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Combating Transnational Organized Crime: Is the Department of Defense Doing Enough?

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Combating Transnational Organized Crime: Is the Department of Defense Doing Enough?

CDR David E. Smith, Lt Col Michael T. Clancy and MAJ Stephen J. Peters

The Threat of Transnational Organized Crime

For over 20 years, the National Security Strategy (NSS) has identified the risk of transnational threats to the nation’s security.  In 2011, President Obama signed the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime.  Despite this clear emphasis and sufficient authority, the DOD has not acted to its greatest potential and must do more to fulfill its responsibility in the nation's efforts to combat transnational organized crime (TOC).

The expansive economic, transportation, and information networks that define today's world provide greater opportunities for criminal actors to move illicit commodities, illegally generate revenue, and globally project their influence.  Although neither the United Nations nor U.S. statute formally defines TOC, U.S. strategy describes it as follows:

[T]hose self-perpetuating associations of individuals who oper­ate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms.[1]

The President’s Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime identifies the following threats posed by TOC networks: 1) the penetration of state institutions, resulting in corruption and a threat to governance; [2] 2) threats to the economy, U.S. competitiveness, and strategic markets; [3] 3) the crime-terror-insurgency nexus; 4) expansion of drug trafficking; 5) human smuggling; 6) trafficking in persons (transporting people against their will); 7) weapons trafficking; 8) intellectual property theft; and 9) cybercrime.[4]

Strategy

In 2011, the DOD published the Counternarcotics & Global Threats Strategy.  Although this document specifies a comprehensive set of goals and objectives associated with combating TOC, it stops short of providing the details by which the department will achieve its desired end state.  The DOD essentially defers identification of specific actions and activities to subordinate headquarters:  "The Geographic Combatant Commands, National Guard Bureau, and Defense Agencies will generate specific functional and regional sub-strategies, or integrate their planned counternarcotics and global threats activities into the Combatant Command Theater Campaign Plans."[5]  One might argue that a strategy need not include detailed implementation specifics; however, with no single organization synchronizing the DOD’s counter-TOC efforts, delegating actions to separate subordinate headquarters fails to provide a coordinated solution to defeat this global threat.

The DOD’s two 2012 strategic documents, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense and Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020, do not build on the DOD’s 2011 counter-TOC strategy.  The former makes no reference to TOC and the latter simply acknowledges it as a characteristic of the strategic environment.  This inconsistency may suggest a DOD failure to fully embrace its counter-TOC responsibilities.  At a minimum, the DOD strategy falls short of providing the direction necessary to effectively contribute to combating TOC.

Authorities

There are no authorities specifically designed for combating TOC by name; however, there is overlap between counter-TOC and other mission areas (e.g., Counterterrorism (CT), Counternarcotics (CN), Cyber).  These existing authorities can be applied to combat TOC, and several permit the DOD to leverage its unique capabilities and contribute in a meaningful way to this mission.

Title 10 designates the DOD as the “single lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the United States." [6] Although its actions must be in support of Federal, State, local or foreign law enforcement agencies, this law specifically directs DOD action.  Title 10 also authorizes the DOD to “intercept aircraft or vessels outside the territorial limits of the United States.”[7]  Considering the most significant sources of major organized crime exist outside the U.S., [8] this powerful authority enables capitalization of the DOD’s global reach. 

The FY 2004 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (reauthorized by FY 2013 NDAA) [9] authorizes Joint Task Force Commanders who provide support to law enforcement agencies conducting CN activities to also provide support for CT activities. [10]  The FY 2005 NDAA (reauthorized by the FY 2013 NDAA)[11] authorizes the DOD to use funds to support the Government of Colombia’s CN and CT campaign. [12]  The nexus between terrorism (or narcotics) and other criminal activities provides ample opportunity for the DOD to combat TOC under these authorities.     

Title 10 authorizes the DOD to share equipment and/or facilities with, and provide certain training to, law enforcement agencies; however, the military is prohibited from participating in law enforcement actions.  Title 32 permits state governors with a SECDEF-approved CN plan to receive DOD funding to employ its National Guard for CN activities.[13]  Title 10 further directs the DOD to “provide information obtained in the course of normal training or operations that may be relevant to a violation of any Federal or State law within the jurisdiction.”[14]  With its global presence and comparatively robust resources, these authorities enable the DOD to be a significant contributor in combating TOC.

