Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the House National Security Committee, it is an honor to appear before you. ... Today I will provide you an assessment of Latin America, describe SOUTHCOM's organization and explain how SOUTHCOM supports U.S. interests in the region.
I would like to begin by identifying the four major areas in which SOUTHCOM is focusing its efforts. The first is assisting to build regional cooperative security measures in order to reduce interstate and regional tensions. Our second area of emphasis is encouraging Latin American militaries to consider roles appropriate to their national requirements, roles that are supportive of civilian control and respectful of human rights and the rule of law. Third, we are actively supporting the National Drug Control Strategy. Finally, we are structuring SOUTHCOM so we can remain engaged with the Americas throughout the next century.
The term "Latin America" is deceiving. The vast region to our south includes 33 nations with histories and cultural heritage that are in some cases as dissimilar as those of the countries between the English Channel and the Urals. Four principal languages (French, English, Portuguese and Spanish) are spoken. The Organization of American States recognizes seven official languages, and numerous indigenous languages are still used.
As we move towards greater hemispheric integration, we must understand this diversity and draw from its strengths. It's worth noting that increasing hemispheric interdependence means that events such as an economic crisis or an outbreak of violence are felt throughout the region.
U.S.-Latin American relations have been punctuated this past year by major events. The highlight of the year was the Summit of the Americas. In addition, we witnessed the hemispheric condemnation of the dictatorial regime in Haiti and the subsequent reinstallment of the legitimate, democratic government. Last summer we saw the exodus of migrants, first from Haiti, then from Cuba. The over 30,000 Cubans who took to the sea in rafts before U.S. negotiations stemmed the tide are suggestive of the potential human tragedy that will accompany the implosion of the tottering Castro Regime. Most recently, Mexico's financial problems have raised concerns about Latin America's economic health.
In December President [Bill] Clinton and 33 other democratically elected heads of state met in Miami to celebrate the emergence of political freedom and economic prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. They reaffirmed a shared commitment to democracy, respect for human rights, market economics and free trade. Finally, they committed themselves to a process that will accelerate the economic transformation of the region and the creation of a hemispherewide free trade zone.
The upbeat economic news coming from the Americas was in many ways the primary reason for the summit. Market principles are prevailing, and open trade regimes are being adopted. Inflation has been slashed to one-thirtieth of the rate of just five years ago. Inefficient public sectors are being privatized.
Growing investor confidence in the region was reflected by the surging Brazilian and Chilean stock markets, the two top performing markets in the world in 1994 until caution set in after the Mexican peso devaluation. As a consequence of this economic transformation U.S. exports to the region have more than doubled in the past eight years, creating some 900,000 quality jobs for U.S. citizens.
Presently we trade more with Brazil than with China and more with Venezuela than with Russia. By the turn of the century our trade with the region is projected to exceed that with Western Europe.
The story of Latin American political transformation is as familiar as the positive economic reports. Only Cuba lacks a representative form of government in the hemisphere. There is increasing stability and peace in Central America. The war in El Salvador is over, as is the Nicaraguan conflict. While the Guatemalan insurgency continues, there is increasing confidence that a U.N.-sponsored peace process may resolve this 34-year war. Peru has also made significant progress in resolving its decade-long nightmare with the Sendero Luminoso [Shining Path] and other anarchist insurgencies.
The hemisphere is increasingly characterized by democratic governments seeking to build inclusive societies and competitive economies. The military forces of Latin America are also contributing to this process by supporting civilian authority and the rule of law. Human rights are accorded more respect. There is optimism that these gains will not be easily reversed. Simon Bolivar's 170-year-old dream is still alive.
Last month Gen. John Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the uncertainties that accompany the process of forging a new post-Cold War order. He quoted a member of Congress who asked, "And just how many tanks does uncertainty have?"
If that question were asked about Latin America, the answer would be that it has fewer tanks than any other region of the world. On our southern flank there is no regional aggressor seeking military hegemony, no specter of a regional arms race, nor the grave danger of the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Our neighbors are allies who, in general, share similar values.
