The Seventh Coast Guard District and the U.S. Department of State welcomed foreign and federal partners to Miami for the inaugural Northern Caribbean Security Summit (NOCSS), Wednesday through Friday last week. Leaders, military, and law enforcement representatives from The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom and United States discussed shared regional security interests and renewed commitments to address them together.

The NOCSS enhanced preexisting partnerships to counter transnational criminal organizations who traffic migrants, drugs, weapons and money, threatening regional and homeland security. NOCSS participants agreed upon the need for greater strategic coordination, training to achieve improved interoperability, and the sharing of intelligence information.

Participants in the summit included:
• Ms. Usha E. Pitts, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy Nassau
• Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security, The Bahamas
• Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Labour and Immigration
• His Excellency Nigel Dakin, Governor, Turks and Caicos Islands
• Rear Adm. Brendan C. McPherson, commander, Coast Guard District Seven and director, Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast
• John Priddy, executive director, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations Southeast Region and deputy director, Joint Task Force – East
• Renita D. Foster, special agent in charge, Drug Enforcement Administration Caribbean Division
“There is no better time to address the challenges of tomorrow than today, and the opportunity to bring so many key leaders together demonstrates our shared commitment to these partnerships,” said Rear Adm. Brendan C. McPherson, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District and director of HSTF-SE. “Together, we will deny transnational criminal organizations access to the northern Caribbean islands while enhancing the safety, security and prosperity of the entire region.”

Additional leaders in attendance represented the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Council on Transnational Organized Crime, Department of Justice, Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The summit discussion topics included the evolving threat of transnational organized crime, human smuggling networks, trafficking in illegal narcotics and weapons that fuel regional violence and instability, countering China’s regional influence, and opportunities for greater strategic partner engagement in ongoing operations.

The NOCSS also discussed the future of Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT). OPBAT is a combined partnership between the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, and law enforcement entities of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands to combat drug smuggling. OPBAT assets also regularly assist with prosecuting human smuggling and search and rescue cases throughout its area of responsibility. OPBAT remains the foundation of regional cooperation in the northern Caribbean; however, partners acknowledged the need for a broader security dialogue based upon a modified OPBAT agreement or signing additional agreements.