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SOUTHCOM and U.S. Coast Guard Discuss Cooperation at Caribbean and Central America Security Conference

SOUTHCOM and U.S. Coast Guard Discuss Cooperation at Caribbean and Central America Security Conference

By Dialogo
February 07, 2013

It is hard to believe that New Orleans, the city that just eight years ago was devastated by one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history, was named America’s Fastest Growing City by Forbes magazine in 2012.

And precisely this emerging city welcomed over 230 representatives from 28 countries in the Western Hemisphere who participated in the 36th Annual Conference on Caribbean and Central American Security, from November 28-30, 2012.

Organized by the non-profit organization Caribbean-Central American Action (CCAA), the event looked for ways to close the gap between the private and the public sectors to promote security and development in the region. It also provided the perfect scenario for two U.S. agencies committed to that same goal, the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Unit assigned to SOUTHCOM, to be introduced to attendees from regional and international government and non-government organizations, businesses, and academic institutions.

Among the topics covered during the event was the relevance of enhancing and developing economic links between the Caribbean and Asia, as well as issues related to regional trade agreements, the expansion of the Panama Canal, and energy security.

SOUTHCOM’s participation at the conference included a panel on port security conducted by U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Unit Lieutenant Commander Matthew Haynie, and directors from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. LCDR Haynie provided an overview of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and emphasized that “meeting security standards at all key gateways (seaports, private marinas, river front facilities, etc.) is key to addressing threats to stability and to build a safe and predictable environment that permits economic growth opportunities”. In this sense, he said, SOUTHCOM, the U.S. Coast Guard and interagency counterparts work closely with the ISPS program to assist foreign partner nations with the implementation and administration of these regulations.

The round table discussion continued with an introduction of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, the role it plays in port security efforts and the resources available on its Partnership against Terrorism Program web site. The online tool offers updates on improvements to policy, scanning technologies, and services provided under the program.

The topic of strengthening the relationships between the public and private sectors was also covered by representatives from SOUTHCOM’s Partnering Directorate during a second presentation. Jeffrey Pashai, business engagement coordinator at SOUTHCOM, said that the Command places an emphasis on enhancing security cooperation activities in the region in collaboration with businesses. According to Pashai, this is not something new, since the Command has conducted integration activities as far back as 2007, and has successfully established a solid working relationship with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Executives for National Security and several Fortune 500 companies.

Cooperation in disaster relief operations, such as the one organized after the earthquake in Haiti, also was brought up during the interaction of SOUTHCOM and U.S. Coast Guard representatives and subject matter experts from the private sector attending the event. Among those, were Haitian business leaders, Port Authority members and members of the CCAA who expressed interest in participating in the upcoming conference on International Airport, Ports/Waterways and Border Areas Security that SOUTHCOM will hold in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2013.

Sally Yearwood, Executive Director of the CCAA, expressed that this year’s Conference on Caribbean and Central American Security benefited from the participation of representatives from the U.S. Military since it provided the opportunity for organizations all over the Hemisphere to establish the basis for collaboration in the near future.