By Jim Garamone
Networks are a fact of life in the world today and they are both the problem and the solution, U.S. Southern Command’s chief said today at the Caribbean Nations Security Conference in Georgetown, Guyana.
Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd reiterated a theme he broached in last year’s conference: the idea of networks.
Networks are a fact of life in the 21st century and they drive the world. “They are a defining characteristic of our daily lives,” the admiral said. “We rely on them, we’re part of them, and we’re threatened by them.”
Transnational Threat Challenges
Whether these are networks of people, nations, communities, computers, satellites, drug lords, terrorists; they must be dealt with in their own ways. “Everywhere we look, we see volatility, uncertainty, and interconnectedness of challenges,” he said.
The days when a threat could be isolated to one area are over. Today, threats originating in one country will travel the world at the speed of electrons. “Regional and global risks are materializing in new and unexpected ways,” Tidd said. “We see both traditional and nontraditional threats coexisting and reinforcing one another. We see state and nonstate actors competing for influence and challenging democratic values. And we see the rising frequency of extreme weather events and their far-reaching impacts on our people and economies.”
These events and networks must be dealt with using other networks.
“Our security cooperation has evolved and grown beyond individual and the bilateral — beyond even the subregional,” he said. “Our security cooperation is now a system — a network — that binds together the nations of the Western Hemisphere.”
Tidd noted that multinational organizations like the Caribbean Community, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the Regional Security System and the Inter-American Development Bank are key to working together in the region. Partners across the Atlantic — Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and others — also bring important resources and systems to help.
Information Sharing Network
“This network was born of sustained engagements that emphasize collective action and cooperative solutions,” the admiral said. “It is built upon the foundation of information sharing. It is inclusive and principled, binding together like-minded nations who share common values and a commitment to work together.”
These values bind together the nations of the region and bind together often disparate efforts so they work together, he said.
“The collective investments we have made are not just investments in our shared security and prosperity, they are investments in one another,” Tidd said. “They are investments in the capacities of our civilian, military, and interagency institutions, investments in our interoperability in areas like disaster response and countering threat networks, and investments in improved coordination at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.”
These networks reinforce each other and the payoff is stronger partnerships, deeper trust and increased unity of effort. “Our hemisphere is more secure, and our forces more capable, because of them,” the admiral said. “We know more, share more, and do more, because of close, regular engagement.”
Challenging Hurricane Season
The 2017 hurricane season tested these networks, the admiral said. Years of working together to strengthen collective capabilities and capacities, he said, helped during the unprecedented season of dangerous storms. “When we were tested by Irma and Maria, our forces rose to the challenge as one network, unified in action and united in purpose,” Tidd said. “The regional response effort, led by important organizations like CDEMA, CARICOM and the RSS, was networked collaboration at its finest — rapidly assessing the situation, connecting needs with capabilities, and sharing information with the broadest group of stakeholders.”
The storms caused major devastation throughout the Caribbean, but the networks worked and they are continuing to work as the region recovers and rebuilds from the atmospheric onslaught. “I am confident that this network will continue to serve us well,” the admiral said.
But what is next?
The nations of the region must work to expand and sustain the network and find new and innovative ways to employ these networks, Tidd said. Leaders must foster “even greater cooperation and inclusive integration, not just within the Caribbean, but trans-regionally,” he added.
“The untapped potential of this network is tremendous. Greater integration and linkages can have all sorts of cross-cutting effects,” Tidd said.
The conference continues through tomorrow.