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last updated:4/2/04

U.S. Southern Command

U.S. Southern Command "Posture Statements"

  • [HTML | Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format] Statement to the House Armed Services Committee by General Bantz J. Craddock, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, March 9, 2005
  • Statement to the House Armed Services Committee by General James T. Hill, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, March 24, 2004
  • Statement to the House Armed Services Committee by Gen. James T. Hill, commander, U.S. Southern Command, March 12, 2003
  • [HTML | Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format] Statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Gen. Gary Speer, Acting Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Southern Command, March 5, 2002
  • Statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Gen. Peter Pace, commander-in-chief, U.S. Southern Command, March 27, 2001
  • Statement to the House Armed Services Committee by General Charles E. Wilhelm, commander-in-chief, U.S. Southern Command, March 23, 2000

A "unified command" is a permanent U.S. military body with components from at least two military services, set up to carry out a specific responsibility. The U.S. Southern Command (or "Southcom") is one of five unified commands whose area of responsibility (frequently referred to as an "AOR") is geographic. Southcom's AOR includes 30 nations -- all of Latin America and the Caribbean excluding Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. The command is headquartered in a Miami, Florida office building.

Southcom is responsible for implementing U.S. security assistance programs within its AOR. It supports Security Assistance Organizations (SAOs), groups of military personnel at U.S. embassies who implement U.S. military aid programs. Southcom also carries out exercises, ongoing operations, military-to-military contact programs, Special Forces training, and most other U.S. military activities that occur in its area.

According to Southcom publications, the command's highest-priority missions are counter-terrorism, counternarcotics and engagement with the region’s militaries. Other second-tier missions include arms control and non-proliferation, humanitarian and civic assistance, search and rescue and disaster relief.

Many of Southcom's current duties owe to the Defense Department's designation as the lead U.S. government agency for international narcotics interdiction. Interdiction and counter-drug assistance are the rationale behind many ongoing operations, security assistance programs, exercises, military training and other activities funded through special defense budget authorizations.

U.S. troops do not directly engage foreign drug producers or smugglers, but they help foreign governments do so by providing intelligence and other support. A Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, radar sites, surveillance flights, and other ongoing operations carry out extensive detection and monitoring of suspected drug-smuggling activity. U.S. personnel pass information about drug shipments to foreign law-enforcement agencies "for appropriate action."

1.  Component Command: U.S. Army South
Acronym: USARSO
Location: Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 


U.S. Army South (USARSO), Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, is a Major Subordinate Command of U.S. Army Forces Command, Ft. McPherson, Georgia. It is the Army Service Component Command (ASCC) of U.S. Southern Command. As the ASCC, USARSO executes and is responsible for all Army operations within USSOUTHCOM's 15.6 million square mile area of responsibility (AOR).

Within its AOR, USSOUTHCOM provides strategic and operational command and control of assigned U.S. land, sea and air forces, defends U.S. interests and assists friendly nations in the development of their militaries.  USSOUTHCOM shapes the environment by conducting theater security cooperation activities and is postured to conduct contingency operations if required.  USSOUTHCOM is engaged in promoting democracy and stability while fostering collective approaches to regional threats. USSOUTHCOM provides vitality, integrity and strength to our military allies and encourages their support for democracy.  Furthermore, when required, it responds unilaterally or multilaterally to crises that threaten regional stability or national interests and constantly prepares to meet future challenges in the region.

The Commander, USARSO has responsibility for all Army forces within the USSOUTHCOM AOR.  Within the 31 countries and 13 dependencies in the AOR, the predominant military force is the Army. As a result, USARSO executes most of USSOUTHCOM's theater security cooperation activities. USARSO's mission is to provide and sustain trained and ready Army forces in order to support full-spectrum military operations - from theater security cooperation to warfighting - in U.S. Southern Command's effort to promote regional stability and to ensure successful crisis response or decisive victory.

USARSO has achieved a legacy of cooperation in USSOUTHCOM's AOR, maintained a commitment to democracy and upholds a promise of peace.

2.  Component Command: U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command
Acronym: USNAVSO
Location: Naval Station Mayport, Florida
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

Mission Statement

USNAVSO commands forces and interacts with partner nations to shape the environment within SOUTHCOM's area of responsibility by conducting THEATER SECURITY COOPERATION and COUNTERDRUG ACTIVITIES to promote democracy, stability and collective approaches to regional security; when required RESPONDS TO CRISIS to maintain regional stability and to protect U.S. national interests, and prepares to meet future hemispheric challenges.

3.  Component Command: U.S. Marine Corps Forces South

Location: Southern Command Headquarters, Miami
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

From G-3/5 Operations/Planning

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South (MARFORSOUTH) is the U.S. Commander-in-Chief’s, Southern Command (USCINCSO’s) “one-stop-shop” for Marine support in the Latin American/Caribbean theater.  When USCINCSO assigns a mission to the United States Marines, we insure that the force with the right capabilities is sent to Latin America or the Caribbean to accomplish that mission.

The United States Marine Corps provides USCINCSO with utility and flexibility through its task organized forces.  Whether a full-scale Marine Air/Ground Task Force in support of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief or a much smaller force in support of military to military engagement or training support to host nations, the U.S. Marine Corps is structured to rapidly respond and support.

