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​Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of US Southern Command, speaks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2016. Screenshot photo.

​The “amorphous, adaptable, and networked threats” that enable the flow of illicit goods—not the contraband itself—is what keeps US Southern Command chief Adm. Kurt Tidd up at night, he said Tuesday. Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C., Tidd said the transnational and transregional networks—whether they are criminal, extremist, or state-sponsored—connect and empower dangerous people and groups and “are the real threat to our nation’s security and the region’s stability.” Tidd suggested the extent of the networks should bring additional focus to SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility because of its proximity to the continental United States. “Now while we must pay attention to the seas and oceans around the world, we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s going on in the waters around our own home,” he said.

SOUTHCOM itself, he said, also needs to adapt by not focusing solely on eradicating drugs and to take a networked view of the environment. “That means thinking and acting in multiple domains, embracing cross-functional teams, tearing down stovepipes, developing staff to embrace complexity and alternative viewpoints, and constantly learning, adapting, and applying new approaches and ideas,” Tidd said. “Part of this shift comes from a candid recognition that for years, we’ve been triaging the symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the root problem itself. And in that time, the problem has adapted and grown in complexity, while our efforts to address it have lagged behind.” Tidd also called for increased regional maritime cooperation, real-time information sharing, multinational operations, and building trust between US and foreign military, law enforcement, diplomatic, and intelligence communities. “Ultimately, we want to help our partners in the US government and across the region, build a network that is stronger, more adaptive, and more interconnected than any threat network can ever hope to be,” he said.