By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2013 – U.S. Southern Command and its predecessors have played a critical, stabilizing role since the the Caribbean Defense Command was established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today in Miami.
Southcom’s area of responsibility is immense, Carter told the audience at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the command’s founding. The more than 40 countries it contains represent a sixth of the world’s landmass, he noted.
It’s a region from which millions of American immigrants trace their roots, Carter said, and a region of growing importance to both U.S. national security and the world’s economy.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s recent trips to Central America underscore U.S. commitment to being a strong and reliable partner to our regional allies, Carter said.
“And that’s not going to change,” he added.
Southcom’s motto, ‘Partnership for the Americas,’ is fitting, the deputy defense secretary said, given the command’s range of responsibilities and activities.
“Your commitment to working with partners, both in the region and throughout the U.S. government -- the military to the rest of our government -- is helping build an integrated network of defense in the Western Hemisphere, based on shared responsibility and shared values,” Carter told the audience.
“We recognize that, and our commitment is to you, to help you carry out that commitment,” he added.
Through initiatives such as Operation Martillo, Southcom and its partners are dismantling transnational criminal networks and disrupting illicit drug trafficking, Carter said.
Operation Martillo is a multinational, interagency and joint military operation combatting aerial and maritime drug trafficking off Central America’s coasts. According to Southcom’s website, more than 67 percent of interdictions were supported by partner nations. In 2012, the operation stopped 152 metric tons of cocaine and 21 metric tons of marijuana from reaching the U.S. and $7 million in bulk cash from reaching drug traffickers in Central and South America.
“Through engagements with nations like Brazil, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador, you’re energizing collaboration on peacekeeping and multinational security operations throughout the world,” Carter said.
Southcom’s humanitarian and disaster relief assistance efforts enhance regional security and improve the ability of U.S. allies to respond in times of crisis, the deputy secretary said.
Few would have predicted the remarkable progress made by the region in the 50 years since President John F. Kennedy established Southcom, Carter said.
“Today, though challenges remain, the Americas are more stable, more democratic and more prosperous,” he said. “And Southcom’s engagement and investment in the region has been an important part of that kind of success.”