Remarks by Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., U.S. Navy, Commander, NORAD and USNORTHCOM, Trilateral Seminar

By Center for Higher Naval Studies, Mexico | April 13, 2011

Muchas gracias, Dr. Oliva.

Buenos dias mi amigos, bonjour mes amis, and good morning my friends.

It’s an honor and a pleasure to join you today, and to participate in such a distinguished roundtable with my friends and partners from Mexico and Canada.

I am particularly delighted to share this dais with my partners General Semianiw, General Villegas, and Admiral Valdes.

While our friendship is drawn from the shared ideals of democracy, liberty and freedom, our cooperation is grounded in an understanding that nearly everything we do in this new world, and on this wonderful continent that we call North America, is based on the context of fading borders.

These borders include those between peace and war, near and far, domestic and foreign, public and private, civil and military, state and individual.

And while there is much work that we can do together in these gray areas, I remain optimistic that, together, we will rise to the occasion.

I think I speak for my fellow panelists in also mentioning what a truly impressive and influential audience this is . . . an audience that I’m sure is at least as committed as I am to cooperation among our three nations in solving the challenges that we’ll discuss throughout this session.

I also can’t think of a more appropriate place for those discussions.

It’s not only that, as a career Naval officer, I feel at home in this beautiful building, and appreciate being in a handsome auditorium that feels so richly nautical.

Rather, it’s that we sit here in an academic hall of the Naval War College--a place designed to host strategic discussions on the current and future challenges of our military forces.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all of the answers.

And so it’s important that we hold a series of conversations like this, where we can hear and learn from the vast intellectual capital of all of you gathered here today.

I’m hopeful that we, like the students who assemble here daily, will leave with a greater understanding of the military craft, and of our interdependent futures.

Nowhere is that sense of interdependency stronger and more tested than in our shared economies, so let me begin with our economic partnership.

After all, the strength of a nation does not begin with its military, but with the productivity of its taxpayers, who pay for everything the military does.

Seventeen years ago, we allowed our own economic borders to fade. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, our three nations’ trading relationships have become among the strongest in the world.

The deep integration of the Mexican, Canadian and United States’ economies has resulted in a cross-border production system that enhances the comparative advantage and economic competitiveness of our three nations together.

As you know, NAFTA created the world’s largest free trade area, which now links 450 million consumers in North America.

More than 40 million jobs have been created in North America--and annual trade is triple what it was in 1993.

NAFTA countries conduct nearly two billion dollars in trilateral trade--each and every day.

As a former U.S. Senator used to say, “A billion here--a billion there--pretty soon you’re talking about real money!”

Clearly, we are closely intertwined economically.

And in today’s increasingly-globalized world, I believe that we are growing ever-closer in the realm of security . . . because we can, and because we know we must.

We face common threats from terrorists and transnational criminal organizations, from cyber threats, and from hazards generated by Mother Nature--which for some reason seem to be accelerating.

Military-to-military cooperation--helping each other by sharing relevant information, experience, and direct assistance when our friends ask for it and when our sovereign government leaders approve it--is one of several means for bolstering our shared security.

Within my two commands, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, with our richly-diverse array of missions, we live to collaborate with our partners in Mexico and Canada.

Our diversity of missions is eclipsed only by the diversity of our staff. For instance, we have 85 representatives from other U.S. organizations working in or near our headquarters--representing 66 federal agencies and other military commands.

Because of the truly interdependent futures that I mentioned earlier, I’m also proud to report that we have some 140 of our Canadian counterparts on my staff, along with liaison officers from both SEMAR and SEDENA, who have been incredibly helpful in bringing greater understanding and contact into my headquarters.

Improving our situational awareness and speeding our response time are what this is all about. It’s hardly ever easy, but in the end it works--once we put our institutional egos aside, and start working together.

Indeed, in all of these relationships we find that working together builds trust, which enables more close work together, which in turn enables more trust.

Let me give you some highlights of the military cooperation we have with Canada and Mexico.

Canada and the United States have enjoyed a stable and mutually-beneficial military relationship for a very long time.

Dating back to the American Civil War in the 1860s, thousands of Canadians have served in the U.S. military.

From our Civil War through Vietnam, 40 Canadians have won the American Medal of Honor, our most prestigious decoration.

Many Americans served in the Canadian Armed Forces in World War I and World War II, even before the United States entered either one of those conflicts.

The bilateral defense relationship we enjoy began on August 18, 1940, with the signing of the Ogdensburg Agreement on Hemispheric Defense by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Canada and the United States have been allies not only in World Wars, and bilaterally, but also since the birth of NATO in 1949.

On May 12th, 1958, our two governments diplomatically formalized the NORAD Agreement, and we have worked closely ever since.

