Leaders From 18 Nations, Southcom Meet To Discuss Caribbean Security

January 29, 2016

Drawn by an interest in addressing regional threats of mutual concern, delegations from 18 nations including the United States met in Kingston, Jamaica, Jan. 26-29, for talks on security cooperation capacity building in the Caribbean.

More than 100 leaders and experts in defense, government, law enforcement and emergency management took part in the 14th Caribbean Nations Security Conference, or CANSEC XIV, where they examined known challenges to regional stability and discussed the policies, strategies, initiatives, mechanisms and capabilities that support regional collaboration and shared security goals.

The annual conference was co-hosted by Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defense Force Maj. Gen. Antony Bertram Anderson, and U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

“Much of the work we do nowadays is within a multiagency, multinational context, rather than the traditional military operation, even though those traditional partnerships remain essential,” Anderson said during remarks at the opening ceremony. “This current paradigm allows us to approach the business of securing our countries in innovative ways. When we get these partnerships right, we will achieve a synergy in security that will allow collective efforts to be far more effective than if we attempted to go it alone.”

Tidd told attendees he was eager to hear their perspectives and ideas on ways to improve collaboration.

“From what I know and from what I have learned over these past few weeks, I see tremendous opportunities for improving information sharing between our countries and leveraging already established mechanisms. Let me know what obstacles remain, what still needs to be done, and what Southcom can do to help,” he said during his opening ceremony remarks.

Caribbean Security

U.S. and Caribbean leaders provided updates on the Caribbean Community Crime and Security Strategy and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

“Between 2010 and 2015, we provided over $387 million under CBSI [for] law enforcement programs to address the threats, complemented by longer-term, rule-of-law programs, economic development activities, and military capability programs,” said Matthew Mullins-Hall, a foreign affairs officer with the U.S. State Department.

Mullins-Hall called the State Department-funded Technical Assistance Field Team, one of the most successful programs assisting the region under CBSI.

Based at Southcom, the 15-member team is comprised of engineers, electricians, technicians, communications specialists and logisticians from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army. The team assists the region’s naval and maritime security forces with improving maintenance, supply and logistics capabilities critical to ensuring the sustainment and availability of maritime patrol fleets for counter illicit trafficking operations.

“They’re actually here in Jamaica this week helping the Jamaica Defense Force launch their SAFE [patrol] boats,” he added, referring to boats recently donated to Jamaica by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

Day Two

The second day of CANSEC XIV began with discussions on cooperative efforts to counter transnational organized crime in the Caribbean and improve information sharing.

“A common understanding of data and the practical aspects of how [information] must be shared needs to be worked out now. It cannot wait until the next piece of critical information is received. It cannot wait until the problem becomes more complex or dynamic … We must understand the connecting points before we can begin to use them,” said Robert Post, a Southcom analyst.

Delegates visited the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Center and the Caribbean Military Aviation School, where faculty members acquainted the guests with how their institutions support training and operations for Jamaica and other Caribbean nations.

“We’ve been working for a while, specifically with Canada, in developing this capability,” Anderson said. “Because of our relatively small size it may be useful for some of the partner nations from the Caribbean to look at what we’re doing.”

The final day of CANSEC XIV included a briefing by the Inter-American Defense Board and updates on the 12th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, a meeting of Western Hemisphere defense ministers to be hosted in October by Trinidad and Tobago.