MIAMI – U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) hosted its annual South America Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) at its Doral headquarters Aug. 17, with defense leaders from six South American nations attending in person and five participating virtually.
Top military leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Perú, Suriname, and Uruguay participated in the annual forum with their theme centering on combating current and emerging threats in the COVID-19 era. All participants attending in person adhered to protocols aimed at mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants.
U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, and Daniel Erikson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere who participated virtually, welcomed all the participants to the SOUTHCOM’s headquarters in Doral.
Other U.S. leaders from the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Space Force also participated, as did adjutants general from Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virgina, whose national guards have state partnerships with the 11 South American nations represented in this year’s SOUTHDEC, the oldest of those partnerships dating back to a quarter century.
Armed forces leaders from Canada, the Royal Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom also joined the regional security conference virtually.
This year, the participants chose to include sessions on space challenges and cyberspace operational awareness. Space and cyber are domains of rapidly increasing importance to international defense and security forces who recognize threats they must defend against have not been restricted to the air, land and sea.
The participants will analyze threats and challenges, identify potential security gaps, and discuss opportunities to bolster and increase regional security cooperation across all domains.
This year’s SOUTHDEC is the second since the start of the global pandemic and comes as SOUTHCOM continues supporting the COVID response efforts of countries in the region. Working in close coordination with South American partners, the command has funded 157 projects, purchasing and donating $38.6 million in much needed equipment and supplies, including field hospitals, ventilators, oxygen generators and ultra-low temperature freezers for vaccine storage.
SOUTHCOM has also worked collaboratively with South American partners to detect, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations responsible for international narcotics smuggling and its pernicious effects.
Over the past 16 months, the command and its partners have disrupted 372 metric tons of cocaine, denying criminal cartels $9.4 billion in profits and saving an estimated 3,722 lives. Their collaboration also helped law-enforcement arrest 1,229 suspected drug smugglers.
SOUTHCOM is one of the nation’s six geographically focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, as well as security cooperation with defense and public-security forces in the region.