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Southcom Commander Nominee: U.S. Must Remain 'Partner of Choice' in Western Hemisphere

Aug. 3, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The nominee for the commander post at U.S. Southern Command told Congress she would build upon her predecessor's efforts and work diligently with U.S. partners to ensure Southcom fully accounts for the defense challenges and opportunities in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson testified in her nomination hearing today for promotion to general and assuming command of Southcom before the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Currently serving as the commander of U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Richardson would replace outgoing Southcom commander Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller.

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In this era of long-term strategic competition, the United States must remain the partner of choice throughout the Western Hemisphere, Richardson told the committee. 

"[The] Southern Command region is of strategic importance to U.S. vital interests, and, if confirmed, I will synchronize our approach to security cooperation, working across all combatant commands to narrow the gaps and seams our competitors are exploiting," she said. 

Today, many of the United States' closest partners in the region are still fighting bravely against the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 

A woman dressed in a military uniform stands surrounded by service members, some sitting at wooden picnic tables and some standing.
Laura J. Richardson
Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commander of Army North, speaks to soldiers of D Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at a mobile surveillance camera site in Del Rio, Texas, Dec. 24, 2019. The Defense Department has deployed units across the Southwestern border at the request of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is providing logistical, engineering and force-protection functions.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy
VIRIN: 191224-A-ZY446-005C

"We are all too familiar with the devastation caused by this deadly pandemic, and I empathize with those who have felt its horrific impacts. More than a humanitarian crisis, this devastation is changing the geopolitical landscape," Richardson said. "Authoritarian regimes and transnational criminal organizations enabled by China and encouraged by Russia are attempting to consolidate power in the region, and free societies are being directly challenged." 

While U.S. competitors are attempting to profit from our partners' vulnerable circumstances, Richardson said she stands ready to support the coordinated and prioritized whole-of-government effort in support of partner nations on vaccine distribution. 

Richardson said she will focus on rebuilding regional resilience by expanding U.S. security cooperation efforts and multilateral exercises, increasing international military education and training exchanges, and working with the Defense Department and Congress on innovative methods to increase levels of interoperability and global integration. 

Dozens of people wearing hardhats stand on a hillside that has been cleared of brush and trees.
Speaking to Soldiers
Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of Army North and the Joint Forces Land Component Command, speaks with soldiers of the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion during her visit to the August Complex wildland fire in the Mendocino National Forest in California, Sept. 15, 2020. Richardson recognized and thanked the professional wildland firefighters and the soldiers of the 14th BEB, who are deployed to Northern California.
Photo By: Army Spc. Michael Ybarra
VIRIN: 200915-A-JW296-032C

"Through a comprehensive and multilateral approach, we can strengthen regional resilience by denying freedom of movement to transnational criminal organizations," she said. "And by reducing exposure to the corrosive efforts of external state actors in our shared hemisphere, we thereby improve security of our southern border," Richardson added. 

The United States draws upon the strength of the Western Hemisphere from partner nations that share U.S. values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, Richardson said, adding the U.S. cannot take these relationships for granted or let its guard down as competitors vie for influence.

"We must hasten to pick up the pieces left by the pandemic and transform our relationships to meet 21st century security challenges. Put simply, winning together with our allies and partners matters," she noted.

People are seated at tables in a large conference room; a large screen is in the center of the room.
Open Remarks
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gives opening remarks at an opioid summit at U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami, Feb. 8, 2018. U.S. government leaders and experts in public health, interdiction, law enforcement and justice attended the summit to examine the opioid crisis, consider ways to strengthen the national response, and define holistic strategies to address the problem.
Photo By: Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally
VIRIN: 180208-G-TM873-006C

Richardson said if she is confirmed, she would look forward to continuing to serve the American people by leading the "great team" at Southcom. Just as she has worked with numerous agencies within U.S. borders, Richardson said she would work with U.S. interagency partners abroad. 

"Whether [working] against COVID, transnational criminal organizations, the predatory actions of China, the malign influence of Russia, or natural disasters, there's nothing we cannot overcome or achieve through an integrated response with our interagency allies and partners," Richardson said.