Caribbean Partners and SOUTHCOM Discuss Collaborative Counter Narcotics Program
By Dialogo September 04, 2015Persistent airborne surveillance using aerostats should be used to provide true total domain awareness.
Between August 25 and 27, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) hosted a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) between engineer officers from the Coast Guards of 13 Caribbean partner nations in order to jointly develop the ability to respond to illicit maritime trafficking threats.
The event was part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), one of the latest pillars of a U.S. security strategy focused on citizen safety throughout the hemisphere. Created in 2009, CBSI brings all members of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic together to jointly collaborate on regional security with the United States as partner.
Together, the countries comprising CBSI have identified three core objectives to deal with the threats facing the Caribbean: reducing illicit trafficking through programs to counter narcotics and reduce the flow of illegal arms/light weapons; improving public safety and security through programs to reduce crime and violence and improve border security; and promoting social justice within the region through programs designed to promote justice sector reform, combat government corruption, and assist vulnerable populations at risk of recruitment into criminal organizations
The Technical Assistance Field Team, or TAFT, initiative is in place to assist CBSI partner nations in developing maintenance, logistics, and procurement systems to improve maritime asset operational readiness in support of the first objective (counter narcotics/weapons trafficking). Composed of 15 U.S. Army and Coast Guard experts in communications, logistics, and engineering, SOUTHCOM’s CBSI TAFT team developed the SMEE as a means of sharing experiences, lessons learned, and best practices with their CBSI counterparts —in this case officer engineers— about the equipment, maintenance, and ways to procure support when needed.
“Partner nations gathered this week to discuss and develop small boat sustainment plans to support TAFT activities by synchronizing U.S. and PN-funded training, asset acquisition, equipment & supplies, and infrastructure in support of partner nation maintenance sustainment,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Jason T. Plumley, CBSI TAFT Officer in Charge at SOUTHCOM.
LCDR Plumley explained to Diálogo
that the CBSI objectives are not just about drug interdiction. “CBSI is a whole of government approach to citizen safety,” he said. And citizen safety focuses on building effective partnerships that can better develop, mobilize and apply the capacity of the region toward accomplishing shared objectives, which in turn, is the area in which TAFT operates.
“Our commitment to broad partnerships that advance citizen safety signals that the U.S. understands that while security is a key priority throughout the region, people often understand security in a personal way on their street corners, on a bus to and from work, or in their markets,” he said. “Forging effective partnerships requires an understanding of and an ability to address fundamental links between local, transnational and ‘white collar’ crime (such as corruption), and the nexus between these threats and the big social and economic challenges the region faces. We seek to improve public safety, improving security for each and every citizen through these partnerships,” he added.
In order to become a signatory TAFT country, each participating CBSI partner nation must sign an end-use, retransfer, and security assurance agreement. Currently, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Suriname are signatory countries, but some that are not, such as Trinidad & Tobago, were still present at the SMEE in order to gain knowledge on the benefits of becoming a signatory and working under the agreement.
Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Rajesh Boodoo said that even though Trinidad and Tobago has not signed the TAFT agreement, participating in the exchange provided him with valuable insight regarding the expectations of the partner nations and information on the benefits that signing on could provide his country. “I see a lot of benefits for Trinidad and a lot to gain from the United States, because they have a longer history of undertaking counter narcotics efforts and a lot of experience with data analysis, which Trinidad could learn a lot from.”
“The TAFT seeks to strengthen the operational availability of PN maritime assets by assisting them with establishing proven/sustainable maintenance and logistics systems throughout the Caribbean,” explained LCDR Plumley. “TAFT’s comprehensive approach addresses PN needs in technical troubleshooting and repair expertise, maintenance execution and scheduling, parts procurement/supply, logistics, and budgeting.
The SMEE, in turn, attempted to do just that. The TAFT team discussed ways to better support the operational readiness of U.S.-purchased maritime assets for the partner nations in attendance, focusing specifically on interceptor-sized boats to ensure the most cost-efficient and effective application of resources and team support. “This way, the team expects to have the greatest opportunity to positively impact our partner nations long-term, sustained maritime asset operational readiness, but the strategy is also consistent with SOUTHCOM’s short-term goal of having PN enhance their Interdiction and Apprehension (I&A) capabilities in their littoral waters,” concluded LCDR Plumley.
According to Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard Lieutenant [Senior Grade] Rohan Rodgers, “the event has been a very useful and informative tool to meet, interact, and share best practices and TAFT processes and support with other partner nations. We should have this type of exchange at least once a year to review and look at the way forward. In our case, it put Jamaica in a better position to plan and know how things function in the TAFT process, so it allows us to better plan and project the way forward,” he added.