Major changes are under way in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which is altering its traditional military responsibilities. More focus will be placed on humanitarian relief efforts and cooperative military engagements; less on the security assistance and defensive procedures of the past 45 years. This reflects a new Navy-wide emphasis on soft power and coincides with the establishment of a Fourth Fleet (headquartered in Mayport, Florida) to execute the new objectives.
The Latin American focus is part of an innovative maritime strategy, unveiled in October 2007 as A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. A collaborative Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps effort, the strategy includes many traditional missions—forward presence, sea control, deterrence—but also new core capabilities such as humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and maritime security. Previously secondary missions, they are now considered critical.