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Adm. Tidd Opening Remarks: Opioid Summit, Feb. 8, 2018

Feb. 12, 2018

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Opioid Summit Prepared Opening Remarks

Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command

Miami, Fla. | Feb. 8, 2018

I know many people may be asking why US Southern Command is hosting an Opioid Summit. Maybe the more appropriate question would be "Why would anyone in DC question coming to Miami in February?" Any reason to head south this time of year is a good reason, right? But to be honest, we really do have some important reasons to hold this summit. And to hold it right here in Miami.

As you will see our first presentations, we are not hosting because Latin America has the preponderance of fentanyl flow to the U.S.; clearly it doesn't. But what will become clear is that Fentanyl is much like many of the threats we know to be moving along the southern approaches of our nation -- we're not sure how much is flowing but we know it's here and we think it's growing because we didn't see it a few years ago. We wanted to host this summit because of the way we approach our job in this region-we are enablers. At SOUTHCOM we are in support of an end game achieved by our partners -- both partner nations and U.S. interagency teammates. So I want to know how we can better support you.

SOUTHCOM offered to host this summit because of how we view our most challenging threats in this region and around the world ... and how we are starting to view ourselves. The threats we face are ubiquitous; they cross every recognized boundary- national borders, law enforcement jurisdictions, military areas of responsibility; and every domain imaginable -- sea, land, air -- and even the cyber domain. Our adversaries are networked, resilient, agile, and adaptive. And, they are enormously well resourced -- something no agency present in this room can claim. We cannot, and we are not, countering a product -- we will never interdict our way to victory, and the unique characteristics of synthetic drugs make this even more apparent. We must, and we are, countering threat networks that pursue a diversified portfolio of death and disorder, a portfolio extending well beyond just narcotics and opioids. Here at SOUTHCOM we realized if we were going to achieve any success we had to change our approach. We understand that more than ever, to succeed we must have a networked approach because it takes a network to beat a network. So our goal -- our hope -- is that we can use this summit to build, and to enable our network -- a network consisting of all of us.

Let me give you an example of how we have applied this approach: When we saw a concerning and growing trend of special interest aliens, those with potential ties to violent extremists, traveling along pathways spanning the southern approaches I asked my teammate GEN Tony Thomas at US Special Operations Command, to host an SIA Senior Leader Seminar. Like today's summit, it brought senior leaders from across the interagency to share what we are seeing, what we are doing about it, and explore what more we can do together. It led to an SIA working group that is informing the broader network on the threat, a network grown and expanded through that SOCOM hosted event. So perhaps today's summit can lead to a recurring working group, increased interaction between us, and regular updates to this fledging network in the room.

Yesterday the Attorney General visited Joint lnteragency Task Force SOUTH, in Key West. Many of you may have already visited; if not, or if not within the past two years, I invite you all to visit JIATF-S; it's a national asset -- as well as being a great place to visit during the winter. But any time of the year, seeing the amazing teamwork exercised there first hand is well worth your time. JIATFS is an interagency -- and multinational -- integrator. It enables that critical end game by our partner nations and U.S. law enforcement. It is an operational laboratory to explore new and innovative approaches. Here's an example: JIATF-S was originally conceived and tasked to conduct air and maritime detection and monitoring of drug flow in the international commons. Recently, and quite successfully, it began to explore D&M in new domains; specifically in the cyber realm - and at some point today our Director Chris Tomney will highlight a fentanyl success story from our cyber efforts. We are learning that to counter threat networks we need multidomain detection and monitoring. We need to build the capabilities, the authorities, all empowered by real trust through and between members of our network to do D&M across all domains. So I want to offer SOUTHCOM and JIATF-S as your innovation partner.

The opioid crisis and the networks that feed it are intimately connected with our southern approaches. SOUTHCOM, in partnership with NORTHCOM, SOCOM, PACOM, and AFRICOM and key interagency partners, has been tasked by our Defense Secretary to develop a military Regional Campaign Plan for Securing the Southern Approaches. But we know that to have any hope of success we must connect effectively with our interagency partners engaged in planning efforts of their own. For instance, we are working with OHS as they revise their Campaign Plan for Securing the U.S. Southern Border and Approaches. And we welcome the opportunity to partner with others, to ensure our efforts nest with and harmonize with other agencies' planning efforts. Our campaign plan development approach is emphatically collaborative and inclusive and we need your support with the right people to represent your agencies. While ours will be a military plan, designed to direct the efforts of Joint military forces, we must have a heavy focus on DoD support to the interagency and, especially, law enforcement. Our interagency planning team is going into Mission Analysis next week, and then the Army War College in Carlyle Pennsylvania will host an interagency Workshop in March to examine gaps and friction points. Our key planning milestones have already been shared with your experts, and we look forward to your continued support to build our friendly network. So I hope this network will inform and improve the regional campaign plan for securing the southern approaches.

So that's why SOUTHCOM is hosting an Opioid Summit – It’s about the networks, theirs and ours. I know there are many more reasons why you are here. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have with us today as our lead moderator a teammate and leader who is known and respected across the interagency. He speaks fluently all our languages -- military, law enforcement, and intelligence. ADM Thad Allen and his team will push, prod, and poke us. Our priority -- and ADM Allen's task -is to get after all our objectives today. ADM Allen -thanks for your continued commitment to this very important effort; over to you. 

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