Sunday, March 30, 2014

Puerto Rico Economy Shrinks 3.8% in First 8 Months of Fiscal Year | Cocaine trafficking remains the predominant security challenge throughout the entire region

Puerto Rico Economy Shrinks 3.8% in First 8 Months of Fiscal Year

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Puerto Rico’s economy continued to contract in the first eight months of the current fiscal year (July 2013-February 2014), shrinking 3.8 percent relative to the same period of the previous 12-month accounting cycle, the island’s Government Development Bank (GDBPR) said.

House Armed Services Committee Hearing
Insurance News Net (press release)
 - ‎Feb 28, 2014‎
Once cocaine successfully reaches Puerto Rico , it has reached the U.S. homeland; most of the cocaine arriving in Puerto Rico is successfully transported into the continental United States. According to the DEA, traffickers are also ... The FBI has ...

Cocaine trafficking remains the predominant security challenge throughout the entire region, and I am growing increasingly concerned by the situation in theCaribbean. Due in part to counterdrug asset reductions, some old routes appear to be reviving, including ones that lead directly into Florida. In 2013, U.S.-bound cocaine flow through the Caribbean corridor increased to 14% of the overall estimated flow; this number is likely higher and will continue to grow, but we lack a clear picture of cocaine flow due to asset shortfalls. The discovery of cocaine processing lab equipment in the Dominican Republicsuggests criminal organizations may be seeking to broaden production in theCaribbean. This may be an indication of an emerging trend, similar to what we saw in Central America in 2012. Additionally, the Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to the violence and insecurity that often comes with illicit trafficking and organized crime. As trafficking from the Dominican Republic into Puerto Ricohas increased, so too have violence, crime, and corruption. Once cocaine successfully reaches Puerto Rico, it has reached the U.S. homeland; most of the cocaine arriving in Puerto Rico is successfully transported into the continental United States. According to the DEA, traffickers are also transporting Colombian heroin, often via Venezuela, to Puerto Rico for onward shipment to Miami, New York, and Houston. 



26 FEBRUARY 2014


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House Armed Services Committee Hearing

Insurance News Net (press release) - ‎Feb 28, 2014‎
Once cocaine successfully reaches Puerto Rico , it has reached the U.S. homeland; most of the cocaine arriving in Puerto Rico is successfully transported into the continental United States . According to the DEA, traffickers are also ... The FBI has ...

House Armed Services Committee Hearing - Top News

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Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith, and distinguished Members of the Committee: I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss U.S. Southern Command's efforts in , , and the .
Mr. Chairman, Members, even our significantly reduced engagement continues to yield dividends in a region of increasing importance to our national interests. While other global concerns dominate the headlines, we should not lose sight of either the challenges or opportunities closer to home. In terms of geographic proximity, trade, culture, immigration, and the environment, no other part of the world has greater impact on daily life in our country than and the .
During my first year in command, I established four priorities for U.S. Southern Command--continuing humane and dignified detention operations at , countering transnational organized crime, building partner capacity, and planning for contingencies--all of which I look forward to discussing with you today. I thank the for recognizing U.S. Southern Command's vital role in defending our southern approaches and building enduring partnerships with the . I remain concerned, however, by the impact of budget cuts on our ability to support national security interests and contribute to regional security.
Over the next ten years, the Services are reducing deployments of personnel, ships, and aircraft in the context of tightening fiscal constraints. As an economy of force Combatant Command, these reductions have a disproportionately large impact on our operations, exercises, and engagement activities. Insufficient maritime surface vessels and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms impair our primary mission to detect threats and defend the southern approaches to the U.S. homeland. Similarly, reductions in force allocation severely limit our security cooperation activities, the primary way we engage with and influence the region. Sequestration only exacerbated these challenges, and while its near-term effects may have been mitigated, this reprieve is temporary. As the lowest priority Geographic Combatant Command, U.S. Southern Command will likely receive little, if any, "trickle down" of restored funding. Ultimately, the cumulative impact of our reduced engagement will be measured in terms of U.S. influence, leadership, and relationships in the Western Hemisphere. Severe budget constraints have serious implications for all three, at a time in which regional security issues warrant greater attention.
Overview of Regional Security Issues
Transnational Organized Crime. Mr. Chairman, Members, transnational organized crime is a national security concern for three primary reasons. First, the spread of criminal networks is having a corrosive effect on the integrity of democratic institutions and the stability of several of our partner nations. Transnational criminal organizations threaten citizen security, undermine basic human rights, cripple rule of law through corruption, erode good governance, and hinder economic development. n1 Second, illicit trafficking poses a direct threat to our nation's public health, safety, and border security. Criminal elements make use of the multitude of illicit pathways in our hemisphere to smuggle drugs, contraband, and even humans directly into . Illegal drugs are an epidemic in our country, wasting lives and fueling violence between rival gangs in most of our nation's cities. The third concern is a potential one, and highlights the vulnerability to our homeland rather than an imminent threat: that terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even quite easily bring weapons of mass destruction into . I would like to briefly talk about each concern in greater detail to underscore the magnitude of the threat posed by transnational organized crime.
