The commander of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John F. Kelly, testified before the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 26 and the Senate Armed Services Committee March 13 as part of the command’s annual posture statement to Congress. This page provides information, multimedia resources, documents and testimony excerpts.
WASHINGTON (March 13, 2014) -- Commander of U.S. Southern Command Gen. John F. Kelly testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during hearings in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2015 and the Future Years Defense Program at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2014. (DOD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)
More photos at Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System
Resources & Downloads
WATCH: Video of Gen. John Kelly's entire testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (from SASC site). NOTE: Hearing begins at 23-minute mark of video
WATCH: Video of Gen. John Kelly's entire testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (from House Armed Services Committee website).
Excerpts from Senate Armed Services Committee testimony, March 13, 2014
Gen. Kelly on the influence of the Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean
"The Chinese are very active... mostly economics. They trade and sell items where we can't sometimes. The Latin Americans don't see that and neither do I really see that -- looking at it holistically -- as a problem. Because it's, to them, economics.
That said, with economics comes influence. If a given nation is trading primarily with the Chinese, and again, the Chinese are very different than us in that they don't consider things like human rights, which we do and should. They don't consider things like environmental impact on projects. We do and should; they don't. They're easier, if you will, to work with. And with that comes influence. And that's what concerns me about the Chinese.
The Russians are also increasingly active in the area, working with countries that want to partner with the United States -- particularly on the drug fight -- but can't for a lot of different reasons. There's restrictions. So the Russians not nearly [engaged] as much and certainly not economically as [much] as the Chinese. But the Russians are flying long-range bomber missions there. They haven't done that in years. They did this this year.
We haven't had a Russian ship in the Caribbean since 2008. We had three come -- a task force of three come about 6 months ago and now there's two still there, two additional have come.
So they're on the march. Again, it's Russia. But they're working the seams where we can't work. And they're doing a pretty good job of, again, the influence."
Gen. Kelly on the production of heroin in Latin America
"[The] vast majority of heroin that's consumed in the United States is actually produced in Latin America. The poppies are now grown in places like Guatemala, Colombia, places that we try to work with.
But the poppies are grown here. The heroin is produced primarily in Mexico, and then moved across the border. The distribution network that it rides on is the same network that works cocaine, the same network that works methamphetamines."
Gen. Kelly on assisting Honduras
"By the U.N. figures, it is the most dangerous country on the planet. The U.N. figure is murders per 100,000. The United States has three murders per 100,000. Western Europe is one murder per 100,000. Interesting enough, Venezuela is 79 murders per 100,000, and Honduras is up around 86 murders per 100,000.
The effect of the drug trafficking as it flows through Honduras, which is not a consumer nation, making its way to the United States consumption demand, has essentially destroyed most of the institutions of the government.
...The new president asked to see me -- when he became the president elect -- he asked to see me in Miami. We had a very, very small meeting over dinner at a private residence and he laid out in his mind what he was thinking about for the future of his country. This is I think a powerful indicator of where he wants to go.
What did he talk about? He talked about extraditing criminals out of his country to the United States. He talked about human rights. He talked about cleaning up his police somehow. He talked about cleaning up the... reestablishing the institutions of government that just simply don't work, his legal justice system, his tax system, all of these kind of things.
I then visited him three weeks after that in Honduras after he'd taken over as president, met with his entire national security team with the ambassador, then met with him and his smaller national security team. He asked me to help him develop plans in how we could more effectively deploy his military to get after the drugs that flow through his country on the way to our country because of the demand in our country.
He wants to help us fight our problem, and he's very, very serious I think in that attempt."
Excerpts from House Armed Services Committee testimony, Feb. 26, 2014
Gen. Kelly on the effect of budget cuts on SOUTHCOM missions
"Last year we had to cancel more than 200 engagement activities and numerous multilateral exercises in Latin America. Because of asset shortfalls we're unable to get after 74 percent of suspected maritime drug trafficking contacts.
And because of service cuts, we won't be able to immediately respond to humanitarian crises or disasters in the region without significant time lost in augmentation required.
Ultimately, the cumulative effect impact of our reduced engagement won't be measured in the number of canceled activities and reduced deployments, it will be measured in terms of U.S. influence, leadership, relationships in a part of the world where our engagement has made a real and lasting difference over the decades."
Gen. Kelly on human rights
"I would tell you, a lot of people talk about human rights in the world. The U.S. military does human rights. We will not work with someone who violates human rights in Latin America. And I think that goes around the world. So that's the first point.
The second point is we are already very, very restrictive in who we work with. I look to human rights all of the time, but I will tell you the reason why the human rights record is getting better and better and better in Latin American countries, and in some cases very, very good, is because of the effect the U.S. military has had in working with them over the last few decades."
Gen. Kelly on the threat of the illicit trafficking network in the region
"This network that brings things to the United States, it is incredibly efficient. It's more efficient than FedEx could ever hope to be. And anything can travel on it. Most of what travels on it is drugs -- heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine. But people travel on it, all sorts of guns travel on it, money travels on it. It's incredibly effective. It's just now drugs are the big money-maker for them.
As I mentioned a little earlier, I spend 1.5 percent of the counternarcotics budget -- 1.5 percent. I get the vast majority of cocaine with no violence in large amounts. And we capture these traffickers, bring them to the U.S. court system, and they cooperate to a man. And we gain a great deal of intelligence from them.
...SOUTHCOM and Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, we can see it with amazing clarity this drug movement. But 74 percent of it, I watch go by. I can't touch it. And when I say I watch it go by, in the maritime domain to Honduras primarily, is because I don't have the assets to stop it."
Gen. Kelly on impact of reduced resources for counter drug operations
"In 2011 we got 172 metric tons of cocaine before it ever reached shore in Honduras or in Latin America. Last year, 2012, because of a lack of assets, 152 tons. That's 20 tons that got by us -- 20 more tons. This year they just finished with 132 tons. It's all about ships, ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance] -- and not many ships.
Typically, today we have on station four ships, one of which is a British oiler. That British oiler, in six months, will get 20 tons to 30 tons of cocaine that's flowing into the United States.
...Less ships, less cocaine off the market."
Gen. Kelly on the cancellation of the deployment of the hospital ship USNS Comfort
"The Comfort is a really, really big engagement deal in Latin America. They look forward to it. It has huge impact on the local communities that it visits. And it really does -- it really is appreciated. And it's a great image of what the United States does for the world -- a big American flag with no guns.
...And to have lost that this year was very, very disappointing."
Gen. Kelly on civilian employees
"Generally speaking, those of us in uniform get credit for serving the nation. Those of us in uniform are pretty well taken care of. But, frankly, there's a big aspect to our readiness in terms of personnel, and that is our civilian workforce. And that includes, in my opinion, contractors.
These are very, very dedicated men and women who we haven't really been very nice to in the last year or so. It's amazing to me that the morale I have in SOUTHCOM, in my headquarters and throughout the region... is as high as it is.
They have a lot of confidence in me. We do the best we can to share the good news and the bad news with them."