Nevertheless, there are real problems in the Americas. Widespread social and economic inequalities are exploited by insurgents, narcotraffickers and highly armed bands of criminals. Latin America also has the world's most skewed income distribution. The benefits of the recent economic turnaround infrequently trickle down to the poor. These problems can be catalysts for significant migration, both internal and international.
Lingering security concerns can derail the process of hemispheric integration. The flare-up of the longstanding border dispute between Ecuador and Peru shows how enormous progress can be jeopardized by historical enmity, mutual suspicion and lack of cooperation. Such deep seated sovereignty issues are hard to resolve, and they contain the seeds of future conflict.
Disputes of varying intensity have tinged interstate relations, from the Argentinean-Chilean border disagreements in Tierra del Fuego to the 1969 "Soccer War" between Honduras and El Salvador. The prevalent view within "the beltway" [Washington, D.C., metropolitan area] that Latin American nations face no conventional threats is wrong. If you don't understand this aspect of regional tension, then you won't understand the forces at work in Latin America or the concerns of its defense planners. These insecurities make the development of cooperative security arrangements and other confidence building measures all the more relevant.
Drug production and trafficking continue to be the major regional problems which affect all the nations of the Americas. In Colombia, for example, the murder rate is nearly 10 times greater than that of the U.S. Most of these deaths are directly related to narcoguerrilla activity. Cultivation of coca in Colombia has increased by more than 20 percent in the past two years.
In Bolivia, cultivation has also increased to record levels despite U.S.-funded eradication programs. In 1993 coca leaf seizures in Bolivia were less than 1 percent of the total illegally harvested crop. This is a reality we must deal with. This problem is compounded by an increase in opium cultivation and heroin trafficking.
When we compare the positive trends in the Americas with the uncertainty of the rest of the world, it's clear the U.S. should remain engaged in this region to cement these gains and continue to support our national security interests. We can do this in a number of ways.
The U.S. government can support regional cooperative security arrangements that reduce tensions and mutual suspicions. We can also assist Latin American armed forces as they develop roles and missions appropriate to their new circumstances. We can help them devise military doctrines to guide them in multinational peacekeeping operations or in cooperative management of border issues.
Additionally, we can demonstrate and support appropriate civil-military relations marked by military subordination to constitutional law and elected civilian leadership. Further, we can promote respect for human rights amongst the militaries of the region. Finally, SOUTHCOM can, as we have increasingly in past years, support U.S. counterdrug programs and the efforts of our Latin American allies in this cause.
SOUTHCOM, with its headquarters at Quarry Heights, Panama, is assigned an area of responsibility encompassing Central and South America. SOUTHCOM's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and special operations forces work throughout Latin America with interagency, nongovernmental and private voluntary organizations. CinC [commander in chief] USSOUTHCOM is the principal agent of the Department of Defense for designing, coordinating and executing a military strategy to support U.S. national security objectives within the region.
Recurring peacetime activities include contingency planning, execution of joint and combined exercises and security assistance programs and activities, support for counterdrug operations conducted by other U.S. government and foreign government agencies, assistance for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, and the promotion of military-to-military contacts and confidence-building measures.
SOUTHCOM continues to build on the strong relationships between the command, other U.S. government agencies operating in the Americas, and the U.S. ambassadors and their country teams in each country. The effective leadership of dedicated public servants such as Assistant Secretaries of State Bob Gelbard and Alec Watson, Assistant Secretary of Defense Allen Holmes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mari-Luci Jaramillo, and Mr. Richard Clarke, special assistant to the president, has helped SOUTHCOM integrate interagency objectives into our plan of action. Our ambassadors in the field have assisted us in understanding and supporting host nation perspectives.
One of the reasons the interagency team works so well in Latin America is the clarity with which U.S. government responsibilities have been assigned by the Foreign Service Act and the Goldwater-Nichols [DoD Reorganization Act of 1986] legislation. These complementary acts protect the equities of both ambassadors and military area commanders.
Ambassadors authorize military deployments in their countries after being satisfied that a contemplated military exercise or activity supports their objectives. Military commanders command and employ the forces to accomplish assigned missions. These sound principles ensure unity of command and the security of our deployed military forces, while fully integrating U.S. military operations with foreign policy objectives.
