Magazine article National Defense

Latest Homeland Security Fronts: Arctic, Bahamas, California Littorals

Magazine article National Defense

Latest Homeland Security Fronts: Arctic, Bahamas, California Littorals

Article excerpt

Transnational criminal organizations pose a security threat, the National Security Council declared in 2011.

But the "area of operations" to combat these organizations is not just the southern border with Mexico, said Maj. Gen. Francis G. Mahon, director of Northern Command and NORAD. The "fronts" are constantly shifting, be said at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

"They are a network," he said of the criminals. "They are using technology and they are compartmentalized. And I think we need to take a network approach with a whole-of-government effort as we think about countering them."

John Stanton, executive director of Customs and Border Protection's joint operation division, said, "Transnational criminal organizations are always probing for a soft spot." Currently, there is a "fairly impressive" increase of illegal activity in South Texas. There is a task force organizing around that particular threat, he said.

"We can't do it alone," Stanton said. "There is no silver bullet. In these financially austere times, we rely heavily on state National Guards, the reserve forces and active duty troops with the Department of Defense."

Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general of California, said violent cartel members growing marijuana in secluded forests in the northern part of the state are a real danger.

"The threat there can be many times greater than what we see on the southern border," he said.

The Border Patrol tightening its security on land smuggling routes has sent drug runners to sea routes, he added. They first tried to land in San Diego and Los Angeles. When those routes were shut down, they put extended range fuel tanks on their boats. They now go out farther to sea and hook towards land to the north.


"We have had to shift our efforts more into coast watching," he said.

The Air Guard's C-130J and MC-130 outfitted with forward looking infrared radars can spot them, but he hopes the day comes when the Federal Aviation Administration allows the Guard to fly unmanned aerial vehicles along the coast, which will give authorities an "unblinking eye" there. …

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