Admiral Guillermo Enrique Barrera Hurtado—Colombian Navy
While the world experiences the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of 1929, Colombia confronts it with additional aggravating circumstances related to restrictions imposed on border commerce, caused mainly by ideological differences among regional governments. While there are positive signs of economic recovery, this is going to be a slow process. Some experts believe the Latin American economy will not pick up in 2010, which implies similar expectations for our country. The effects are felt throughout our nation, including the defense sector and the navy.
The Colombian Navy initiated a modernization program in 2006. The objective was to maintain operations against narcoterrorist organizations through the maintenance of the current capacities and the recovery of those that were lost through normal wear and tear on equipment and obsolescence.
The navy has had to review and update its Marine Strategy in response to the emergent threats and dynamics of narcoterrorist organizations as well as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the National Liberation Army, and relatively new criminal groups dedicated mainly to drug trafficking. The threats and challenges have been assessed in the short, medium, and long term, in light of previous evaluations of the present situation, and the possible evolution of the strategic situation.
This evaluation comes in the middle of a significant limitation of resources that has led the navy to revise its responses to internal, regional, and marine security threats by implementing a force structure that grants the required capacities to the navy to effectively fulfil its mission. One significant characteristic of this process is that the requirements of the ideal permanent structure must be balanced with the limited resources available.
We seek—within the fundamental principles of the modernization process with limited resources—a flexibility of means that looks for greater effectiveness across a range of threats in varied environments. For example, in 2009 with more limited means than in previous years, the Colombian Navy seized 97.4 tons of cocaine, practically one-third of the country's estimated annual output. This figure is only surpassed by that captured by the U.S. Navy.
International cooperation is a fundamental principle that allows more efficient use of operational resources because the wide variety of transnational threats—terrorism, drug trafficking, and piracy, for instance—affects the national interests of numerous countries around the world.
During the first Marine Symposium Against the Drug Trafficking in the American Continent, which took place at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 19-21 November 2008, the 26 participating countries lent their support to a Colombian initiative to create the International Marine Center Against Drug Trafficking. The center is designed to improve strategies and action to face sea-borne drug traffic, and will promote cooperation among peer navies, coast guard, and marine services of the American continent, as well as with relevant world agencies. In addition, it will offer opportunities for coordinated training using a Colombia Coast Guard school ship for those interested in supporting the development of a combined doctrine and strategies for combating narcotic trafficking. This year the navy has introduced two international courses in marine drug traffic interdiction, which is based on the Colombia Navy's great experience in fighting this scourge.
Transnational threats can best be faced by combined-arms operations complemented by effective intelligence and information exchange, based on a multilateral strategy analysis of operational and tactical procedures.
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