SOUTHCOM is a battalion-sized headquarters of 700 men and women of all services. It is the smallest of all the unified commands. The headquarters includes representatives from the Department of State, CIA, DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], NSA [National Security Agency], the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs Service.
The command and its Panama-based forces are withdrawing from the Republic of Panama in compliance with the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty. We are reducing our presence in Panama from 10,250 in 1992 to 7,500 later this year. In 1998 there will be only 5,600 military in Panama, a total reduction of almost 50 percent. All military presence will be withdrawn by Dec. 31, 1999.
SOUTHCOM has subordinate Army, Air Force, Marine and Navy components and a special operations subunified command. The maritime character of the region nearly 23,000 miles of coast line and major river systems that are navigable for thousands of miles by oceangoing vessels is a central strategic consideration. Our U.S. naval services are currently in the process of establishing a Marine Corps planning cell at SOUTHCOM.
There are two subordinate joint task forces within SOUTHCOM: JTF-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, which operates a C-5-capable air base and supports regional confidence building activities; and JTF-Panama, which coordinates all U.S. military operations and carries out humanitarian activities in Panama. Finally, there are 16 security assistance organizations representing SOUTHCOM on U.S. country teams.
Last September Joint Task Force-Safe Haven, under the command of Brig. Gen. James Wilson, erected four temporary migrant camps and associated support facilities in a two-week crash program. Each camp could accommodate 2,500 Cuban migrants, and all were on U.S.-controlled territory in Panama.
Also, Joint Task Force-Distant Haven, under the command of Col. Louis Huddleston, assembled a separate 2,500-man temporary camp in Suriname to house and care for Haitian migrants. Both facilities were intended to relieve mounting pressure at Guantanamo Bay. Thankfully, the need for the camp in Suriname was obviated by the restoration of democracy in Haiti and the subsequent repatriation of migrants.
Some 8,677 Cuban migrants were eventually flown to Panama. They were greeted with open arms by our troops and military community. The camps in Panama featured vocational-technical training, schools for children, sports leagues, religious activities and libraries. We made a conscientious effort to treat these migrants with civility; guns, clubs or barbed wire were not visible in either the reception centers or the four migrant camps.
These humanitarian efforts required intensive and sustained efforts. More than 5,600 U.S. troops directly supported the camps, including 2,000 augmenting forces from the United States. SOUTHCOM carefully executed its fiscal responsibilities, however. Camp assembly and operations cost about $42 million, not including troop salaries and transportation costs. The Cuban migrants left Panama during February and have rejoined the more than 20,000 Cuban migrants in Guantanamo Bay. All augmenting troops subsequently returned to their homes in the U.S.
SOUTHCOM's initial assessment of the Cuban migrant situation in Panama was that enormous growing frustrations among migrants would eventually result in violence. We expected they would vent their frustration by demonstrations or burning the camps. However, Safe Haven units did not expect the migrants would turn on the U.S. troops who had been caring for them and sharing their hardship. In December they did just that during riots.
Approximately 1,500 of the 8,600-plus Cubans in the camps either participated in the riots or tried to escape from the camps. However, the overwhelming majority did not participate in violent acts. Many cared for the wounded or tried to prevent the violence from escalating.
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines responded to these attacks with enormous discipline and restraint, and quickly regained control of the situation. We are grateful that no American or Cuban was killed or permanently maimed during the riots. However, 240 U.S. troops and 32 Cubans were injured. Also, two Cubans who escaped subsequently drowned while attempting to swim across the Panama Canal.
The riots and the potential for further violence prompted a request for three additional Army infantry battalions and elements of an Air Force security police squadron to reinforce the forces guarding the migrants. There was no more violence.
Supporting U.S. Interests
Latin American military leaders have enormous respect and confidence in the U.S. armed forces. They are impressed by the successes we have demonstrated in Desert Storm and other recent military operations. They admire the doctrine, technology, training and leadership that made those successes possible. They recognize that our armed forces are viewed with great respect by the American public and contribute in appropriate ways to the public discourse on national defense. Consequently, they are prepared to consider SOUTHCOM's ideas on promoting regional cooperative security and military-to-military confidence building measures. The SOUTHCOM exercise program is one way in which we use this high standing to advance such ideas.
