Quote of the Day: “Drugs are the fuel in the car of misery in this part of the world.”—Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN, commander, U.S. Southern Command

February 7, 2008

WEST 2008 Online Show Daily
Day 2
By Robert K. Ackerman

Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, introduces the Wednesday luncheon audience at West 2008 to the serious challenges in his area of operation. 

While public attention has been focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and other aspects of the Global War on Terrorism, another threat has been building quietly much closer to home. Traffic in illegal drugs has been destabilizing friendly nations in the Western Hemisphere, and it may be joining forces with terrorism to pose a greater danger to democracies throughout the world.

That was the message delivered by both a speaker and a panel on the second day of West 2008, the annual conference and exposition sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), told a luncheon audience that the counterdrug struggle is an increasingly important facet of national security.

The admiral stunned his audience with statistics on the cost of illegal drug use in the United States. Aside from hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity, law enforcement and criminal activities, illegal drug use claims 20,000 lives each year. Cocaine alone accounts for half of that total; and in the six years since the September 11, 2001 attacks killed 3,000 people in the United States, the country has lost 120,000 people to drug abuse in its homeland.

A panel on the war on drugs discusses successes and challenges in that long-term endeavor. Panelists are (r to l) moderator Adm. James Loy, USCG (Ret.), former deputy secretary of homeland security; Maj. Gen. Herbert A. Altshuler, USA, director, strategy, plans and programs, U.S. Africa Command; Rear Adm. Joseph Nimmich, USCG, director, Interagency Task Force South; Special Agent Michael A. Braun, assistant administrator, chief of operations, Drug Enforcement Administration; and Bob Knotts, deputy chief, J3 Joint Operations Division, U.S. Southern Command. 
Drug trafficking is entering the world of terrorism. Some terrorist movements in South America already have been linked to narcoterrorism, and al Qaida has begun using drug trafficking to fund some of its operations. Terrorists increasingly are trending toward narcoterrorism, he said.

And the drug traffickers are becoming more sophisticated and innovative. They have been employing semi-submersible watercraft that can carry up to 5 tons of cocaine. These vessels and their two-man crews can sprint at speeds of up to 15 knots. Several have been caught in the past year, he noted, and the traffickers continue to improve them.

To help in its drug interdiction efforts, SOUTHCOM will need full-spectrum awareness, particularly maritime domain awareness; distributed, networked wireless sensors; long-dwell unmanned sensors; and an improved version of relocatable over-the-horizon radar. It also may be able to use an effective version of airborne laser mine detection technology to pick up semi-submersibles, as well as surface-towed torpedo technology to find fast boats used by smugglers.

And, SOUTHCOM is “very into rivers,” Adm. Stavridis offered. The m-hull Stiletto, built by the Office of Force Transformation (SIGNAL Magazine, March 2006), will be employed to help conduct counternarcotic operations. 

Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson, USN, commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), describes the scope of his command’s mission to a West 2008 breakfast audience.
Riverine operations are a key element of the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Its commander, Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson, USN, told a Wednesday breakfast audience how NECC’s battlespace starts at blue water, goes through green water to brown water, and even can include dirt. NECC forces are located all over the world in every U.S. combatant command area of responsibility conducting a wide range of missions, he said.

Roughly 90 percent of the world’s commerce travels through sea lanes, he observed. Many of these are coastal waterways; and to cover them all, the Navy must engage and partner with others, the admiral stated.

Many enemy naval forces look like the Coast Guard or are even smaller, he noted. The NECC has a significant presence in the Central Command’s area of responsibility, and it has “a lot going on in Africa,” including two vessels in the Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea. Many activities are taking place in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.

A panel of experts discusses how to fix shipbuilding. Panelists are (l to r) Mike Petters, president, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding; Robert Work, vice president, strategic studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; Vice Adm. Terrance T. Etnyre, USN, commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and moderator Dr. Scott C. Truver, executive advisor, national security programs, Gryphon Technologies LC. 
—Scheduled for Thursday at West 2008: Speeches by Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Lt. Gen. John M. McDuffie, USA (Ret.), vice president, U.S. Public Sector, Microsoft; along with a panel discussion on fighting and winning a cyberwar.

Full coverage of West 2008 can be read in the April 2008 issue of SIGNAL Magazine.