New Countertrafficking Command Center Is First of Its Kind

New Countertrafficking Command Center Is First of Its Kind

By Dialogo
April 21, 2011



A new, high-tech command center in Key West will move the fight against
illicit traffickers to a new level, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III
said.

Just before cutting a ribbon to the Joint Operations Command Center alongside
William F. Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and
global threats, Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond
drugs alone.

“Transnational criminal organizations are posing a not-very-well-understood,
but growing, threat to the United States,” he told the task force staff. “It’s
something I know you are on the front lines of addressing and, ultimately,
preventing.”

The new command center serves Joint Interagency Task Force South, a
subordinate command to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command that integrates
military, interagency and international capabilities to combat illicit
trafficking.

Lynn traveled to Miami to meet with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, SOUTHCOM
commander, and his leadership team. In testimony last month before the House Armed
Services Committee, Fraser called the task force “the center of U.S. maritime
interdiction efforts in the Caribbean basin and eastern Pacific.”

Using information from law enforcement agencies, the general added, the task
force detects and monitors suspect aircraft and maritime vessels and then provides
this information to international and interagency partners who have the authority to
interdict illicit shipments and arrest members of transnational criminal
organizations.

Task force members represent each U.S. military service and most federal law
enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and Immigration
and Customs Enforcement.

Other members from the U.S. intelligence community represent the CIA, the
Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the
National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

The task force staff includes liaison officers from 13 nations: Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France,
Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“We made the decision in April 2008 to apply our collective wisdom and
knowledge across the interagency, our international partners and the joint team
here,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, commander of Joint Interagency Task Force
South, said during the ceremony opening the new operations center.

The aim, he said, was “to come up with a better way to be even more effective
in countering the illicit traffickers.”

The new command center, Lloyd added, “is the first of its kind anywhere, and
represents the very best way we know how to conduct the fight against illicit
traffickers.”

In the center, intelligence and operations functions come together in a
state-of-the-art command, control, communications and intelligence facility,
officials said, where the task force coordinates the use of Navy and Coast Guard
ships and aircraft, Air Force and U.S. Customs Service aircraft, and aircraft and
ships from allied nations and law enforcement agencies.

“I think it’s important at this moment to recognize how far we’ve come,”
Wechsler said. “Back in the 1980s, the mission set against which [the task force]
was deployed was considered to be an unsolvable problem. There was a never-ending
stream of air and maritime vessels headed right for our coast. It was a direct
threat to U.S. sovereignty.”

Today, he added, the problem has evolved, and so has the task force. “[It] is
really, in my mind, a model — perhaps one of the best models of coordination
that exists in the U.S. government,” he said.




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