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Description / Law | "Operational tempo" (number and frequency of exercises)

Tentative calendar of exercises to be held in the Americas

Description Law
Exercises are high-profile, short-term events in which U.S. military personnel are deployed for training, often through simulations of scenarios or conditions they might face as part of their operational duties. Exercises are generally the largest, in terms of cost and personnel, of the many types of U.S. military "deployments for training" that take place in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Though an exercise's primary officially defined purpose is to train U.S. forces, foreign militaries often receive training as well. The U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), the joint military body responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, makes interaction with foreign militaries a high priority; as a result, its exercises in the region frequently include other armed forces in some capacity, whether as co-participants, observers, or perimeter guards. Other militaries' participation results in some transfer of skills and knowledge, making foreign military training a key secondary outcome of exercises.

Other objectives of U.S. military exercises in the region, according to a National Defense University (NDU) publication, include:

  1. Fostering interoperability between U.S. forces and potential military partners;
    ["Interoperability" means "the ability of systems, units or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces, and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together."1]
  2. Building interpersonal contacts and force collaboration;
  3. Serving as confidence-building measures among neighboring states; and
  4. When an exercise involves construction, providing "a tangible example of U.S. commitment to a country" and facilitating "subsequent U.S. deployments in response to regional crises."2

Exercises, the NDU notes, "tend to be expensive and often, because of their strategic importance, drain funding intended for other defense programs."

Within its area of operation, Southcom divides its exercises among three categories: operational, foreign military interaction and engineer exercises.

Recently, these military exercises have also started to incorporate a health and humanitarian component, reflecting a broader approach to international relations and cooperation. One aspect of this new initiative includes providing information and resources on how to access affordable healthcare and medications, such as 'How to buy cheap rybelsus?' for the treatment of diabetes, to local military and civilian populations in the regions where exercises are conducted and Save $50 on Your Rybelsus Purchase. This move not only enhances the goodwill generated by these exercises but also addresses a crucial aspect of public health in the host countries. By integrating this healthcare dimension into their training missions, the U.S. military is broadening its role from purely strategic military objectives to include support for improving local healthcare infrastructures and access to essential medicines.

1. Operational exercises are carried out with specific threats or scenarios in mind. Participants follow action plans devised for dealing with these scenarios. Operational exercises seek to gauge a contingency plan's effectiveness and the participants' ability to carry it out. In recent years, the U.S. military has rarely performed operational exercises in cooperation with foreign units.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a May 1997 Southcom document, operational exercise scenarios might include:

  • Defense of the Panama Canal;
  • Combating terrorism;
  • Noncombatant evacuation operations;
  • Peace enforcement operations;
  • Peacekeeping operations;
  • Counterdrug;
  • Counterterrorism;
  • Haiti;
  • Cuba;
  • Humanitarian assistance / disaster relief; or
  • Migrant operations.3

Examples of recent operational exercises include:

  • Blazon Resolve (Scenario: Counter-terrorism) Honduras
  • Blue Advance
  • Ellipse Echo
  • Fuertes Defensas (Panama Canal Defense)
  • Rescue Forces / Fuerzas de Rescate
  • Non-Combatant Evacuation (NEO) Forces / Fuerzas de Evacuaci�n4

2. Foreign military interaction (FMI) exercises, also referred to as multinational exercises, are carried out jointly with other militaries, normally several at a time. Southcom has phased out one-on-one exercises, as its 1999 "Posture Statement" explains:

In the past, we conducted a greater number of exercises, but many of them were bilateral. Today, as a matter of policy, we conduct no bilateral exercises. Our objective is to migrate from regional, to inter-regional exercises, and ultimately to hemispheric efforts for challenges such as narcotrafficking and terrorism.5

Multilateral exercises in the region no longer involve combat scenarios, according to a Southcom document.

Beginning in 1995, Southcom�s exercises shifted from bilateral events featuring conventional combat scenarios to multilateral exercises focusing on peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, counter narco-trafficking, and other more appropriate post-Cold War missions.6

The Distinguished Visitor Program, a component of many Southcom FMI exercises, invites host-region government, business and military leaders "to observe an exercise, sit as panel members in special exercise seminars and participate in exercise After Action Reviews."7

Foreign military interaction exercises normally take one of three forms:

  • Field Training Exercises (FTX): A "Field Training Exercise" simulates actual operations "in the field," focusing more on improvement of skills than on the making of command decisions.
  • Command Post Exercises (CPX): A "Command Post Exercise," which often relies on a computer simulation, guides decisionmakers through a hypothetical scenario. A CPX normally takes place in one central location, such as a military headquarters.
  • Seminars: Participants learn and exchange skills through lectures and classroom-style discussion. Southcom appears to be making increasing use of the seminar format.