During this past year SOUTHCOM's exercises have shifted from bilateral events featuring conventional combat scenarios to multilateral exercises focusing on peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, operations against narcotraffickers and other more appropriate post-Cold War missions. In September, for example, SOUTHCOM conducted a combined exercise with forces from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela at Fort Chaffee, Ark. The exercise scenario featured cooperative security operations against narcoguerrillas operating in a border region amongst civilian noncombatants. We also invited representatives of several human rights organizations, members of the international press and senior Latin American military officers to observe and learn from this exercise and each other.
In November SOUTHCOM hosted a peacekeeping exercise with more than 500 officers and noncommissioned officers from the Puerto Rico National Guard, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. One of the exercise's main objectives was to promote dialogue between neighboring militaries that have been reluctant to discuss mutual security issues. Additionally, observers from 12 Latin American countries [and from] many U.S. interagency and nongovernmental and private voluntary organizations visited the exercise. Our visitors included five Latin American chiefs of armed forces and several service chiefs.
SOUTHCOM will continue to expand participation in these multilateral exercises. In August 1995 we will support Lt. Gen. Martin Balza, the Argentine army chief of staff, as he further develops his army's abilities to participate in peacekeeping operations. In addition, working through JTF-Bravo in Honduras, we will conduct similar ventures in Central America.
The conflict between Ecuador and Peru graphically illustrates how border disputes can undermine regional stability and underscores the importance of developing regional cooperative security arrangements. This longstanding border dispute caused earlier conflicts in 1941 and 1981 with hundreds of casualties for both sides and will be difficult to settle. At the root of the conflict is the imprecise treaty language about the demarcation of this largely unpopulated and undeveloped jungle region. This conflict is compounded by inaccurate maps of the disputed area.
SOUTHCOM has closely monitored the conflict zone and both countries' military activities since fighting broke out in January. Our concern has been that the rapid mobilization by both sides could spread the conflict from the disputed jungle region and escalate into general war between the two nations. SOUTHCOM is currently supporting U.S. participation in guarantor efforts to solidify the existing cease-fire. We are also assisting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff develop supporting plans for an envisioned guarantor observation mission.
In the minds of some critics, the armed forces of Latin America are indelibly linked with the region's past political problems. Those critics have difficulty accepting that military institutions can have roles as positive, nonpolitical, defense-oriented elements of their societies. Indeed, disciplined, obedient and law-abiding armed forces have a role in all societies. They provide the state a necessary monopoly of force to protect sovereignty from foreign and domestic enemies. Absent such legitimate armed forces, the nation is more likely to devolve to a Bosnia, not a Switzerland.
SOUTHCOM interacts with Latin America's armed forces through multiple venues. We discuss a variety of issues such as roles, missions, doctrines, force structure, human rights and civil-military relations. We interact through security assistance programs, Spanish language schools, symposia and humanitarian exercises and activities. Before reviewing this interaction, I would like to offer some observations on the relative size and contemporary activities of these armed forces.
Latin America is one of the least militarized regions in the world. ... North Korea, a nation about the size of tiny Honduras, has more submarines and more men under arms than do all Latin American countries combined. Both Iraq and North Korea have more tanks than do all Latin American armies. These low levels of defense spending are a reflection of regional threat perceptions. The development of regional cooperative security arrangements would further reduce threat perceptions and encourage continued restraint.
Nevertheless, Latin American militaries have legitimate modernization requirements as they assume new roles and missions and their equipment becomes obsolete. They can easily meet their needs for armaments through uncoordinated purchases on an international market which features an enormous pool of excess Soviet arms. Consequently, the U.S. must carefully consider how to respond to appropriate Latin American requests to purchase U.S.-produced military equipment. Our purpose must be to encourage regional security approaches that will reduce the likelihood of destabilizing arms transfers.
