these commands have geographical areas of responsibility. According to the Goldwater-Nichols Act, these regional combatant CINCs are responsible for US military operations in geographic areas and report directly to the Secretary of Defense and to the President. They are responsible for commanding and controlling U.S. military forces in their theaters. The responsibilities of the President's personal representatives in foreign countries, U.S. ambassadors, are spelled out in the Foreign Service Act. Of particular interest to military commanders is their authority over military deployments. Ambassadors authorize military deployments in their countries after being satisfied that a contemplated military exercise or activity supports their objectives. Military commanders always command and employ the forces to accomplish assigned missions.

United States Southern Command's theater strategy is achieved though interdepartmental and interagency coordination (formal and informal lines of communication). The two major players which synchronize and coordinate these efforts within United States Southern Command's Area of Responsibility are the Department of State and the Department of Defense incorporating country Ambassadors and their respective country teams, Military Group Commanders, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Customs and the Executive Office of the President.

As with any military organization SOUTHCOM guides on the vision of its commander. SOUTHCOM's vision embraces the concept of preventive defense through constructive engagement. By promoting democracy, establishing good working relationships amongst all the countries of the region, and engendering a true respect for human rights, we believe that most conflicts can be resolved peacefully. This is the vision for SOUTHCOM, a community of nations working together for the benefit of all their peoples.

SOUTHCOM believes that military institutions have roles as positive, non-political, defense-oriented elements of their societies. They provide the State the force required to protect sovereignty from foreign and domestic enemies. Absent such legitimate armed forces operating in support of their civilian-elected leadership, the possibility of internal conflict and chaos increases.

The President's National Drug Control Strategy provides a comprehensive 10-year plan to reduce drug use and its consequences. The Strategy focuses on shrinking America's demand for drugs through treatment and prevention and attacking the supply of drugs through law enforcement and international cooperation. The principal task of the U.S. agencies involved in the counternarcotics struggle in Latin America is to reduce the amount of cocaine and heroin being illegally smuggled into the United States. The U.S. Armed Forces are not the lead U.S. agency in the fight against drugs. SOUTHCOM supports other U.S. agencies--Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice, U.S. Customs--and help our allies where appropriate. To this end, SOUTHCOM received approximately one percent of the total Federal counterdrug budget ($17.8 billion for FY2000) to support the efforts of the other U.S. agencies and host nations committed to the counterdrug cause. In addition, SOUTHCOM received approximately 25 percent of the DOD drug funds.

SOUTHCOM is integrating its assets to support the interagency and host nation countries in detecting, monitoring, and tracking drug traffickers. Due to the withdraw of U.S. forces from Panama, JIATF-S merged with JIATF-E in Key West, Florida, on 1 May 1999. This new organization will monitor the activities in both the Transit and Source zones, identifying the critical coca growing and processing areas in the Source Zone and interdicting the flow of drugs from these areas. In addition, to defeat the transshipment of drugs through the Transit Zone, they will conduct surveillance of the air and maritime routes to the United States and other countries. (Drugs coming to the U.S. from South America pass thru a 6 million square mile transit zone, roughly the size of the continental U.S., which includes the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean.)

To interdict the flow of drugs from these areas, SOUTHCOM conducts surveillance of the air and maritime routes to the United States and other countries. The information collected is handed off to the host nation for final execution of their end game strategy, which normally leads to the arrest or force down of the drug trafficker before he delivers his goods. The end game strategy is a very important part of the battle against narcotraffickers and, to date, has been fairly successful in terms of the amount of support we have been able to provide to the host nations and interagencies, as evidenced by the Good News portion of this slide.

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Page last modified: 17-08-2016 17:30:52 ZULU