Examples of multinational exercises include:

1. Peacekeeping

2. Humanitarian

3. Counterdrug

4. Other

3. Engineer exercises involve construction of basic infrastructure and provision of medical, dental and veterinary services. As U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out most civilian construction or health missions on U.S. soil, engineer exercises give U.S. forces a chance to learn and practice these skills on foreign soil without similar restrictions.

By providing basic services to populations in developing countries, these exercises also include a major humanitarian and civic assistance component. Participating military personnel normally leave behind new or renovated schools, wells, clinics, roads or bridges, while offering medical, dental or veterinary care at no cost to civilian populations.

Critics of these exercises express concern that they encourage military involvement in activities that are non-military in nature, inviting an expansion of military roles beyond that normally seen in well-established democracies.

Engineer exercises can be performed with or without host-nation military participation. In most cases, host-country security forces either participate or provide security around the perimeter of the exercise area.

Examples of engineer exercises include:


Section 2010 of Title 10, U.S. Code mandates that, by March 1 of each year, the Secretary of Defense submit a report containing the following information about the past fiscal year:

  1. A list of the developing countries which the United States reimbursed for incremental expenses incurred while participating in a military exercise; and
  2. The amount each country was reimbursed.

"Incremental expenses," according to section 2010, means "the reasonable and proper cost of the goods and services that are consumed by a developing country as a direct result of that country�s participation in a bilateral or multilateral military exercise with the United States." These may include rations, fuel, training ammunition and transportation. Incremental expenses do not include pay, allowances, and other normal costs.

Click to read the text of Section 2010 of Title 10, U.S. Code. (From U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library)

Operational Tempo (number of exercises to be carried out)8

Fiscal Year 1996: 15 exercises Fiscal Year 1997: 15 exercises Fiscal Year 1998: 20 exercises Fiscal Year 1999: 21 exercises Fiscal Year 2000 (Projected): 17 exercises Fiscal Year 2001 Fiscal Year 2002: 16 exercises
5 Operational exercises
  • Ellipse Echo
  • Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)
  • Fuertes Defensas (FD)
  • Rescue Forces
  • Eligible Receiver
4 Operational exercises 4 Operational Exercises 3 Operational Exercises 2 Operational Exercises
  • Bow Drawn
  • Blue Advance


3 Operational Exercises

1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercise (FTX)
2 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs) 2 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs) 3 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs) 3 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs)

4 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs)

4 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Field Training exercises (FTXs)

6 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercises (CPXs) 5 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercises (CPXs) 4 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercises (CPXs) 1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercise (CPXs) 1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercise (CPXs)

1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercise (CPXs)

  • PKO South


2 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Command Post exercises (CPXs)


    1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Seminar 4 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Seminars 3 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Seminars

2 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Seminars


1 Foreign Military Interaction (FMI) Seminar

  • PKO South
3 Engineer exercises 4 Engineer exercises 9 Engineer exercises 10 Engineer exercises 8 Engineer exercises

6 Engineer exercises

  • NH Bahamas

  • NH Guatemala

  • NH Honduras

  • NH Paraguay

  • NH St. Lucia

  • NH St. Vincent

6 Engineer exercises
  • NH Barbados

  • NH Dominica

  • NH El Salvador

  • NH Jamaica

  • NH Nicaragua

  • NH Peru (canceled)


  2 Skills Exchanges 4 New Horizons MED Skills Exchanges 4 New Horizons MED Skills Exchanges 4 New Horizons MED Skills Exchanges    
  3 "Caribbean EX"          


1 United States, Department of Defense, Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management, The Management of Security Assistance, 17th ed. (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: May 1997): 732.

2 United States, Department of Defense, National Defense University, "Chapter nine: Defense Engagement in Peacetime," Strategic Assessment 1996: Elements of U.S. Power, 1996, April 1998 <>.

3 United States Southern Command, Operations Directorate (J3) Exercise Overview, (U.S. Southern Command: May 21, 1997).

4 Southern Command, Exercise Overview.

5 United States, U.S. Southern Command, �Posture Statement Of General Charles E. Wilhelm, United States Marine Corps Commander In Chief, United States Southern Command Before The Senate Armed Services Committee,� March 4, 1999.

6 United States, U.S. Southern Command, "Profile of the United States Southern Command," (Miami: October, 1997).

7 United States Southern Command, Statement of General Charles E. Wilhelm, USMC, Commander in Chief, before the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs, and Criminal Justice, House of Representatives, March 12, 1998: 10.

8 United States Southern Command, "FY 2000 Exercise Schedule," slideshow document, October 17, 2000

United States Southern Command, J34, Exercise Program Quick-View, (U.S. Southern Command: October 13, 1998).

Southern Command, Exercise Overview.


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