Today Latin American countries are participating in 13 of the 17 ongoing United Nations peace operations. Participation ranges from Argentina's extensive involvement in the former Yugoslav Republic and seven other countries [and] Brazil's leadership role in U.N. missions in Angola and Mozambique to Guyana's modest participation in Haiti. As noted earlier, SOUTHCOM is supporting these efforts by sharing advice, sponsoring exercises and responding to requests for assistance.
Traditional security assistance programs in Latin America have been reduced in recent years. Our Latin American neighbors in Central America are no longer threatened by Cuban- and Soviet-backed insurgencies. Much of our present-day assistance is focused on other missions, such as counternarcotics. However, we must continue to assist Latin American militaries as they develop appropriate roles and missions.
SOUTHCOM strongly believes that some of these programs are critical to our U.S. goals of supporting democracy and military professionalism in the Americas. Such programs as EIMET, IMET and SOUTHCOM's Spanish language schools are key elements of this strategy.
The Expanded International Military and Education Training program can make a significant contribution to improved military management and strengthened civilian control over the military. By bringing uniformed and civilian Latin American leaders to our executive-level national security programs, as we do for Russian generals at Harvard University, SOUTHCOM can provide useful training to our military colleagues thereby enhancing cooperative regional security.
Clearly, SOUTHCOM programs which train military leaders contribute to the development of military institutions subordinate to civilian authority and which act in accordance with the rule of law.
SOUTHCOM is particularly concerned about the significant reductions in IMET [International Military Education and Training]. The benefits of this program extend far beyond the technical skills imparted in our military schools. Future Latin American military leaders observe our armed forces interacting with local communities and responding to civilian control and concerns.
Because of IMET cuts fewer students are coming to our schools. Last year only 1,518 Latin American IMET students came to the U.S. compared to 6,775 five years ago - a 75 percent cut. We are losing the ability to establish individual relationships that transcend nationality, last a career and can be helpful in times of crisis.
We must reverse this trend if we wish to remain supportive of Latin American militaries which are professional, support civilian democratic leaders and are linked to U.S. doctrine. Your support of the president's fiscal year 1996 budget, which restores funding for this important program, is critical.
The three Spanish-language military schools run by the U.S. armed forces (the Air Force's InterAmerican Air Forces Academy, the Army's School of the Americas, and the Navy's Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School) are especially low-cost, high payoff means of interacting with the junior and mid-level military leadership of the Americas. We have no greater defense multiplier.
The School of the Americas has been the target of some bitter criticism in recent years. The Army and SOUTHCOM have listened and have taken those criticisms into account as we have changed and revamped the school's curriculum and faculty. The U.S. Army has now assigned a military chaplain, military international law expert and a public affairs officer to expand instruction in legal and ethical issues and to promote understanding of the role of the free press.
We intend to retain the school's relevance as a center for developing and teaching appropriate U.S. military doctrine and respect for international law and human rights to the security forces of the more than 15 Organization of American States members whose principal language is Spanish. SOUTHCOM strongly believes that the school's new commandant, Col. Roy Trumble, welcomes continued interaction and oversight from legislators and human rights organizations. Such interaction and oversight will make this critical U.S. military training institution even more useful as we and our allies continue to build democracy throughout the Americas.
In the past three years over 80,000 U.S. Army and Air Force National Guardsmen as well as reservists from all services and from every state of the Union and Puerto Rico have come to Latin America. They come to train and participate in humanitarian exercises. Indeed, many U.S. Desert Storm commanders attributed the superb combat performance of our reserves to their peacetime deployments for SOUTHCOM exercises.
As an example, in 1994 some 5,000 reservists from Maine and New York treated 15,000 patients, constructed schools and bridges, and drilled wells throughout rural Guatemala. Guatemalan Minister of Defense Mario Rene Enriquez remarked after seeing these military American ambassadors in action that "if the citizen-soldier concept were to be adopted here, it would help integrate our Army with the civilian community and would result in better understanding and cooperation between both sectors." Clearly the value of these exercises cannot be measured in engineering or training terms alone.
