Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: What is it?

The Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2011 foreign aid request, submitted to Congress earlier this week, includes a new counternarcotics and security initiative: the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

Here is what we know about the CBSI so far:

  • It is a "multiyear, multifaceted effort by the U.S. Government and Caribbean partners to develop a joint regional citizen safety strategy to tackle the full range of security and criminal threats to the Caribbean Basin," according to the Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request. The International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL) Program and Budget Guide for FY2010 says the initiative will be a 5-year program. (Download the Program and Budget Guide here)
  • Developing the CBSI "became a priority as the MĂ©rida Initiative began yielding positive results in Mexico and Central America, making the Caribbean an increasingly attractive transit zone for transnational organized criminals, terrorists and illicit traffickers."
  • The CBSI was first announced by President Obama at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009.
  • Fifteen countries of the Caribbean Basin are included in the CBSI: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Funding for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will come out of the Development Assistance, Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Foreign Military Financing accounts. So far, the CBSI budget for FY2010 and FY2011 looks like this:
      • In the FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, Congress appropriated "not less than $37 million" for the initiative "to provide equipment and training to combat drug trafficking and related violence and organized crime, and for judicial reform, institution building, education, anti-corruption, rule of law activities, and maritime security." Congress specifies that at least $21.1 million of that amount should be used for social justice and education programs.
      • For FY2010, the INL Program and Budget Guide allocates $6,365,000 for the initiative, which comes from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement accounts. The FY2010 allocation is described as "an investment" in anticipation of the program's official launch in FY2011. This INL funding is broken down into $715,000 for "Caribbean Training and Logistical Team Support," $2,325,000 for combating money laundering, and $3,325,000 for legislative function and process programs. (More details about the program from the Program and Budget Guide can be found here.)
      • The Obama administration's FY2011 foreign aid request allocates just under $73 million in both military and economic aid to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative: $37,463,000 for INL, $18,160,000 for Foreign Military Financing, and $17,000,000 for the Economic Support Fund.
  • The FY2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill requires the Secretary of State to submit a spending plan for the initiative to the Committees on Appropriations by January 29, 2010. The report includes a "detailed plan for funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the countries of the Caribbean Basin by this Act, with concrete goals, actions to be taken, budget proposals, and anticipated results."
  • The CBSI will eventually include a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, deployed to the region. The INL Program and Budget Guide reads:

    Caribbean Training and Logistical Support Teams will provide a platform for leading U.S. engagement and support for maritime interdiction in the Caribbean. Teams will deploy to the region to provide training, logistical and maintenance support. The primary goal for these teams is to provide onsite support until a U.S. vessel, with an international crew, can be deployed to provide those services. That vessel will foster international cooperation by offering the opportunity for a diverse, international and joint/interagency crew to work together and support all of the cooperating countries in the Caribbean. The Caribbean support vessel will deliver a total support package including a mobile professional training program and maintenance team with potential for shops, tools, technicians, and limited onboard classroom/berthing/messing for students. Additionally, it may provide a centralized supply source for standard spare parts, turn-in items, etc., and will have the capability to deliver cargo.

  • The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the CBSI in early December 2009. The transcript of the hearing can be downloaded as a PDF here. Written testimonies by each of the witnesses and a webcast are also available online.

    During his opening remarks, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said:

    I also believe that we need to take a holistic view of the entire region when we begin implementing CBSI. I am very concerned that if we do not act quickly to bolster our friends in the Caribbean, the positive impact of the Merida Initiative in Mexico and Central America will push the drug trade further into the Caribbean and increase the already alarming rates of violence.
    ...
    CBSI was announced at the Summit last April, there have been three meetings held on this initiative. Initial U.S.-Caribbean meetings were held in Suriname, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic in 2009, and a ministerial meeting is expected to take place in Washington in early 2010 at which a political declaration, action plan, and framework for the CBSI will be adopted.