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Destabilizing Effects in the Region. The unprecedented expansion of criminal networks and violent gangs is impacting citizen security and stability in the region. Skyrocketing criminal violence exacerbates existing challenges like weak governance; as a report recently noted, despite improvements, remains the most unequal and insecure region in the world. n2 In some countries, homicides are approaching crisis levels. High levels of violence are driving Central American citizens to seek refuge in other countries, including . Driven by economic pressures and rising criminal violence, the number of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans attempting to cross the U.S. Southwest border increased 60 percent in 2013. n3
This challenge, however, extends far beyond a threat to public safety; some areas of are under the direct influence of drug trafficking organizations. These groups use their illegally gained wealth to buy off border agents, judges, police officers, and even entire villages. This criminal power and the enormous flow of crime-generated profits are serious threats to the stability of democratic institutions, rule of law, and the international financial system. Corruption also poses an indirect threat to U.S. national security interests, as corrupt government officials in the region can be bribed to procure official documents such as visas or citizenship papers and facilitate travel of special interest aliens. In my view, this vulnerability could be exploited by any number of actors seeking to do us harm.
Illicit Trafficking to . The U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility is the distribution hub for drug trafficking destined for . The majority of heroin sold in comes from either or , and we are seeing a significant increase in heroin-related overdoses and deaths in our country. n4 Additionally, opium poppy production now appears to be increasing in . Thousands of tons of precursor chemicals are trafficked into our hemisphere from , aiding Mexican-based drug cartels that are extending production of U.S.-bound methamphetamine into , , and potentially other Central American countries. With an estimated in annual global sales, n5 cocaine trafficking remains the most profitable activity for criminal networks operating in the region, as the is the source of every single ounce of cocaine consumed on the planet. n6 Upon landfall in , bulk cocaine is broken down into multiple smaller shipments for transit into and , making large interdictions at the U.S. border extremely difficult, despite the heroic efforts of local law enforcement, , and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. If bulk shipments are not interdicted before making landfall, there is almost no stopping the majority of this cocaine as it moves through and and eventually lands on street corners across America, placing significant strain on our nation's health care and criminal justice systems and costing American taxpayers an estimated in 2007 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. n7, n8
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Cocaine trafficking remains the predominant security challenge throughout the entire region, and I am growing increasingly concerned by the situation in the . Due in part to counterdrug asset reductions, some old routes appear to be reviving, including ones that lead directly into . In 2013, U.S.-bound cocaine flow through the corridor increased to 14% of the overall estimated flow; this number is likely higher and will continue to grow, but we lack a clear picture of cocaine flow due to asset shortfalls. The discovery of cocaine processing lab equipment in the suggests criminal organizations may be seeking to broaden production in the . This may be an indication of an emerging trend, similar to what we saw in in 2012. Additionally, the is particularly vulnerable to the violence and insecurity that often comes with illicit trafficking and organized crime. As trafficking from the into has increased, so too have violence, crime, and corruption. Once cocaine successfully reaches , it has reached the U.S. homeland; most of the cocaine arriving in is successfully transported into the continental . According to the DEA, traffickers are also transporting Colombian heroin, often via , to for onward shipment to , , and .
Mr. Chairman, gone are the days of the "cocaine cowboys." Instead, we and our partners are confronted with cocaine corporations that have franchises all over the world, including 1,200 American cities, n9 as well as criminal enterprises like the violent transnational gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, that specialize in extortion and human trafficking. The has warned that MS-13 has a significant presence in , , , and northern , and is expanding into new areas of , including Indian reservations in .
Additionally, migrant smuggling organizations are increasingly active in the , as new laws in and erroneous perceptions in of changes in U.S. immigration policy have led to increased migration flows. Smuggling networks are expanding in the , as Cubans and Haitians attempt to reach via or the . These networks are opportunistic and easily expand into other illicit activities, such as the drug trade, special interest alien smuggling, and human trafficking, including exploiting vulnerable migrants by subjecting them to forced labor, a form of modern-day slavery. In 2012, the estimated that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide. n10 Foreign nationals are trafficked for sex and labor, as well as for commercial sex acts, into from many countries around the world, including , , and the . n11
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It has been many years since U.S. Southern Command supported a response to a mass migration event, but I am concerned by the trends we are seeing, especially in , where we have witnessed a 44-fold increase in Haitian migrants in the Mona Passage. As of , more than 2,000 Haitians had been documented trying to use this narrow passage as a migration vector, compared to less than 200 in the past eight years combined. Smuggling operations have a high human toll; rough seas endanger the lives of rescuers and migrants and have resulted in the death of more than 50 Haitians to date. Thankfully, the is an important partner in stemming migration flows, and they are working hard to reach a solution on the issue of the roughly 200,000 Haitians residing in the . However, additional increases in migration would place additional burdens on already over-stretched and assets. Absent resource adjustments, stemming these smuggling operations and preventing future loss-of-life will pose major challenges to and our partners.
