‘Issue of the Day’ Shouldn’t Overshadow Opportunities, Dunford Says

While the world is complex and many issues compete for limited time and resources, the U.S. military cannot let the “issue of the day” overwhelm all else, and that is a primary focus of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's trip to the U.S. Southern Command area of operations this week.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. visited Southcom headquarters in Miami, Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Fla., the detention facilities at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, and met with Colombian leaders in Bogota during the trip.

“Even as we deal with the pressing challenges of [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], Russian behavior, recent North Korean news, China in the South China Sea, cyber challenges [and] space challenges, [we have to remember that] South America is our neighborhood and is important,” he said. “Geography matters. History matters.”

Still, given all that is happening in the world, Southcom is not high on the list of priorities. “And yet, with a relatively small investment, they have a pretty big impact,” Dunford said.

Looking for More

The chairman saw the impact Southcom operations have during his stop at the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, when even as he observed the joint operations center, a young service member rang a bell indicating a successful intercept of drug traffickers.

He also saw the effect in Colombia. “The feedback from leaders in Colombia -- at every level -- was effusive in their praise for what Southern Command has done,” he said. “For me, the question is, ‘Where are there other opportunities?’”

Challenges exist over most of the globe, Dunford said, but “in Southcom, I’m actually confronted with opportunity. Broadly speaking, I would say that Southcom offers opportunities to deepen relationships and to work on common challenges together -- be it human trafficking, narcotics, flow of foreign fighters, improvement of democracy and so on.

“For a relatively small investment on the part of the United States, we can do a lot of good down there,” the chairman added.

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