Lynn Opens Countertrafficking Command Center

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla., April 19, 2011 — A new, high-tech com­mand cen­ter here will move the fight against illic­it traf­fick­ers to a new lev­el, Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III said yes­ter­day.
Just before cut­ting a rib­bon to the Joint Oper­a­tions Com­mand Cen­ter along­side William Wech­sler, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for coun­ternar­cotics and glob­al threats, Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond drugs alone.

 .S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla.
Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III address­es the men and women of U.S. South­ern Command’s Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., April 18, 2011. Lynn cut the rib­bon to offi­cial­ly open a new coun­ter­traf­fick­ing oper­a­tions cen­ter.
DOD pho­to by Cherie Cullen
Click to enlarge

“Transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions are pos­ing a not-very-well-under­stood, but grow­ing, threat to the Unit­ed States,” he told the task force staff. “It’s some­thing I know you are on the front lines of address­ing and, ulti­mate­ly, pre­vent­ing.”

The new com­mand cen­ter serves Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South, a sub­or­di­nate com­mand to the Mia­mi-based U.S. South­ern Com­mand that inte­grates mil­i­tary, inter­a­gency and inter­na­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties to com­bat illic­it traf­fick­ing.

Lynn trav­eled to Mia­mi a day ear­li­er to meet with Air Force Gen. Dou­glas Fras­er, South­com com­man­der, and his lead­er­ship team. In tes­ti­mo­ny last month before the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Fras­er called the task force “the cen­ter of U.S. mar­itime inter­dic­tion efforts in the Caribbean basin and east­ern Pacif­ic.”

Using infor­ma­tion from law enforce­ment agen­cies, the gen­er­al added, the task force detects and mon­i­tors sus­pect air­craft and mar­itime ves­sels and then pro­vides this infor­ma­tion to inter­na­tion­al and inter­a­gency part­ners who have the author­i­ty to inter­dict illic­it ship­ments and arrest mem­bers of transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions.

Task force mem­bers rep­re­sent each U.S. mil­i­tary ser­vice and most fed­er­al law enforce­ment agen­cies, includ­ing the Drug Enforce­ment Agency, the FBI and Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment.

Oth­er mem­bers from the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty rep­re­sent the CIA, the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, the Nation­al Geospa­tial Intel­li­gence Agency, the Nation­al Recon­nais­sance Office and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency.

The task force staff includes liai­son offi­cers from 13 nations: Argenti­na, Brazil, Chile, Colom­bia, the Domini­can Repub­lic, Ecuador, El Sal­vador, France, Mex­i­co, the Nether­lands, Peru, Spain and the Unit­ed King­dom.

“We made the deci­sion in April 2008 to apply our col­lec­tive wis­dom and knowl­edge across the inter­a­gency, our inter­na­tion­al part­ners and the joint team here,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, com­man­der of Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South, said dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny open­ing the new oper­a­tions cen­ter. The aim, he said, was “to come up with a bet­ter way to be even more effec­tive in coun­ter­ing the illic­it traf­fick­ers.”

The new com­mand cen­ter, Lloyd added, “is the first of its kind any­where, and rep­re­sents the very best way we know how to con­duct the fight against illic­it traf­fick­ers.” In the cen­ter, intel­li­gence and oper­a­tions func­tions come togeth­er in a state-of-the-art com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and intel­li­gence facil­i­ty, offi­cials said, where the task force coor­di­nates the use of Navy and Coast Guard ships and air­craft, Air Force and U.S. Cus­toms Ser­vice air­craft, and air­craft and ships from allied nations and law enforce­ment agen­cies.

“I think it’s impor­tant at this moment to rec­og­nize how far we’ve come,” Wech­sler said. “Back in the 1980s, the mis­sion set against which [the task force] was deployed was con­sid­ered to be an unsolv­able prob­lem. There was a nev­er-end­ing stream of air and mar­itime ves­sels head­ed right for our coast. It was a direct threat to U.S. sov­er­eign­ty.”

Today, he added, the prob­lem has evolved, and so has the task force. “[It] is real­ly, in my mind, a mod­el — per­haps one of the best mod­els of coor­di­na­tion that exists in the U.S. gov­ern­ment,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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