Crime-Terror Convergence. Clearly, criminal networks can move just about anything on these smuggling pipelines. My concern, Mr. Chairman, is that many of these pipelines lead directly into , representing a potential vulnerability that could be exploited by terrorist groups seeking to do us harm. Supporters and sympathizers of Lebanese Hezbollah are involved in both licit and illicit activities in the region, including drug trafficking. Additionally, money, like drugs and people, has become mobile; it is easier to move than ever before, and the vast global illicit economy benefits both criminal and terrorist networks alike. Clan-based, Lebanese Hezbollah-associated criminal networks exploit free trade zones and permissive areas in places like , and the , , and Paraguay Tri-Border to engage in money laundering and other illegal endeavors, as well as recruitment and radicalization efforts. The exact amount of profits generated by these illicit activities in the region is unclear, but it is likely--and at least--in the tens of millions of dollars.
External Actors: and Islamic Extremist Groups. Lebanese has long considered the region a potential attack venue against Israeli and other Western targets, and I remain concerned that the group maintains an operational presence there. Lebanese partner and sponsor, , has sought closer ties with regional governments, largely to circumvent sanctions and counter U.S. influence. As a state-sponsor of terrorism, involvement in the Western Hemisphere is a matter for concern. Additionally, members, supporters, and adherents of Islamic extremist groups are present in . Islamic extremists visit the region to proselytize, recruit, establish business venues to generate funds, and expand their radical networks. Some Muslim communities in the and are exhibiting increasingly extremist ideology and activities, mostly as a result from ideologues' activities and external influence from the , , and . Mr. Chairman, we take all these activities seriously, and we and our partners remain vigilant against an evolution in capability of any group with the intent to attack , our interests, or our allies. I remain concerned, however, that U.S. Southern Command's limited intelligence assets may prevent full awareness of the activities of Iranian and terrorist support networks in the region.
Other External Actors. Mr. Chairman, there has been a great deal of attention on the increased regional influence of so-called "external actors" such as and . Ultimately, we should remember that engagement is not a zero-sum game. and expanding relationships are not necessarily at our expense. However, if we want to maintain our partnerships in this hemisphere and maintain even minimal influence, we must remain engaged with this hemisphere. Budget cuts are having a direct and detrimental effect on our security cooperation activities, the principal way we engage and promote defense cooperation in the region. The cumulative effect of our reduced engagement is a relative but accelerated decline of trust in our reliability and commitment to the region. Our relationships, our leadership, and our influence in the Western Hemisphere are paying the price.
continues to build on its existing strategic partnerships in , pursuing an increased regional presence through arm sales, counterdrug cooperation, and bilateral trade agreements. Last year marked a noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel in the region. It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence: a visit by a to , , and , and the deployment of two Russian long-range strategic bombers to and as part of a training exercise.
As part of its long-term strategy for the region, is also expanding relationships in , especially in the . In contrast to the Russians, Chinese engagement is focused primarily on economics, but it uses all elements of national power to achieve its goals. Major investments include potentially to construct an alternative to the in and to and nations for myriad infrastructure and social development projects. is the single biggest source of financing to and , due to thirst for natural resources and contracts for Chinese state-owned companies. Chinese companies hold notable investments in at least five major ports and are major vendors of telecommunications services to 18 nations in the region. In the defense realm, Chinese technology companies are partnering with , , and to launch imagery and communications satellites, and is gradually increasing its military outreach, offering educational exchanges with many regional militaries. In 2013, the conducted a goodwill visit in , , and and conducted its first-ever naval exercise with the .
Mr. Chairman, I am often asked if I view engagement by these "external actors" as a direct threat to . Generally speaking, I see potential for greater partnership with in areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response. However, I would like to see the Chinese place greater emphasis on respecting human rights--like we do--as part of their overall engagement efforts in the region. The U.S. government continues to encourage to address shared security challenges in a positive way, such as taking concrete steps to address the massive illicit trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and precursor chemicals used for methamphetamine and heroin production in and . While Russian counterdrug cooperation could potentially contribute to regional security, the sudden increase in its military outreach merits closer attention, as motives are unclear. Given its history, the region is sensitive to any appearance of increased militarization, which is why it is important that and promote their defense cooperation in a responsible, transparent manner that helps maintain hemispheric stability and hard-won democratic gains.
Command Priorities
Mr. Chairman, the U.S. military plays an integral role in a whole-of-government approach to address many of these regional security issues. To advance the President's vision and the policy for the in a resource-constrained environment, U.S. Southern Command focuses our efforts on four priorities. We can accomplish quite a lot with relatively modest investment, but continued budget limitations imperil our ability to build on this progress.
Priority: Detention Operations. Mr. Chairman, I want to speak for a moment about the most important people at : the outstanding men and women that are part of the at . First, I want to make clear--we who wear the uniform are responsible for one thing at : detention operations, a mission of enormous complexity and sensitivity. We do not make policy; we follow the orders of the President and Secretary of Defense with the utmost professionalism and integrity.
I have never been prouder of any troops under my command than I am of the young military professionals who stand duty day and night at , serving under a microscope of public scrutiny in one of the toughest and most unforgiving military missions on the planet. These young men and women are charged with caring for detainees that can often be defiant and violent. Our guard and medical forces endure constant insults, taunts, physical assaults, and splashing of bodily fluids by detainees intent on eliciting a reaction.
