All Is not Quiet on the Southern Front
The Monroe Doctrine of ensuring
The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is tasked with maintaining security throughout 45 countries and territories—every country south of the United States except Mexico, with which the United States has a cooperative relationship through the U.S. Northern Command. The
“This is not
Adm. Stavridis describes this era as “a golden time in the
Yet terrorism is a major challenge. In
And Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group that traces its origins to
Cocaine is another threat to
And above all, poverty is the common link in many of these challenges. About 40 percent of the people living in SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility live on less than $2 a day, and the terrorist and criminal activities both appeal to some poor and inhibit their economic growth.
Meeting these challenges will require more than just military activities, the admiral posits. Solutions will require working with international partners and nonmilitary
But the command also has its technology wish list. High on the admiral’s list are persistent long-dwell sensors that can help find fleeting targets moving through the region, particularly cocaine smugglers. He says the command’s current sensors, though effective, are not as effective as they need to be to combat the flow of drugs. Only about 25 percent to 30 percent of the cocaine flowing to the
For example, smugglers increasingly are using semi-submersibles to move large amounts of cocaine by sea. These vessels are not submarines, but they move low along the surface and are camouflaged to blend in with the sea. They can carry as much as 10 tons of cocaine. Their diesel propulsion systems are noisy, so acoustic sensors might help find the nearly invisible craft, Adm. Stavridis offers.
The admiral also cites the need for more effective intelligence sharing. He wants systems that can differentiate between various levels of classified information so that he can parse which information can be shared with which participant. “We need information sharing and information distribution systems that allow us to share between our own interagency partners and, most importantly, our international partners,” he emphasizes.
Better medical technology will be important for SOUTHCOM’s missions of medical diplomacy, the admiral continues. Many of the command’s humanitarian missions are repetitive and consistent, and it can use inexpensive telemedicine units that can be left in small villages so that SOUTHCOM experts can help provide long-distance diagnoses and advice.
Disaster relief is another key mission. The past month alone has seen several devastating tropical storms ravage the
Among the good trends developing in SOUTHCOM’s area of operations is a growing awareness among international partners of the need to work together on many of the transnational threats challenging the region, particularly narcotics smuggling. Adm. Stavridis cites “a consistent vision throughout the region that narcotics are the fuel of misery in this vehicle careening down the highway.” Cutting off that fuel will help solve many of the problems plaguing the region, he says.
However, many of the negative aspects are expanding their reach across traditional borders—both geopolitical and functional. Terrorist groups are operating across national lines, and many of them are joining forces with narcotics smugglers for profit. This requires greater involvement by and cooperation among multiple government agencies.
AFCEA International and the