Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Builds Partnerships That Safeguard the United States

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Four military members in uniform stand on a stage, with one civilian, in front of a podium and sign that reads "Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards".
Assistant Secretary of Defense Logistics and Materiel Readiness, the Honorable Robert McMahon presents the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award to the CBSI-TAFT team.

Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Builds Partnerships That Safeguard the United States

A team of nine U.S. Coast Guardsmen and six U.S. Army Soldiers based at U.S. Southern Command earned the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award on December 5, for the maintenance, training, advice, and assistance they have provided to Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) member security forces via the Technical Assistance Field Team (TAFT) program. While the award highlights the contributions of the CBSI-TAFT team, the story behind it is part of a larger effort to improve the security capabilities of partner nations in support of U.S. foreign policy and national security.

An initiative launched by the State Department in 2010, CBSI is part of a U.S. security strategy focused on working with partners across the Caribbean to meet shared security challenges. The United States and thirteen CBSI-member countries together identified three core objectives to deal with the threats facing the Caribbean region: reduce illicit trafficking, increase public safety, and promote social justice.

A CBSI TAFT team member completes boat checks June 7, 2016 in St. George's, Grenada, during Exercise Tradewinds 2016.

TAFT is a small but important part of CBSI assistance to the region. Principally implemented by U.S. military personnel, the program is funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and focuses on building partner nation maritime maintenance capabilities through train-the-trainer instruction. Through TAFT, we are increasing the operational availability of CBSI partner nation assets to conduct maritime counter-narcotics interdiction operations. Since TAFT’s inception in 2013, the number of patrols and boardings by our Caribbean partners has increased substantially, with partner nations now significantly contributing to seizures in the Caribbean maritime zone. Some of this increase is directly attributable to the improved availability of maritime assets made possible through TAFT’s work to build regional maritime maintenance capacity.

Since 2010, the U.S. has committed $491 million in funding to CBSI. Through close cooperation between the Department of State and the Department of Defense, U.S. officials and service members are working hard to build partner nation maritime maintenance capabilities. Working with regional allies and partners to deliver military training and assistance is a critical tool of U.S. foreign policy. These efforts advance both our national security goals and those of our partners and help them to strengthen their military capabilities. This enhances their ability to join with the United States to promote regional and international stability and combat security threats that could impact the safety of American citizens at home and abroad.

The outstanding work done by the members of CBSI-TAFT is mirrored around the world in parallel engagements with other partner nations, demonstrating that the United States is committed to ensuring that our partners are ready to face the challenges presented to them with a high standard of professionalism and esprit de corps.

The U.S. Coast Guard Technical Assistance Field Team worked together with the Jamaican Defense Force Coast Guard team to install new software to advance their capabilities.

About the Author: Matt Marquis serves in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Editor’s Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.