This year reservists from Alabama and other states are performing similar tasks in El Salvador and simultaneously enhancing civil-military relations. Our ambassadors eagerly compete for these exercises. Ambassador Roger Gamble's comments on a SOUTHCOM exercise in Suriname typify their approval of these ventures: "The reservists not only helped train soldiers, but also provided a vehicle for encouraging further civil military cooperation and getting the Surinamese armed forces to serve the interests of its people."
However, as with other programs that entail foreign military interaction, SOUTHCOM's deployments for humanitarian activities have decreased greatly. In 1996 SOUTHCOM deployments on these exercises will be at about 60 percent of 1994 levels.
In all SOUTHCOM's interactions with Latin American armed forces, we stress respect for the dignity of the civilian populace. We underscore the importance of a military code of conduct and of a sense of discipline in subordinate leaders and units. To this end we have invited human rights advocates from both Latin America and the U.S. to participate in SOUTHCOM conferences and exercises. Their participation in our activities promotes civil oversight of appropriate military activities. ...
Illegal drugs, cocaine in particular, extract a frightful toll in America. Drugs kill 10,000 Americans each year. The cost to American society exceeds $66 billion a year. Crack babies require expensive treatment to survive and then face the prospect of impaired lives. Drug-fueled crime, violence and corruption affect us all. American consumers spend almost as much on illegal narcotics as we spend on our Army. The president's National Drug Control Strategy recognizes these costs and correctly addresses both the domestic problem of demand and the international problems of drug manufacturing and smuggling.
The principal task of the U.S. agencies involved in the counterdrug struggle in Latin America is to reduce the amount of cocaine (and increasingly, heroin) being illegally smuggled to the U.S. All too often progress in one area has been offset by a negative development elsewhere. In Guatemala, for example, smugglers stopped flying in cocaine for transshipment to Mexico and poppy fields were eradicated. On the other hand, cocaine is now being smuggled directly from Colombia to Mexico using Boeing 727-sized aircraft with multiton loads. Most of the cocaine coming to the U.S. enters across the Mexican border.
The Department of Defense is not the lead U.S. agency in counterdrug efforts. The armed forces support lead U.S. agencies (DEA, DOJ [Department of Justice], Customs, etc.) and help our Latin American allies where appropriate. SOUTHCOM receives only about 1 percent of the total federal counterdrug budget ($153 million out of $13 billion) to support the counterdrug efforts of other U.S. agencies and committed host nations. We get approximately 22 percent of the DoD drug funds.
We face a dilemma in our counterdrug efforts. Our efforts over the past five or more years have not yet yielded the effect we desired. Coca growing has not diminished. The amount of cocaine produced and subsequently smuggled out to the U.S. and world markets has also remained steady. Both the street price and the availability of cocaine in the United States have not been demonstrably affected by the U.S. extensive interagency involvement (to include DOD's) in the counterdrug effort in Latin America.
Nevertheless, a substantial amount of cocaine is being interdicted, perhaps up to a third of the total produced. We remain committed to addressing this national security threat and request your continued support of our counterdrug efforts.
The economics of the drug business is a major reason for the lack of progress. As long as there is a domestic demand, some entrepreneur will find a way to meet it. The U.S. demand for cocaine is steady, and the profits to be made are stupendous. The price of a kilo of cocaine on the streets in the United States is about 200 times greater than the price of the coca leaves required to make up that kilo. Coca farming is more profitable for the peasants involved than growing other crops, but only marginally so. However, the production, distribution and retailing of drugs produces unbelievable wealth for the criminals involved. Much more has to be done before campesinos, traffickers and the others involved in this business can be induced into other economic activity.
SOUTHCOM continues to critically assess the effectiveness of our supporting counterdrug programs. In October SOUTHCOM and the Office of National Drug Control Policy jointly hosted an interagency conference to discuss how SOUTHCOM activities could best support U.S. efforts to achieve the objectives of President Clinton's PDD-14 [presidential decision directive] The personal involvement of ONDCP director, Dr. Lee Brown; our secretary of defense, Dr. William Perry; the DEA administrator, Mr. Thomas Constantine; the U.S. Interdiction Coordinator, ADM Robert Kramek; commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, Mr. George Weise; and the U.S. ambassadors involved in the counterdrug effort made this a useful conference.
