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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Dempsey Discusses Combatting Transnational Organized Crime

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MIAMI, March 26, 2012 – Transnational organized crime is not specifically mentioned in the new defense strategy, but leaders understand the threat, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at U.S. Southern Command today.

One of the command's main missions is to deal with the threat posed by drug cartels, human traffickers and gunrunners -- what the command calls transnational organized crime. The command works with regional allies and with U.S. interagency partners to combat this transnational threat.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke during a Southcom town hall meeting before leaving for a visit to regional allies. Before the town hall, he met with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, Southcom’s commander, and received briefings on the range and breadth of threats and opportunities in the region.

“I want to assure you that we recognize the threat that transnational organized crime presents, not just because of what they transport to our shores, but what they could also transport -- terrorists and weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” the general said.

These crime organizations present many of the same problems that other threats in the world pose the United States. “They are networked, they are decentralized and they are syndicated,” he said.

Crime organizations are using 21st century technologies to commit their crimes. They are able to exercise command and control over a wide area and adapt quickly. Dempsey noted that the semi-submersible drug-running craft that is used as a display at Southcom headquarters is just a thing of the past to cocaine traffickers. They now use true submarines that carry a small crew, and a large cargo of cocaine.

The crime networks are decentralized, the chairman said, and will not mass against the United States because they will lose. Rather than challenge the American military directly, they’ll work in an asymmetric manner.

Finally, they are syndicated. This means they will ally themselves with other organized crime gangs, weak governments, rebel groups, or whoever suits their needs at the time.

To defeat them, the United States has to be quicker than they are, Dempsey noted. The United States must be a partner in a regional network, and the Defense Department must be a part of a network that includes all aspects of government. The military can clear an area, but if the government cannot hold it -- and bring jobs, education and health care benefits -- it will lose that area.

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