Rich in naval heritage, the United States Marine Corps is uniquely suited to forge close partnerships through commonality with the 14 Latin American and Caribbean Marine Corps and naval infantry forces in USCINCSO’s Area of Operations (AOR).

U.S. Marines operating in support of USCINCSO are drawn from active and reserve components throughout the Marine Corps and are comprised of Marine Corps air, ground and service support elements. 

A brief description of the exercises and operations typically planned and supported by Marines in the AOR is provided [on web site].  

4.  Component Command: Special Operations Command South

Location: Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida
Web URL: none

Information from related web page: 

[From Special Operations Technology website]

On May 7, 2004, Special Operations Command South held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate its new headquarters building. When the command’s previous base, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, announced it was closing, SOCSOUTH went in search of a new home. In November 2003, SOCSOUTH announced that it would be moving to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Homestead, FL. The command moved into the newly completed offices on April 6, 2004.

Army Brigadier General Sal Cambria commands SOCSOUTH, the special operations component for U.S. Southern Command. The SOCSOUTH joint headquarters, with a staff of about 150, has an area of operations comprising 30 countries, 11 dependencies and roughly 15.6 million square miles. The AOA sees about 75 special operations deployments per year with an average of 15 missions in seven countries on a daily basis.

SOCSOUTH is composed of three permanently assigned operational units that are headquartered throughout the eastern United States: Naval Special Warfare Detachment South (Little Creek, VA); C Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Ft. Bragg, NC); and D Company, 3rd Battalion, 160th SOAR (Ft. Campbell, KY).

5.  Component Command: U.S. Southern Command Air Forces

Acronym: [Twelfth Air Force]
Location: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

Excerpt from 12th Air Force history;

In 1987, the Twelfth Air Force commander took on the added responsibility of commander, United States Air Forces in Southern Command. As such, he manages all Air Force personnel and assets in the United States Southern Command area of responsibility—Central and South America. During Operation JUST CAUSE, for example, Twelfth Air Force and other Air Force units deployed in support of U.S. forces, returning democracy to Panama in 1989. Later, Twelfth Air Force managed and orchestrated the air operation of Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, the mission to restore democracy to Haiti in 1994. Not limited to Central and South American operations….  In September 1994, Twelfth Air Force served as the air component for Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY,  a united Nations sanctioned move to help restore the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Artistide in Haiti.  At the same time, Twelfth Air Force supported the US Southern Command's Operation SAFE HAVEN for Cuban refugees.

6.  Component Command: Joint Interagency Task Force South

Acronym: JIATF South
Location: Key West, Florida
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

Mission Statement

Joint Interagency Task Force South conducts counter illicit trafficking operations, intelligence fusion and multi-sensor correlation to detect, monitor, and handoff suspected illicit trafficking targets; promotes security cooperation and coordinates country team and partner nation initiatives in order to defeat the flow of illicit traffic.

7.  Component Command: Joint Task Force Bravo

Acronym: JTF Bravo
Location: Soto Cano, Honduras
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

Mission Statement

Joint Task Force-Bravo is the third in a series of headquarters for the command of U.S. forces and exercise activities in Honduras, which began in 1984.  Soto Cano Air Base, home of the Honduran Academia de Militar Aviacion, hosts JTF-Bravo and its five Major Subordinate Commands: Air Force Forces, Army Forces, Joint Security Forces, Medical Element and 1-228th Aviation Battalion.

JTF-Bravo falls under U.S. Southern Command, Miami, Fla. The missions of JTF-Bravo are:

  • Conduct and support U.S. joint, combined and inter-agency operations designed to enhance regional cooperative security, in coordination with U.S. Military Groups and U.S. Embassy country teams.
  • Support regional medical readiness training exercises, humanitarian and civic assistance, disaster relief and contingency missions.
  • Exercise operational control of selected deployed forces in the joint area of operations, other than those conducting security assistance-related operations.
  • Provide security support to U.S. Military Groups within JTF-Bravo area of operations.
  • Plan, coordinate and conduct regional search and rescue operations.

As early as 1965, the U.S. and Honduran Armed Forces conducted combined training exercises. These exercises increased when the Honduran government requested the United States to maintain a visible military presence in 1983. This initial joint force was designated JTF-11.

Since 1983, the joint task force has provided support for joint and combined training exercises involving active and reserve components. The location and climate of Honduras combine to provide U.S. military members an opportunity to train in a foreign, semi-tropical, austere environment.

8.  Component Command: Joint Task Force Guantanamo

Acronym: JTF GTMO
Location: Guantanamo, Cuba
Web URL:

Information from command web page: 

Mission Statement

JTF Guantanamo conducts detention and interrogation operations to collect and exploit intelligence in support of the Global War on Terrorism, coordinates and implements Detainee screening operations, and supports law enforcement and war crimes investigations.


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A project of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in cooperation with the Center for International Policy and the Washington Office on Latin America

 Project Staff  Adam Isacson (Senior Associate CIP    Lisa Haugaard (LAWGEF Executive Director
  Joy Olson (WOLA Executive Director

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