And in response, each and every military member at exhibits professionalism, patience, and restraint. This is the story that never gets written: that our service members treat every detainee--even the most disruptive and violent among them--with respect, humanity, and dignity, in accordance with all applicable international and U.S. law. Our troops take very seriously their responsibility to provide for the detainees' safe and humane care. In my opinion, this story is worth telling, because our country needs to understand that the young Americans sent by the President and the to do this mission are exceptional; they live and work by an unbreakable code of honor and courage and are among the best one percent of their generation.
Mr. Chairman, as you are aware, I am responsible not just for the welfare of my troops, but also for the welfare of every detainee under my care at . Over the past year, we implemented improvements to enhance the well-being of the detainees. To adequately address the complex medical issues of the aging detainee population, we expanded and emphasized detailed reporting within our comprehensive system to monitor the health, nutrition, and wellness of every detainee. Last year, some detainees went on self-proclaimed "hunger strikes," although many of these detainees continued to consume meals--maintaining or even gaining weight throughout the "strike"--and were at no medical risk. As you know, we have transitioned away from publicly releasing tallies of such hunger strike claims, which in our experience had served to encourage detainee non-compliance and had left the public with a very distorted picture of the overall health of the detainee population.
We continue to support ongoing military commissions, habeas corpus proceedings, periodic review boards, and visits by Congressional and foreign government delegations and non-governmental organizations like the . We have taken steps to reduce costs and expenses wherever possible, while continuing to maintain the level of humane care that makes a model for detention operations worldwide. We reduced the cost of the program supporting the detainee library by 45 percent, and reduced contract requirements and expenses in the Intelligence and Security Program, saving an estimated per year. We also worked with the to provide expanded capability to improve detainees' regular communication with family members, at no cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Concerns. Although detention operations have not been adversely affected by budget cuts, I remain concerned by two issues at : advanced medical care and deteriorating infrastructure. Although Naval Station Guantanamo and detainee hospitals are capable of providing adequate care for most detainee conditions, we lack certain specialty medical capabilities necessary to treat potentially complex emergencies and various chronic diseases. In the event a detainee is in need of emergency medical treatment that exceeds on-island capacity, I cannot evacuate him to , as I would a service member.
As a former commander once remarked, we have not been doing detention operations at for twelve years, we have been doing them for one year, twelve times. The expeditionary infrastructure put in place was intended to be temporary, and numerous facilities are showing signs of deterioration and require frequent repair. First and most urgently, some facilities are critical to ensuring the safety and welfare of our troops stationed at and for the continued humane treatment and health of the detainees. For example, the mess hall--a temporary structure built in the 1990s to support mass migration operations--is at significant risk of structural failure and is corroding after eleven years of continuous use, with holes in the roof and structural support beams. This facility must provide food services to all detainees and over 2,000 assigned personnel on a daily basis. As another example, the is increasingly unsustainable due to drainage and foundation issues. Additionally, I am concerned over inadequate housing for our troops. This housing has other long-term requirements even after detention operations at end; it will be utilized by Naval Station Guantanamo to support a full range of Title 10 missions and nationally-directed contingency requirements for disaster response or mass migration. I am working within the to find solutions to these ongoing facility issues.
Priority: Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC). In response to the challenges posed by the spread of transnational organized crime, U.S. Southern Command is working with our interagency partners to counter the threats posed by criminal networks and illicit trafficking, focusing on those networks that threaten citizen safety in the region and the security of . Mr. Chairman, our contribution to this effort is relatively small but important, and comes with real sacrifice. In 2013, the crash of a counternarcotics flight in led to the tragic death of Air Force Master Sergeant , two other dedicated American contractors, and a Panamanian officer, and the serious injury of the two pilots, highlighting the true human cost of this fight. The individuals who died will be remembered for their service and their commitment to fighting drug trafficking and criminal networks whose products are killing so many of our countrymen and women every year.
Support to CTOC Efforts in . Last year, we redirected our focus to Central American security institutions involved in appropriate defense missions like border and maritime security. This refinement capitalizes on minimal resources, while also being sensitive to perceptions of militarization of the region. We are prioritizing our support to interagency counter-threat finance efforts and expanding our focus on converging threats, including illicit trafficking via commercial shipping containers, which could be exploited to move weapons of mass destruction into . By supporting the targeting of key illicit financial nodes and commercial linkages, we aim to help degrade the capacities of both criminal and terrorist groups.
Now entering its third year, Operation MARTILLO continues to demonstrate commitment by , our partner nations and European allies to counter the spread of transnational criminal organizations and protect citizens in from the violence, harm, and exploitation wrought by criminal networks. However, force allocation cuts by the Services are taking their toll on operational results; in 2013, Operation MARTILLO disrupted 132 metric tons of cocaine, compared with 152 metric tons of cocaine in 2012, due to limited assets. On a positive note, the operation has led to improved interoperability and increased partner nation contributions. Our partners helped prevent 66 metric tons of cocaine from reaching last year; 50 percent of successes would not have occurred without the participation of partner nations. Limited and declining assets will influence the next phase of the operation, as Operation MARTILLO's original objectives may no longer be achievable. In the year ahead, we will seek to employ non-traditional solutions, within our current authorities, to partially mitigate detection and monitoring shortfalls. However, lack of assets will continue to constrain the operation's full effectiveness, and has the potential to be perceived as lack of political will on the part of the U.S. government to continue this fight.