SOUTHCOM is attempting to change the way we fight this CD [counterdrug] war - 90 days at a time with temporary duty military positions. In Vietnam we learned that you couldn't be effective fighting the war a year at a time. And we can't tackle this scourge, which is killing 10,000 Americans a year, with troop deployments of three months' duration.
SOUTHCOM will also continue to measure the effectiveness of supporting systems such as Air Force AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System], specialized tracker aircraft, ground-based radars and relocatable-over-the-horizon radars. These high-technology systems are now integrated in an extremely useful Andean ridge CD network to detect and monitor drug aircraft.
SOUTHCOM believes we can be more successful by focusing our support in Peru, the source of 80 percent of the cocaine that ends up on America's streets. President [Alberto] Fujimori and his armed forces have successfully checked the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso and jump-started Peru's economy.
In our judgment, the Peruvians are ready to seriously tackle narcotrafficking. In the last year they made significant progress in law enforcement operations against drug traffickers. However, they still must take significant steps to reduce coca cultivation. SOUTHCOM will continue to work closely with the U.S. country team in assisting the Peruvians continue to make progress in their counterdrug efforts.
Throughout the Andean Ridge our allies in this counterdrug cause have shown great courage and tenacity. We have nothing but admiration for the Colombian soldiers, policemen and public officials who risk their lives to fight this cancer. Significant tactical successes can be seen everywhere.
In Bolivia a single helicopter squadron of 22 aircraft advised by a U.S. Army major supports counterdrug forces on raids throughout the Chapare. U.S. Navy Seals are also working effectively with the Bolivian navy to improve their ability to conduct CD patrols on Amazonian rivers. Over the Andes an integrated multinational detection and monitoring program allows us to track narcotrafficker aircraft carrying semiprocessed coca from Bolivia and Peru to Colombia.
Our challenge as we seek to help our committed allies attack the problems of drug manufacturing and smuggling is to build on these tactical successes. We must develop an overarching operational construct that links country-by-country efforts and that supports an effective regional strategy. We have a lot of work ahead if the PDD-14 counterdrug strategy is to work in the source countries of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.
The window of opportunity for deciding how to keep the U.S. military instrument of power engaged in Latin America is rapidly closing. Over the years our forward presence in Panama and Honduras has provided strategic leverage to support vital U.S. national security interests.
Today our bases in Panama allow our armed forces to play a critical role in regional counterdrug operations, to conduct humanitarian assistance exercises, to provide disaster relief and to host exercises that help build regional cooperative security. We will have to consider how to continue those activities from alternate locations.
We shall also have to assess how to provide alternatives for U.S. Air Force operations currently at Howard Air Force Base and for port facilities at Rodman Naval Station. The Jungle Operations School and Navy Small Boat School must also be relocated. The ongoing military transition out of Panama must be conducted in a way that allows us to continue to support U.S. interests in the Americas.
SOUTHCOM has submitted a concept for carrying out the provisions of the canal treaty to the secretary of defense. We have received his guidance and are working with the government of Panama to ensure compliance with all provisions of the treaty during the last five years of this 20-year transitional period.
There are concerns about SOUTHCOM's progress in the reversion of DoD properties to Panama. To date the government of Panama has accepted just 15 percent of the properties that are to be reverted. Much of that infrastructure has not been effectively converted to civilian use. Some 5,000 buildings and 77,000 acres must be reverted in the next five years. Panama's patrimony will be decided as the remaining facilities are reverted. The Panamanians face a challenge as they plan for the development of the remaining DoD installations and training areas.
This state of affairs does not reflect on the capabilities of the superb team assembled by Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares. About half of the 20-year transitional period was squandered by the cronies of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. President [Guillermo] Endara's administration emphasized re-establishing democracy. Now President Balladares' administration can focus on the reversion process for DoD properties. SOUTHCOM is firmly committed to creating the conditions that will allow the Panamanian people to succeed in this critical process.