Over 40 years later, on September 11, 2001, the day the United States was attacked by terrorists, that relationship was once again proven when Canada came to our assistance, putting NORAD jets in the air to respond to the threat.

NORAD’s Director of Operations, Canadian Major General Rick Findley, was in the Cheyenne Mountain Command Center, directing the air defense of the U.S. and Canada.

Shortly thereafter, the government of Canada made the courageous decision to accept 239 diverted commercial flights carrying over 33,000 travelers . . . understanding clearly that any one of those flights might have more terrorists aboard.

In recent years, we’ve signed a Canada - United States Basic Defense Document, as well as the CANUS Civil Assistance Plan for providing military-to-military support--with the approval of our foreign ministers.

Canada Command supported USNORTHCOM in 2008, when a Canadian Globemaster airlifted U.S. medical patients out of the path of Hurricane Gustav--while two Canadian CC-130s deployed to Pensacola, Florida in response to that looming natural disaster.

This was the first time that Canada and the U.S. used our Civil Assistance Plan in response to a natural disaster.

More recently, during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, USNORTHCOM worked very closely with the Canadian Forces to provide support to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and pre-positioned back-up support in Washington State.

Looking to the future, USNORTHCOM and my partner, General Semianiw in Canada Command, have agreed to develop a framework under which the two commands can operate together in the Arctic.

I have a solid partnership with General Semianiw, and we look forward to the future as we provide shared information, good ideas, and any necessary military support to each other.

I believe the bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is ideal, perhaps the finest in the world.

Meanwhile, we have developed a strong friendship between the United States and my partners in the Mexican Armed Forces.

In my opinion, the bonds of respect between our two militaries have never been stronger.

And I say this while remembering those in the Mexican 201st Aztec Eagle Squadron of World War II fame, who flew the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter alongside us in the liberation of the Philippines . . . and at least 28 Mexican-Americans, many of whom were born in Mexico, who have been awarded our Medal of Honor--again, our highest decoration.

Mexican citizen Silvestre Herrera was awarded the Medal of Honor in the White House--by President Harry Truman--during World War II. An elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona was named on his behalf.

More recent events, though, have redefined the relationship between USNORTHCOM and the Mexican military.

Hurricane Katrina, in September 2005, became a dramatic ‘tipping point” when, right after Katrina came ashore, SEDENA deployed some 200 Mexican troops, 45 military vehicles, and 250 tons of food and other supplies into Texas.

Meanwhile, SEMAR sent two ships, many vehicles and helicopters, and personnel to support us inside our own country.

By the end of this Mexican rescue mission, SEDENA’s field kitchen had served 170,000 meals to U.S. disaster victims . . . and Mexican troops had distributed more than 184,000 tons of supplies.

The Mexican military is highly experienced in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and we benefitted from their expertise.

The year after Hurricane Katrina--with the election of President Calderón in December 2006--there was another paradigm shift in the relationship between Mexico and the United States.

My country and Mexico now regard one another as authentic strategic partners and co-responsible parties in the fight against the transnational criminal organizations--or TCOs--that threaten the safety and security of all of North America . . . and other parts of the world.

I use the term TCO deliberately, because to call these cartels drug-trafficking organizations would indicate to our Mexican and Canadian friends that all we care about in the United States is the illegal movement of drugs across our borders. And that’s not true.

We’re also concerned about the prosperity and security of our friends and neighbors in North America.

The criminality extends far beyond drugs: to extortion, robbery, kidnapping and trafficking in persons.

As we know, the TCOs are vicious in the extreme, better-armed than our police forces, very well-financed, diversified, and increasingly sophisticated in their methods.

In fact, we now see TCOs using military equipment and tactics, including machine guns, sniper rifles, grenades, and even submarines to move illegal drugs.

The Mexican government has displayed impressive moral, physical and political courage in undertaking this important struggle, because they know this is about the future of Mexico, and I publicly salute them for this.

The Mexican military has been asked by its civilian leadership to join with Mexican law enforcement agencies to support this struggle in the right way, respectful of Mexico’s democratic ideals and the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

It’s been a difficult struggle . . . since December 2006, some 35,000 Mexicans have lost their lives in TCO-related violence. This is many more civilians than have been lost in Afghanistan over the same period.

In 2010 alone, Mexico’s most violent year since the Mexican Revolution, there were more than 15,000 deaths related to narcotics--with 10 mayors killed and a record 3,100 homicides in the border city of Ciudad Juarez alone.

In this fight, over 1,900 courageous Mexican military personnel and police have died in the line of duty . . . nearly as many as the U.S. has lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the same period.

The families of these brave Mexican warriors share the battlefield with them, only amplifying the tremendous respect in which I hold my counterparts.

