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Newsletter 10-12
December 2009

U.S. Southern Command: Security, Stability, and Partnership

Michael J. Silva, Interagency Senior Military Analyst at the Center for Army Lessons Learned

U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) is often thought of solely as a counterdrug- and counternarcoterrorism-focused command. While these missions are a key focus, they are complimented by the inclusion of interagency coordination, public/private cooperative efforts, human rights attention, humanitarian assistance, and a full theater security cooperation strategy. These focus areas are supported, tested, revised, and improved upon as a result of the various exercises and operations conducted by the command.

During the 1970s, Central and South American regions were mired with authoritarian regimes, intraregional conflicts, numerous civil wars, and governmental instability. The implementation and focus of USSOUTHCOM, in concert with other governmental agencies, has had a very positive impact throughout South and Central America. Today, there exists a strong collection of fledgling democracies-a testament to the U.S.' influence, focus, and support. This is especially true in Central America where governments have adopted democratic principles, support for the rule of law, and a growing respect for human rights.

This area of responsibility is as diverse a geographical region as any in the world. Within this region can be found steamy jungles, lush rain forests, snow-capped mountains, large swaths of savannas, harsh deserts, and swamps.

Interagency partners have been a key factor in advancing the ideals of democracy and improving economies within Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries. USSOUTHCOM has taken the lead in working with other agencies to achieve such success. A few of their goals are listed below:

  • Improve synchronization of operations and activities between USSOUTHCOM and other U.S. government organizations operating in this part of the world to create a collaborative, effective, and efficient command.
  • Engage interagency partner decision-makers and integrate personnel from these agencies on a full-time basis into the USSOUTHCOM staff.
  • Ensure all USSOUTHCOM exercises and conferences include participation from interagency partners.
  • Ensure USSOUTHCOM has a 21st century facility to meet the challenges of the future. The new facility must enable discussions across the command, interagency, and throughout the region encompassing all levels of unclassified, proprietary, and classified information.

Encouraging partnerships between private sector entities and public agencies within the region has been key to providing stability and security in countries by encouraging healthy economic policies and practices. USSOUTHCOM has served as the fusion center for these activities and leveraged its interagency connections to further progress toward greater regional security and stability through prosperity of nations and their people.

USSOUTHCOM has a robust human rights approach. It focuses on human rights training programs-not just reporting programs. USSOUTHCOM advances respect for human rights among countries through support of regional initiatives. Again, implementing a fusion center approach USSOUTHCOM engages all tools such as interagency, intergovernmental, international, and nongovernmental organizations dedicated to advancing human rights.

Humanitarian assistance has been a core part of the USSOUTHCOM security and stability strategy. A series of disaster preparedness exercises and response programs combined with a generous series of humanitarian assistance efforts produce positive venues for progress. The two main exercises focused upon humanitarian assistance are the Beyond the Horizon (BTH) and New Horizons exercises. The BTH exercise provides regional construction support over a three-year period. Construction projects are typically schools, clinics, water wells, and other forms of quality of life infrastructure. Simultaneous to the exercise is the deployment of doctors, nurses, and dental teams providing much needed medical care to mostly rural areas of supported countries. New Horizons exercises are conducted semiannually as a mirror to the BTH except they are one-year engagements instead of three.

Graphic showing USSOUTHCOM

Counterdrug and counternarcoterrorism remain key USSOUTHCOM missions to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. All of the aforementioned efforts contribute to this effort through the building of greater trust, more stable and secure governments, and more prosperous and healthy economies. This is truly a multinational effort to stem the flow of drug traffic. Counterdrug operations concentrate on detecting, monitoring, tracking, and interdicting drug trafficking. Counternarcoterrorism operations concentrate on multinational and regional efforts to fight drug/terrorist groups within a country's borders. This is also an interagency, intergovernmental effort to eradicate threats from drug trafficking and is a part of the U.S.' national drug control strategy.


Last Reviewed: May 18, 2012

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