Highlighting common threats as well as shared interests, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, addressed military leaders at the annual South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) held this year in Miami, Florida, August 17-18.
From combatting threats such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; transnational criminal organizations trafficking in arms, humans, and drugs; to responding to natural disasters including hurricanes and the recent earthquake in Haiti on August 14, Adm. Faller stressed that these challenges are complex and interrelated, which is why everyone needs to work as a team
“That’s why SOUTHDEC is so important. It’s an opportunity for us to sync up, share best practices and lessons learned, and enhance interoperability,” Adm. Faller said. “By doing so, we’re getting to know each other even better, getting to speak the same language both literally and figuratively, so that we’ll all work together seamlessly when we need to.”
Military leaders from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay attended the conference in person, while those from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru attended virtually.
“Due to geopolitical issues worldwide, the stationary orbit and the electromagnetic spectrum are of vital importance for the development and security of our country,” said Vice Admiral Jorge Cabrera, chief of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces of Ecuador, in regard to one of the topics discussed. “This motivates the implementation of defense policies that allow to sustain and control the rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction in this dimension.”
Among the briefings discussed were the emerging challenges of the space domain as well cyberwarfare. With an increase in space activities resulting in a congested domain which has threatened satellite communications and navigation systems, military leaders addressed how space will affect national security efforts in the long term.
“And I think that the study of cyberspace with all the possibilities that exist is extremely important in this day and age,” said General Gustavo Fajardo, commander of the Armed Forces of Uruguay. “Undoubtedly, in an electronic world the cybernetic world is a viable threat of the future, as seen today,” he added.
In what was a bittersweet moment, Adm. Faller remarked that SOUTHDEC 21 will be his last security conference as commander, as he is set to retire later this year.
“As I look around this room, I see more than just military partners. I see friends. Friends who I’ve developed personal relationships over the past three years at SOUTHCOM,” Adm. Faller said, thinking of such as Brazil and Colombia who he’s forged a special bond with, before mentioning the rest of the South American region involved in UNITAS — the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise. “I think of our interconnectedness — geographically, historically, and culturally. I think of our military professionalism, how we share democratic values, like rule of law, free and fair elections, gender equality, and human rights. And how we continue to earn the trust and legitimacy from the citizens of our nations.”