The aforementioned CN and CT authorities provide meaningful space for the DOD to operate in support of counter-TOC activities.  Perhaps these authorities should be broadened to include transnational organized crime in general, but doing so is not essential for effective DOD contribution to counter-TOC.  In any event, the DOD could operate more aggressively to combat TOC within existing authorities.

Organization

In 1989, in support of its statutory role as the single lead agency for detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the U.S., the DOD established joint task forces to coordinate CN support for law enforcement.  The 1994 National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP) designated three of these joint task forces as joint interagency task forces (JIATFs).[15]  Two of these JIATFs remain today – JIATF South (subordinate to USSOUTHCOM) and JIATF West (subordinate to USPACOM).

The NICCP provides an “overarching operational architecture for organizations involved in interdicting illicit drugs…”[16]  The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s U.S. Interdiction Coordinator, with the advice of The Interdiction Committee (TIC), develops the NICCP for the President. [17] TIC principal membership includes the following DOD representatives: Director of Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff; Director, JIATF South; Director, JIATF West; and Commander, Joint Task Force North (subordinate to USNORTHCOM). 

Although subordinate to geographic combatant commands (GCCs), JIATF and JTF-North CN funding comes from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats (DASD CN&GT), which is aligned under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.[18]  With DASD CN&GT responsible for both strategy and funding, synchronization of priorities and resources is possible.

The preceding demonstrates the DOD has indeed responded to its counter-TOC responsibilities vis-à-vis its contribution to the nation’s CN effort.  Notably, JIATF West and JIATF South have evolved into effective interagency organizations enhancing the national interdiction mission.  In fact, a study conducted by Munsing and Lamb for the Institute for National Strategic Studies described JIATF South as the “gold standard for interagency cooperation and intelligence fusion…”[19]

Conclusion

For over two decades, our Presidents have consistently and appropriately identified the national security risks posed by TOC.  In 2011, President Obama signed the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, emphasizing the importance of defeating this threat.  Also signed in 2011, the DOD’s first TOC-related strategy, the Counternarcotics & Global Threats Strategy, articulates national objectives; however, it defers identification of specific actions and activities to subordinate headquarters.  Additionally, the DOD failed to reinforce the importance of the TOC threat in its 2012 defense strategic documents, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense and Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020.

The two JIATFs represent a substantial and effective DOD investment in combating TOC; however, with no coordinating operational headquarters, any successful collaboration outside of these units is likely the result of individual initiative or know-how rather than the result of sound organizational design.  Given the global pervasiveness of TOC networks, one could question whether two geographically aligned JIATFs provide the best solution the DOD can offer.  Other critical missions, such as CT, CP, and Cyber, realize unity of command through ownership by a single functional combatant command (e.g., USSOCOM, USSTRATCOM) vice parsing a global mission across multiple GCCs.  Absent a more detailed strategy, a unified or sub-unified command may be the best way to improve the DOD’s efficacy in combating TOC.

The military is not the lead for law enforcement, and this should not change.  Nevertheless, it must effectively contribute to combating TOC as directed by the President and permitted by law.  Highly capable, well resourced, and with immense global reach, the DOD could, and should, do more.  Skeptics may argue that legal obstacles hinder the DOD’s use of its significant military capability; however, ample authorities indeed exist within current law to allow for robust DOD contribution to the nation's counter-TOC enterprise.  Broadened language could expand counter-TOC authorities beyond the confines of narrowly defined criminal categories; however, the DOD need not, and should not, wait for "ideal authorities" to fully commit to the counter-TOC fight.  Instead, it must tenaciously operate now within existing authorities to decisively combat TOC and keep the nation secure.

The DOD is not combating transnational organized crime to its greatest potential.  To do so, it should provide direct and unambiguous strategy, aggressively leverage existing authorities, and organize to most effectively support the national enterprise.  Because TOC poses a significant threat to the security of the United States, the DOD owes the nation its best.