Operation MARTILLO FY 13 Disruptions
Cocaine 132,191 kgs
Marijuana 41,232 lbs
Bulk cash
Conveyances 107
Interagency Partnerships. Our CTOC efforts focus on providing support to our law enforcement partners. These partnerships ensure a whole of government approach to both operations and capacity building efforts. To mitigate asset shortfalls, we rely heavily on the and Customs and Border Protection, which now provide the bulk of the ships and aircraft available to disrupt drugs bound for . The heroic men and women of DEA's Foreign Deployed Advisory and Support Team (FAST) provide critical support to partner nation interdiction operations, and we are fortunate to have nine DEA Special Investigative Units working to improve regional law enforcement capacity. In my view, DEA is a known, essential partner, and their focus on building the investigative and intelligence capacities of vetted law enforcement units complements our own efforts to professionalize regional defense and security forces.
In late 2013, U.S. Southern Command and the created a Counter-Threat Finance Branch, an analytical unit that will map illicit networks, combat the financial underpinnings of national security threats in the region, and support the development of targeted financial measures and U.S. law enforcement actions. As one example, we provided analytic support to the financial sanctions against Los Cachiros in . We also work with to aggressively target criminal networks that traffic in special interest aliens and contraband throughout the region. Additionally, U.S. Southern Command and the expanded their analytic partnership to include the International Operations and Criminal Investigative Divisions. This enhanced partnership helps both agencies further develop partner nation capacity in countering transnational organized crime. We also partnered with the to provide network analysis in support of Operation CITADEL, which targeted the movements of illicit proceeds in . In , we are working with the to assist our Colombian partners in countering the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by terrorist groups like the FARC. Finally, we are also coordinating with the Bureaus of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement and Western Hemisphere Affairs to explore the possibility of providing logistical support to regional law enforcement operations.
Impact of Budget Cuts--CTOC. Severe budget constraints are significantly degrading our ability defend the southern approaches to . Sequestration merely compounds the ongoing challenge of limited and declining U.S. government maritime and air assets required for detection, monitoring, and "end-game" interdiction missions. Irrespective of sequestration cuts, we face a sharp downtown in availability of large surface assets such as frigates and U.S. Coast Guard High Endurance Cutters, which face decommissioning or are approaching the end of their expected lifespan. The eighth and final U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter, which will be delivered in the next few years, will be a critical asset to U.S. government efforts to protect our southern approaches.
Mr. Chairman, the impact of diminishing asset allocation will continue to impede our mission even if sequestration is reversed; our operational effectiveness is directly proportional to the number of assets we can put against detection, monitoring, and interdiction operations. When better resourced several years ago, we were able to disrupt a significant amount--more than 240 metric tons--of cocaine heading towards . Last year, 20 more metric tons of cocaine reached due to reduced asset availability, a number that will increase inversely as the availability of U.S. government assets decreases.
Other Issues. Additionally, I remain concerned over the planned construction of wind farm sites in that will interfere with our Relocatable Over-The-Horizon Radar (ROTHR) radar system in . I am also concerned over wind projects in that will impact ROTHR systems in that state. These wind farms could and likely will adversely impact our ROTHR systems, the only persistent wide-area surveillance radars capable of tracking illicit aircraft in and the . We are working within the and with developers and stakeholders to develop potential mitigation solutions, but I have little confidence we will succeed.
Priority: Building Partner Capacity. Having strong partners is the cornerstone of U.S. Southern Command's engagement strategy and is essential for our national security. Capable and effective partners respect human rights, share in the costs and responsibilities of ensuring regional security, and help us detect, deter, and interdict threats before they reach the U.S. homeland. Our persistent human rights engagement also helps encourage defense cooperation, trust, and confidence, which cannot be surged when a crisis hits, and cannot be achieved through episodic deployments or chance contacts. Trust must be built, nurtured, and sustained through regular contact.
Engagement with . Our partner has paid the ultimate price in terms of their blood and national treasure to bring the FARC--who have been serial human rights violators for decades--to the negotiating table. The Colombians have fought heroically for a peaceful, democratic , which will be a powerful symbol of hope and prosperity, but it is far too soon to declare victory. Mr. Chairman, it is absolutely imperative we remain engaged as one of our strongest allies works to consolidate its hard-won success. To that end, U.S. Southern Command is providing advice and assistance to the Colombian military's transformation efforts, as it works to improve interoperability and transition to an appropriate role in post-conflict . With increasingly taking on the role of security exporter, we are facilitating the deployment of Colombian-led training teams and subject matter experts and attendance of Central American personnel to law enforcement and military academies in as part of the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation. This is a clear example of a sizeable return on our relatively modest investment and sustained engagement.
Engagement in . In , U.S. Southern Command and the DEA are working together to support ongoing efforts against the Shining Path, which are beginning to yield significant operational successes. An investment of 6 U.S. personnel, who trained combat medical instructors from and , resulted in the training of over 2,000 members of the Peruvian and Salvadoran military, including Salvadoran soldiers destined for stability operations in , , and . We are working with on capacity-building efforts in and exploring possible future engagements in the Pacific. In , broader bilateral challenges have affected our defense relations. Our military-to-military cooperation at the operational and tactical levels, however, remains strong, and we are committed to supporting growing global partnership with . We continue to engage with Brazilian security forces in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. participated in several of our multinational exercises last year, including playing a leading role in , which focuses on the defense of the .
