SOUTHCOM – Posture Statement to the Congress

Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 16, 2021, as part of the command’s annual Posture Statement to Congress.


Excerpts from Senate Armed Forces Services Committee Testimony March 16, 2021

Adm. Faller on China's influence in the region: 

“The Chinese Communist Party, with its insidious and corrupt influence, seeks regional and global economic dominance and its own version of a rules-based international order. Our strategic competition with China is global, not just in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea. China's quickly growing its influence here in our hemisphere, working on over 40 port deals, dishing out significant loans for political and economic influence, pushing for I.T. structure, and engaging in predatory practices like illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. We have seen many of these tactics in Asia and Africa and we can't let them prevail here in our neighborhood.”

Adm. Faller on the situation in Venezuela:

“Despite an economy in tailspin — more than 5 million refugees have fled Venezuela and the illegitimate Maduro regime — Maduro continues to cling to power with the support of Cuba, Russia, Iran and China.”

Adm. Faller on China and Russia using COVID-19 to gain greater influence in the region:

“You have conditions that the pandemic has caused in Latin America and the Caribbean, rival those of the Great Depression here in the United States. It will take years for the region to cover. The IMF says it will take — it is estimated as the region with the longest recovery time.  We have seen and there was a "New York Times" article today on this, China particularly moving in with heavy-handed mask and vaccine diplomacy that they are using the vaccines to leverage deals for their I.T., their 5G and they're using it to drive a wedge between some nations like Taiwan and others in the region. This is indicative of Chinese global course of insidious behavior. We're seeing it play out. We need to stay on the field of a whole of government effort. And once we've taken care of all — the United States, be first with a concerted plan to take care of our neighborhood with vaccines here.”

Adm. Faller on SOUTHCOM efforts to counteract China, Russia regional influence:

“I can't stress enough the full court press that Chinese has on to gain their economic dominance in their version of world order globally and in this hemisphere. Which I look at this hemisphere as the frontline of competition and we have to approach that as such as the U.S. government across all elements of power with the diplomats and in the lead clearly. Our military plays a role. Our principle method to block Chinese military interests, the PLA is by staying engage with our partners in our exercise program, our IMET program. These are world-class. China's tried to copy them. They've tried to replicate Leavenworth and Spanish and Portuguese. 

We need to remain the best at what we do and ensure we provide the volume that is needed to allow our hemisphere partners to be professional and partner with us. In the I.T. space, we have to stay engaged to understand what they're up to. That goes back to the intelligence resources. So I would sum this up by saying additional intelligence assets, continued security cooperation and increased volume of IMET and exercises. And then enough assets to stay on the field that includes our small special operations force teams which are very effective. And last year we received great support from the United States Army to put some small security force assistance teams in places like Colombia and Honduras, which are having great effect, to train. And its only training, not accompany, our partners.” 

Adm. Faller on the important counter narcotics role of partner nations: 

“What our real goal here is to train our partner nations to take care of their own security problems. We can't interdict our way out of the narcotics problem. 

We've got to get our partners in the game. And this past year, despite a pandemic, they actually increased their performance, their involvement of up to 60 percent of all our disruptions. But that's still not enough; we've got to focus on the source and the destination. And one of the key areas that needs more emphasis and we've really worked hard this past year with our partners is in countering the money supply. I talked about the importance of that, really getting to break the back of these organizations. And I would note that in that regard the DEA has cited Chinese money-laundering as the number one underwriter of transnational criminal organizations.  So it's got to be a whole-of-government effort and we've got to work to build our partners' capacity.”

Adm. Faller on the threat of Transnational Criminal Organizations in the region:

“Transnational criminal organizations pose a direct threat to our national security. They traffic in arms, humans, drugs, and they claim tens of thousands of lives in America every year. These murderous tactics have resulted in 43 of the 50 most violent cities in the world being here in this hemisphere. And they drive illegal migration. And they allow bad actors like China to gain influence.”

Adm. Faller on the effects of COVID-19 in the region:

“COVID-19 has hit this hemisphere hard. According to the IMF, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean shrunk 7.4 percent in 2020. The impacts of the pandemic, like a perfect storm, will alter the hemisphere for years to come. In the midst of all this, two back-to-back hurricanes devastated Central America, causing even greater instability. The pandemic and these unprecedented storms struck on top of this already vicious circle of threats, creating strong push factors for people in the region seeking a better life, seeking security, to come with their families to the United States.”

Adm. Faller on SOUTHCOM COVID-19 assistance in the region:

“Good neighbors are here when you need help, and that's what the United States did in SOUTHCOM when COVID hit. We stepped up with our humanitarian assistance program, contributing over 450 projects in 28 countries. Overall the United States is the leader in humanitarian assistance in COVID in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Adm. Faller’s overview of SOUTHCOM security cooperation efforts in the region: 

“SOUTHCOM works every day to build readiness with our trusted military and security partners. We do this through security cooperation. This includes institutional capacity building, legal training, education, IMET and exercises. We focus on developing professional military forces that know how to fight and use the lawful use of military force. We focus on human rights training, women, peace and security programs, and NCO development. Modest investments in these programs and intelligence, surveillance and recognizance and our presence, our posture go a long way in this hemisphere and will help our fight — our partners counter these global threats.”

Adm. Faller on importance of the U.S. Coast Guard to SOUTHCOM's mission:

“The Coast Guard's a tremendous asset for us. And they are on the field in a meaningful way. They are — they are a top priority for all our partners building capacity and countering the threats despite the pandemic. The national security cutters, the fast response cutters these are — these are, you know, well-manned, well-trained ships making a difference day in, day out, including their aircraft. I — we couldn't do our mission without the United States Coast Guard. They are a principal source to counter threats in this hemisphere.”

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