In 1994 SOUTHCOM inactivated the 193rd Light Infantry Brigade, which had been stationed in Panama. This year nearly all military facilities on the Atlantic end of the Canal will be reverted to Panama. Only the Jungle Operations Training Center and an unmanned communications site will remain under U.S. control. All military families will depart the Atlantic side.
The government of Panama must cushion the economic effects of the shrinking U.S. presence on the Panamanian economy, for the Department of Defense is the second largest employer in Panama after their own government.
In the next three years approximately 3,000 more troops and 5,000 family members will depart Panama as part of the continuing drawdown. The multiplier effects on the Panamanian economy of the $450 million in annual salaries paid by the Department of Defense to troops and civilians will soon be lost along with the more than $100 million spent each year on goods, services and contracts.
As part of the withdrawal from Panama we hope to move SOUTHCOM headquarters to a new location in 1998. A SOUTHCOM study recommended both criteria and specific locations for consideration by the secretary of defense. We expect a decision soon. [The president announced Miami as the choice on March 29.]
One of the study's principal conclusions is that the future site of the headquarters must allow SOUTHCOM to continue its steady focus on political-military developments in the Americas into the next century. Clearly, there are several locations that lend themselves to that essential task.
Many question how this U.S. military withdrawal from Panama will affect our national security interests. The short answer is, it won't. SOUTHCOM believes we have no vital military or economic interest directly at stake in Panama which we cannot support through some other strategy.
Only 14 percent of our seaborne trade goes through the canal. About 80 percent of our Pacific container traffic now goes via intermodal links within the U.S. The other 20 percent goes through the canal. Just 15 years ago these figures were reversed.
However, under the Neutrality Treaty, the U.S. armed forces have a permanent responsibility to defend the Panama Canal. We will work with the Republic of Panama to develop ways to discharge that responsibility.
SOUTHCOM understands, however, that the effective operation of the canal is vital to Panama's economic stability and to nations such as Chile, Ecuador and Peru that depend on it to trade with the world. To date Panama has proved it can manage the Canal. More than 90 percent of the employees of the Panama Canal Commission are Panamanian citizens.
The real issue is whether Panama can retain the confidence of the international shipping industry that bases shipbuilding decisions on predictions of shipping patterns five to 10 years out. Clearly, they will take into account the military security of this vital international asset in light of the continuing drawdown of the U.S. military force presence.
By 1998 our troop strength in Panama will be approximately 5,600. This will be a dramatic reduction of almost 50 percent since 1992. SOUTHCOM headquarters will hopefully have moved to a new U.S.-based location. Remaining U.S. military forces in Panama will be clustered in just a few Pacific-side DoD facilities. SOUTHCOM will be prepared to complete the U.S. military withdrawal by Dec. 31, 1999.
SOUTHCOM is particularly concerned with the requirement to maintain a satisfying quality of life for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, DoD employees and their family members.
In recent years, as our military forces have been reduced, operational deployments have actually increased. The deployment of sizable U.S. reinforcements to Panama and Suriname this past year to conduct migrant operations are just two of many such world-wide deployments.
This increased operational tempo takes its toll on our troops and their families. We must keep an eye on it, for retention rates may decline if our military families decide they are being asked to do too much. SOUTHCOM urges the Congress to support the fiscal year 1996 national defense budget and the fiscal year 1995 supplemental budget request, thereby keeping our longstanding commitment to the superb young men and women who serve in its armed forces ... [that we will maintain] both readiness and a decent quality of life for troops and their families.
At the Summit of the Americas, President Clinton characterized hemispheric relations by saying, "We are bound together by geography, by history, by culture, but most important, now by shared values -- a ferocious devotion to freedom, democracy, social justice and determination to improve the lives of all our people." SOUTHCOM believes that Latin America is a region where we can create win-win policy outcomes.
Our national interests in the Americas can be supported by fully engaging with all instruments of U.S. national power to achieve the objectives we share with our allies: economic growth, democratic government, regional security and control of transnational dangers such as terrorism, drug trafficking and the migration of people.
With congressional support, the secretary of defense can continue to ensure that SOUTHCOM plays an important supporting role in this critical region.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html