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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 274-97
May 29, 1997

U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR U.S. FORCES ACTIVITIES IN CARIBBEAN AREA ON JUNE 1

Defense Department officials today announced an expansion of U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility for U.S. military activities effective June 1 to include portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and its island nations, and the Gulf of Mexico, formerly assigned to U.S. Atlantic Command. This is the second phase of the most recent change to the Department of Defense Unified Command Plan approved by President Clinton on Dec. 28, 1995 and announced on Feb. 7, 1996. In the first phase, responsibility for waters adjacent to Central and South America was transferred from Atlantic Command to Southern Command on Jan. 1, 1996.

The responsibilities added to Southern Command include U.S. military activities in the 13 island nations in the Caribbean, several European territories, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a portion of the Atlantic Ocean south of 28 degrees North and west of 58 degrees West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

This transfer aligns the Caribbean and all of Latin America south of Mexico under one unified command for the command and control of U.S. military forces. It will enhance Southern Command's interaction with the navies of Central and South America, and facilitate improved integration of U.S. counterdrug efforts by giving one commander responsibility for both the source and transit zones of the drug trade.

The Unified Command Plan provides guidance to all unified combatant commanders, establishes their missions, responsibilities, and force structure, delineates the general geographic area of responsibility for geographic combatant commanders and specifies functional responsibilities for functional commanders. It is reviewed periodically by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such a review is currently underway with results expected to be announced in early 1998.

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