Engagement in . In 2013, U.S. Southern Command provided critical infrastructure and operational support to the new , which has contributed to significant disruption of illicit trafficking along the Guatemalan-Mexican border and is now viewed by the Government of as a model for future units. In collaboration with U.S. Northern Command, we are planning initiatives in and to support new southern border strategy. I recently visited and was struck by the government's strong commitment to work with human rights groups and strengthen its democratic institutions, while also doing its part to stem the massive flow of illicit trafficking heading to our country. Unfortunately, current legislative restrictions on provisions such as Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training, found in the FY14 Consolidated Appropriations Act, limit ability to fully engage with the Guatemalan military and security forces. In another example of successful interagency partnerships, supported the and DEA in the eradication of 100,446 marijuana plants and the seizure of 330 pounds of marijuana.
Since 2003, the El Salvador Armed Forces have contributed 11 rotations in support Operation Iraqi Freedom and three rotations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in .
Along , we constructed three key maritime facilities and are providing counternarcotics training to Panamanian coast guard and maritime security forces. Mr. Chairman, I applaud the Government of in their handling of last year's smuggling incident involving Cuban military equipment aboard a North Korean vessel. We are fortunate to have partners like that are committed to ensuring international security. Finally, I am particularly proud of our support to the third deployment of members of the El Salvador Armed Forces to . Augmented by the , the Salvadoran unit returned this past December from serving as a Police Advisory Team that provided training to Afghan security forces. Like , is just one example of the outstanding partners we have in this part of the world--partners that are doing their part to ensure peace and security within and beyond their borders.
Engagement in the . Throughout and the , U.S. Southern Command has constructed or improved partner nation naval and coast guard operating bases and facilities and delivered more than in counternarcotics training and non-lethal equipment, including a total of 42 high-speed interceptor boats provided since 2008 that have supported interdiction operations. In support of the Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), we are working to improve maritime patrol and intercept capabilities of our partners. Through CBSI, a maritime Technical Assistance Field Team--comprised of joint and personnel--provides hands-on technical assistance, in-country mentoring, and training to 13 CBSI partner nations, with the goal of helping these countries develop accountable and sustainable engineering, maintenance, and logistics and procurement systems. The TAFT program is a collaborative interagency effort funded by the , using Foreign Military Financing and INCLE funding. In , the government is committed to improving its disaster response capabilities. continues to make gradual social and economic progress after 2010's devastating earthquake, and the Government of is committed to improving its disaster response capabilities. Led by and comprised of a multinational force that includes personnel from , , and , the in (MINUSTAH) has played a critical role in efforts to rebuild, working with the to ensure security. As MINUSTAH draws down, I see a continued need for international engagement in to guarantee lasting stability.
Cooperation on Counterterrorism. We also work with the interagency, U.S. Embassy Country Teams, and our partner nations to counter the encroachment of both Sunni and Shi'a Islamic extremism, recruitment, and radicalization efforts that support terrorism activities. We conduct multiple engagement efforts--including Joint Combined Exchange Training, subject matter expert and intelligence exchanges, counterterrorism-focused exercises, and key leader engagements--here in and in countries throughout the region. Sustained engagement helps build relationships, an essential tool in the fight against terrorism. Through intelligence and counterterrorism cooperation, our partners are better able to mitigate terrorist threats before they can cause mass destruction, destabilize a country, or reach the U.S. homeland.
Human Rights and Defense Professionalization. Everything we do at U.S. Southern Command begins and ends with human rights. Mr. Chairman, a lot of people talk about human rights, but the U.S. military does human rights. We live it. We teach it. We enforce it. U.S. Southern Command's Human Rights Initiative continued to break new ground in 2013, promoting dialogue and cooperation between regional military forces and human rights groups and strengthening institutional capacity in and . Since its inception, our Human Rights Initiative has helped promote reform throughout the region, and the results speak for themselves. Military forces serving democratic governments in the region understand, and take seriously, their responsibility to respect and protect human rights. Ten partner nations have formally committed to implementing the Human Rights Initiative, building an institutional culture of respect for human rights within their militaries.
U.S. Southern Command also promotes human rights through law of armed conflict programs led by the and through academic institutions like the , the , and the . Additionally, the entire premise of the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program promotes an environment conducive to students learning and sharing U.S. values and democracy, with human rights portions embedded in nearly every course. Mr. Chairman, IMET is one of our most valuable engagement tools; professional military education improves how our partners work with us in a joint, interoperable world. Participants not only better understand our culture; they share our perspective, and want to work with us to advance U.S. and regional interests.
In 2013, 1,417 students from the region participated in the International Military Education Training (IMET) program, an invaluable investment in future defense leaders.