We in the U.S. are suffering as well the corrosive effects of illegal drugs. The TCOs are entrenched and wholesaling illegal drugs in some 270 U.S. cities.
About half of the almost 30,000 people we lose per year to drug abuse are lost to illicit drug abuse. The financial and societal costs are staggering.
And things are even worse further south, in Central America, where porous judicial institutions and weak law enforcement have made the region a lucrative target for the TCOs.

We simply have to take on this menace that threatens our freedoms and our way of life, and we can only do it together.

Presidents Obama and Calderon have underscored our shared responsibilities as nations . . . on the U.S. side of our border to reduce drug consumption and illicit flows of arms and money into Mexico . . .and on the Mexican side to interdict drugs going north and strengthen the rule of law, so that criminals are put in jail and kept there.

I salute Mexico’s police and security forces for their courage, skill and determination, and for the progress they’ve made in building institutions like the federal police . . . and in taking down over two dozen of the most wanted criminals in their country, and confiscating illegal drugs with a street value of over $11 billion.

Today, my Mexican military counterparts are confronting concurrent challenges . . . how to counter a sophisticated unconventional threat by integrating intelligence and operations . . . how to work jointly with each other and with their interagency counterparts . . . and how to fully inculcate respect for human rights into every operation.

They are doing it well, and there is tremendous progress.

We know this is hard work, because we’ve been down the same road, and in some ways are still on the same road in the United States . . . so I tell my capable Mexican partners that we don’t know it all. We’ve made our own mistakes, and we seek the kind of engagement that helps them benefit from our experience.

While I always want to do more to help, we in USNORTHCOM are just a supporting player in a much larger interagency and international law enforcement effort . . . and the first and most important principle we observe in this struggle is respect for Mexican sovereignty.

And if together we can maintain our resolve, if we can be responsive to each other’s requests, if we can work effectively together, and if we can continue to make progress on the U.S. side of the border in reducing drug demand and interdicting cash and weapons flowing south . . . then together we stand a good chance of carrying the day against the TCOs.

And I believe we can even more sharply focus this as a North American problem, and enlist even greater Canadian support in the places where this struggle is being fought.

Let me share one final set of thoughts on how we sustain and bolster this trilateral relationship for the future.
My wife Mary continues to remind me that the key to any successful relationship is communication. And I believe the same is true for all of us here.

Dialogues like these--in concert with a sustained focus on a trilateral future where we share experiences and opportunities--will strengthen our nations both independently and collectively.

Today, we live in a transnational world of fading borders and breathtakingly-fast change.

To handle this, I believe that--in addition to investing as required in systems and people to maintain the technical and tactical edges we’ve always enjoyed--we need to do two other things to keep pace with our collective security needs.

The first step in that sustained focus is identifying policy tools that will help keep us safer from new threats, while maintaining our adherence to the founding principles which we as free and democratic peoples cherish.

This will involve leveraging institutions in and among our three countries in new ways that can hopefully draw us closer.

And it involves moving forward together with agreements that will further tighten our cooperation in areas such as intelligence sharing and communications.

For example, Mexico and the U.S. have begun a dialogue on a North American Maritime Security Initiative. The Mexican military, USNORTHCOM, and the U.S. Coast Guard have agreed to invite the Canadians into this project, and I believe that Canada will accept once their upcoming election is complete.

Separately, Mexico and the U.S. have been conducting a mutually-helpful dialogue about cooperation in the realm of detecting and monitoring aircraft flying illegally in our sovereign airspace.

I also believe that the more we integrate our staffs, the better off we are . . . again, working together builds trust, which enables more work together, which enables more trust.

We enjoy this today with Canada and Mexico, and in that light I would welcome more SEDENA and SEMAR presence in my headquarters--and the reverse--moving beyond liaison officers to actually working more closely together.

Second, and as an enabler to the first, we also need to foster positive public discourse that enables our societies to put historical challenges behind us . . . and to open up a new future of cooperation . . . because there is a big bad world out there, both economically and in the security realm, and we will have far better success facing it together rather than separately.

For one thing, I am on a campaign to ensure that my fellow senior U. S. Government leaders understand that how we talk about the TCO problem publicly matters greatly in this struggle . . . and I think we are starting to see some success.

How we talk about each other publicly really matters. Even when we are upset with each other, when things are not going well, positive public discourse makes a huge difference, while we are frank with each other in private.

To be sure, nations will always act in their own best interest . . . but I see our interests intertwined so much that there are nothing but positives in the future of military cooperation in North America . . . whether it is countering terrorists, disrupting TCOs, providing mutual defense against cyber attacks, and more . . . always based on trust, reciprocity, transparency, and respect for sovereignty.

Once again, it’s a pleasure and an honor for me to be here today. I look forward to our continued dialogue towards our collective future success.

And I look forward to your questions.

Muchas gracias, merci beaucoup, and thank you very much.