End Notes

[1] Executive Office of the President of the United States: National Security Staff, Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, July 2011): i. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/2011-strategy-combat-transnational-organized-crime.pdf

[2] A 2004 study by the World Bank Institute estimates $1 trillion (1.7% of the global GDP) is spent each year to bribe public officials. “The Cost of Corruption,” The World Bank, (accessed March 6, 2013).  http://go.worldbank.org/LJA29GHA80

[3] Proceeds related to transnational organized crime in 2009 alone amounted to approximately US $870 billion (1.5% of the global GDP). Thomas Pietschmann and John Walker, Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna, October 2011) : 7 http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Studies/Illicit_financial_flows_2011_web.pdf

[4] Executive Office of the President of the United States: National Security Staff, Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, July 2011): i. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/2011-strategy-combat-transnational-organized-crime.pdf

[5] Department of Defense: Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics & Global Threats, Department of Defense Counternarcotics & Global Threats Strategy, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, April 2011): 17. https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=721746

[6] “Detection and Monitoring of Aerial and Maritime Transit of Illegal Drugs: Department of Defense to be lead agency,” Title 10 U.S. Code: Section 124. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title10/pdf/USCODE-2010-title10-subtitleA-partI-chap3-sec124.pdf

[7] Ibid

[8] Louise Shelley, “Identifying, Counting and Categorizing Transnational Criminal Organization,” Transnational Organized Crime, Volume: 5, Issue: 1, (Spring 1999). https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=196838

[9] “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013,” United States Statutes at Large. Bill 112 H.R. 4310: Section 1011. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr4310enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr4310enr.pdf

[10] “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2004," United States Statutes at Large, 117 Stat. 1392: Section 1021, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ136/pdf/PLAW-108publ136.pdf

[11] “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013:” Section 1010. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr4310enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr4310enr.pdf

[12] “Ronald Reagan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2005," United States Statutes at Large, 118 Stat. 1811: Section 1022(b). http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-108publ375/pdf/PLAW-108publ375.pdf

[13] “Drug interdiction and counter-drug activities,” Title 32 U.S. Code: Section 112. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title32/pdf/USCODE-2011-title32-chap1-sec112.pdf

[14] “Use of Information collected during Military Operations,” Title 10 U.S. Code: Sec 371. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2010-title10/pdf/USCODE-2010-title10-subtitleA-partI-chap18.pdf

[15] Evan Munsing and Christopher Lamb, “Joint Interagency Task Force-South: The Best Known, Least Understood Interagency Success,” Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Perspectives, No. 5, ed. Phillip C. Saunders (Defense University Press,Washington DC, June 2011): 1. http://www.ndu.edu/inss/docuploaded/Strat%20Perspectives%205%20_%20Lamb-Munsing.pdf

[16] Executive Office of the President of the United States: Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Interdiction Command and Control Plan, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, August 2005): 2.

[17] “Drug Interdiction Coordinator and Committee,” Title 21 U.S. Code: Section 1710. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2008-title21/pdf/USCODE-2008-title21-chap22-sec1710.pdf

[18] U.S. Senate: Committee on the Armed Services, DoD Plans and Programs relating to Counteterrorism, Counternarcotics, and Building Partnership Capacity Hearing, S. Hrg. 112-182,  (April 12, 2011): 26. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112shrg71959/pdf/CHRG-112shrg71959.pdf

[19] Munsing and Lamb, “Joint Interagency Task Force-South: The Best Known, Least Understood Interagency Success:” 2.

 

About the Author(s)

Major Stephen J. Peters, USA.  MAJ Peters is currently serving as a J-2 Planner for Joint Interagency Task Force West at Camp H.M. Smith, HI.  Prior to his current assignment, MAJ Peters served as a Battalion XO, S-3, and Task Force Commander with 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation) in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael T. Clancy, USAF.  Lt Col Clancy is currently serving as a Nuclear Surety Staff Officer for United States European Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Prior to his current assignment, Lt Col Clancy served as the Commander for the 39th Maintenance Squadron, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

Commander David E. Smith, USN.  CDR Smith is currently serving on the faculty at the Joint Forces Staff College as an instructor in the Joint and Combined Warfighting School.  Prior to his current assignment, he served as the Submarine Operations Officer for Commander Carrier Strike Group TWELVE.