Cyber Security and Information Operations. In the region, U.S. Southern Command works to ensure the continued security of networks and communication infrastructure. We are also slowly making progress in strengthening regional cyber defense and information operations capabilities. In 2013, U.S. Southern Command, working with the Perry Center, brought together strategy and policy officers from the region to share information on current cyber security threats. , , and have each expressed interest in sharing "lessons learned" on building effective cyber security institutions. Through Operation SOUTHERN VOICE, 50 information operation practitioners from 11 Western Hemisphere countries shared capabilities and best practices. In the year ahead, we are partnering with to build information-related capabilities in and , and with U.S. Northern Command to do the same in .
In 2013, we executed 140 minimal cost projects and worked with local populations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to construct and supply schools, community shelters, clinics, and hospitals.
Multinational Exercises and Humanitarian Assistance. U.S. Southern Command's multinational exercise and humanitarian and civic assistance programs encourage collective action and demonstrate our values and commitment to the region. Last year's UNITAS and TRADEWINDS exercises helped improve interoperability among our hemisphere's maritime forces. During our annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercises NEW HORIZONS and BEYOND THE HORIZONS, U.S. forces improved their readiness and provided medical care to 34,677 patients in , , and . These humanitarian missions are one of the most effective tools in our national security toolkit, and one that I believe warrants greater employment. In any given year, we are able to send around 700 medical professionals to the region; , in contrast, sends around 30,000, mostly to . In 2013, our collaboration with the private sector and non-governmental organizations resulted in contributions of in gifts-in-kind and services to our humanitarian activities. Mr. Chairman, I cannot overstate the importance of these types of activities by the U.S. military, especially in terms of influence and access. As Secretary Hagel noted, our humanitarian engagement offers the next generation of global citizens direct experience with the positive impact of American values and ideals.
Perceptions of "Militarization." Mr. Chairman, I want to close this section by responding to the perception by some that our engagement is "militarizing" the region. In my view, these concerns reflect a misunderstanding of the actual role the U.S. military plays in this part of the world. As an example, our Special Operations Forces are among the most qualified, culturally sensitive, and linguistically capable trainers in the U.S. military, and above all, they excel at building trust and forging personal relationships that are essential to supporting our national interests. Whether it's a small team at the tactical level or an official engagement at my level, all our efforts are focused on professionalizing military and security forces, to help our partners become more accountable to civilian authority, more capable, and to above all respect the human rights of the citizens they are charged to protect. Our efforts are part of a whole-of-government approach--involving DEA, , , , and many others--to strengthen governance and foster accountable, transparent, and effective institutions throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Mr. Chairman, engagement by the U.S. military can make a real and lasting difference, especially in terms of promoting respect for human rights. Ultimately, if we want regional militaries to honor, respect, and accept civilian control and demonstrate an institutional culture of respect for human rights, that message must come from a military that lives by that code. For the U.S. military, our own training begins and ends with human rights; it is at the center of everything we do and an integral part of every interaction with partner nations. I regularly meet with human rights groups in and throughout the region, and human rights is a major theme in every engagement with my counterparts in regional militaries.
Throughout the world, the U.S. military has a unique network of alliances and partnerships, and our regional approach can provide a framework for engagement by the broader U.S. interagency. Thanks in part to our efforts, is now a beacon of hope and stability with one of the most highly professionalized militaries in the region; is now the focus for numerous interagency initiatives; the now routinely shares information in support of international counterdrug operations; and perhaps most importantly, today the hemisphere is characterized by militaries under civilian control that recognize their fundamental responsibility to respect human rights. In my mind, there is no more valuable return on engagement than that.
Impact of Budget Cuts--BPC. In FY 13, we began seeing the initial effects of sequestration, which resulted in drastic force allocation cuts by all the Services. In turn, reduced availability of forces adversely impacted our execution of plans and engagement activities. Severe budget constraints are affecting our established military-to-military relationships that took decades to establish, limiting our ability to build on the progress I just described. Mr. Chairman, let me be frank: reduced engagement risks the deterioration of U.S. leadership and influence in , , and the .
In FY 13, budget uncertainty caused the cancellation of four major exercises, including FUERZAS COMANDO--one of only two exercises focused on counterterrorism--and 225 engagement activities that are critical to building capable and effective defense and security forces in the region. The cancelled deployment of CONTINUING PROMISE was felt throughout the region; it is our single most impactful humanitarian mission, demonstrating U.S. values and creating goodwill and positive views towards our country. We rely heavily on the State Partnership Program to conduct our activities, and the cancellation of 69 events was detrimental to our efforts to maintain long-term security relationships. Reductions in force allocation also created significant gaps in persistent Civil Affairs coverage. The cancellation of Civil Affairs deployments has created a loss of credibility with our partner nations and our partners in U.S. Embassies in the region, who have questioned U.S. Southern Command's ability to fulfill our commitments. Finally, the Perry Center, which helps build capacity at the ministerial level, is facing a severe 50 percent cut in funding over the several upcoming fiscal years.
Priority: Planning for Contingencies. Lastly, planning and preparing for possible contingencies is one of U.S. Southern Command's core missions. Every year, we regularly exercise our rapid response capabilities in a variety of scenarios, including responding to a natural disaster, mass migration event, an attack on the , or evacuating American citizens. In 2013, we conducted our INTEGRATED ADVANCE exercise, which focuses on improving coordination with interagency partners in response to a mass migration event in the . On this issue, we are fortunate to have an excellent exercise, operational, and planning relationship with , and together we work to defend the southern approaches to . That mission, however, continues to be significantly impacted by force allocation cuts.
Impact of Budget Cuts--Contingency Response. Mr. Chairman, our ability to respond to regional contingencies such as a mass migration event or natural disaster was impaired in 2013, a trend that could continue in 2014. U.S. Southern Command has minimal assigned and allocated forces, and we rely on the Services--especially the --to "surge" forces and assets when a crisis hits. As the Services absorb large reductions to their budgets, this will affect U.S. Southern Command's ability to immediately respond to crises and disasters, which could lead to preventable human suffering and loss-of-life. As I mentioned earlier, I am deeply concerned by the uptick in Haitian migration in the Mona Passage and the continued scarcity of U.S. government assets in the . As currently resourced, U.S. Southern Command faces considerable challenges to rapidly support a mass migration response.
Our People
Headquarters Budget. Mr. Chairman, as you can see, we can accomplish a lot with a relatively small portion of the budget. Last year, the forced furloughs of 572 civilian employees had a significant impact on our ability to conduct our missions. Fortunately, the temporary budget reprieve should spare our workforce the pain of furloughs in FY 14 and FY 15, but continued budget uncertainty will likely lead to an inevitable "talent drain" as our best and brightest civilian employees seek more stable employment opportunities. Although we appreciate the near-term budget solution, the long-term challenge of sequestration has not been resolved. It has merely been deferred.
To ensure our workforce has mission-critical capabilities, our Joint Training Program offered training opportunities to 85 military and civilian joint staff officers, and also delivered cultural training to enhance our interactions in the region.
Partial Mitigation to Budget Cuts. Per guidance from the , U.S. Southern Command must strive for a goal of 20 percent reductions in our headquarters budget and military and civilian personnel by FY 2019. Combined with the potential of continued sequestration, resource cuts require a fundamental re-look at what U.S. Southern Command will and will not be able to do with limited resources. Due to ongoing resource constraints, I have directed a transformation effort at our headquarters to look holistically at our strategy and resources. Limited defense dollars must be applied wisely, and we are seeking to preserve our core military missions and functions. As we work through this process, we will continue to emphasize our partnerships with the interagency, NGOs, and private sector to help mitigate ongoing fiscal challenges. U.S. Southern Command has proven success in this area, averaging in return on investment annually from this collaboration, all of it directly impacting our missions.
Support Services. U.S. Southern Command's most important resource is its Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsman, and civilian employees. The safety and security of our people is of utmost importance, and I am concerned by the severe funding cuts to the security force that guards our headquarters. Additionally, my assigned service members, especially junior enlisted personnel, continue to face significant financial hardships trying to make ends meet under the current Cost of Living Allowance--a mere for an E3 and just for an E9--in , one of the most expensive cities in the world, especially when it comes to car and home insurance rates. n12
Compounding this concern is the uncertainty over military compensation and reductions in retirement benefits.
Our family support services also face significant funding strains, forcing us to breach sacred promises to our Armed Forces families. We take suicide prevention very seriously at our headquarters, and last year we delivered four separate programs aimed at preventing suicides and raising awareness. However, the was forced to decrement support services at nearly every installation and facility, including Garrison Miami. As a result, our Substance Abuse and Suicide Prevention Programs have lost the Clinical/Treatment Program and will lose both the Prevention Program Coordinator and the Suicide Program Manager/Employee Assistance Coordinator by 2015.
Mr. Chairman, in closing I would like to offer a personal observation from my first year in command. This region does not ask for much. Most nations in this part of the world want our partnership, our friendship, and our support. They want to work with us, because they recognize that we share many of the same values and interests, many of the same challenges and concerns. Some of my counterparts perceive that is disengaging from the region and from the world in general. We should remember that our friends and allies are not the only ones watching our actions closely. Reduced engagement could itself become a national security problem, with long-term, detrimental effects on U.S. leadership, access, and interests in a part of the world where our engagement has made a real and lasting difference. And in the meantime, drug traffickers, criminal networks, and other actors, unburdened by budget cuts, cancelled activities, and employee furloughs, will have the opportunity to exploit the partnership vacuum left by reduced U.S. military engagement. Thank you.
n1 Director of National Intelligence, . Statement for the Record: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the . , .
n2 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Human Development Report for 2013-2014.
n3 Information provided by .
n4 . 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment.
n5 (UNODC). Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime, 2011.
n7 Note: Upon landfall in , bulk cocaine is broken down into multiple smaller shipments for transit into and , making large interdictions extremely difficult.
n8 (2011). The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on . .
n9 , . 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment.
n11 to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report. Retrieved from:
n12 UBS. Pricings and Earnings Report, Edition 2012. : September, 2012; . Losing Ground: The Struggle for Middle Income Households to Afford the Risings Costs of Housing and Transportation. . According to apartment market research firm AXOIMetrics, the average effective rent (which includes concessions) in is per month, compared to the U.S. as a whole at . According to the at , the rental market has the greatest share of severely cost-burdened renters (i.e. renters who pay more than half their income to rent) in the country.
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