Security and Good Governance in U.S.-Jamaica Relations

  “Security and Good Governance in U.S.–Jamaica Relations” by Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

[The following background paper was prepared for my presentation on the Panel on “Security and Good Governance” in the “Dialogue between Democracies: The Future of U.S. – Jamaica Bilateral Relations” organized by CaPRI and the U.S. Embassy (Kingston) at the Mid-Town Hilton Hotel, NYC, March 24, 2016]

This session, which focuses on security and good governance, provides an opportunity to highlight areas of cooperation and collaboration between the United States and Jamaica aimed primarily at securing both countries from national, regional, and global security threats.  Most importantly, it provides an opportunity to review the current status and what needs to be done collectively to build a security architecture which serves the mutual interests of both countries.

Undoubtedly, there is a huge gap in the security capacities, the human, technological, and financial resources of both countries. Despite the gap in the security of each respective country, each needs the other, in order to ensure aspects of their own security.  The links between the people of the United States and Jamaica span centuries – old and new immigrants, and hundreds of thousands of natural-born Americans with Jamaican heritage. There are very good reasons for both the U.S. and Jamaica to approach security from a position of trust and mutual interests.

There are significant areas of cooperation between the United States and Jamaica, in particular the assistance provided by the United States to Jamaica through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).  The CBSI has benefited Jamaica in security capacity-building – training, equipment supplies, and technical support. Security cooperation and collaboration between the two countries have made a difference in the capacity of the Jamaican government to secure its maritime boundaries, and for the United States to interdict drug trafficking through the region, in particular, preventing drug trafficking in Jamaica’s territorial waters.

However, much more is required to obtain optimal security guarantees for Jamaica, in particular, in maritime security, and in enhancing law enforcement capacity to deal with crime and other security-related issues.

One of the most daunting tasks that a country has is maritime security.  The security-related assets and the level of training required of related law enforcement personnel far exceed the financial and human resources of small countries; Jamaica is no exception.  In that regard, Jamaica cannot be expected to successfully patrol and protect its vulnerable coastline and maritime boundaries without the continuing and willing partnership of the United States.

Like any other country, and, in particular, as a super power, the United States, first and foremost, prioritizes its own national security.  Drug trafficking through the region is a major problem for the United States, as it is a major driver of crime which threatens Jamaica’s security.  Illegal drug trafficking is the major source for money laundering, corruption, and illegal arms trafficking.  The CBSI aims to assist countries in the region to build security capacity to deal with drug trafficking and related criminal activities.  Jamaica is a major beneficiary of the CBSI.

The CBSI has been under-funded since its inception in 2010; not enough resources have been put into this program by the U.S. government.  This is due in part to the lack of cooperation from the U.S. Congress; the effect of sequestration on funding the program; as well as the lack of adequate funding for the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) whose responsibility includes securing the U.S. southern border, and to cooperate and collaborate with governments in the region, including Jamaica, in drug interdiction, and other security-related matters.

From the very outset, the Congress cut in half the original appropriations requested by the Obama administration to fund the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, and the program has been underfunded since its inception.

No matter how well-intention are the U.S. Embassy in Kingston and the U.S. State Department in Washington, as regards appropriation requests for security-related funding for Jamaica, it is incumbent on the Jamaican government to make its case to relevant Congressional committees which ultimately decide on the level of funding appropriations for the CBSI and other security-related matters.  Successive Jamaican governments have failed to make the case to Congress, and the resulting funding has been at a level far less than what is needed to deal adequately with the problem.

Another issue, which impacts on the level of resources available to the Jamaican government through the CBSI and other assistance programs, is the lack of security-related initiatives originating in Jamaica to take advantage of what is available from the United States.  As with the CBSI and related programs, the onus is on the Jamaican government in collaboration with the U.S. government to initiate and develop programs to satisfy the security needs of the country.  In other words, the Jamaican government should be more pro-active and not wait for programs to be developed in Washington and offered by the U.S. government which might not be appropriate to meet Jamaica’s pressing security priorities.

When dealing with the security sector in U.S.-Jamaica relations the discussion must include the role of intelligence; the level of information and intelligence sharing between the two countries; and the capacity of Jamaica’s security and law enforcement sectors to manage and use actionable intelligence effectively when offered by the U.S. government.

The U.S. intelligence community is by far the most sophisticated in the world with the highest level of training and technological capabilities.  Information gathering by the U.S. intelligence community takes many forms – including human intelligence, signal intelligence (communication and electronic), geospatial intelligence, and open source intelligence.  This is matched by highly technical information processing and analyses to arrive at actionable intelligence.  Such intelligence is highly sensitive and is likely to be classified “top secret”, and the U.S. is selective about how much intelligence is shared with other countries.  The level of sharing is concomitant with the level of trust and the capacity of the recipient to use intelligence responsibly.  Good governance and management of shared intelligence are critical in the decision of the U.S. government on what to share.

Jamaica’s intelligence capacity pales in comparison and Jamaica’s law enforcement and security sectors must rely heavily on intelligence shared by the U.S. and others.  However, it is unrealistic to believe the U.S. shares everything it knows about security risks and threats to Jamaica and the region with Jamaica’s security and law enforcement communities.  There are constraints based on the fear of compromise of intelligence and resulting risks to U.S. national security interests.  This is an area in which U.S.-Jamaica cooperation could be improved significantly.  In that regard, the U.S. and Jamaica should commit to building Jamaica’s information gathering and intelligence analysis capacities in conjunction with promoting good governance to raise the trust level.  This would result in intelligence sharing that more effectively contributes to Jamaica’s security and law enforcement, which in turn would inure to the mutual security benefits of both countries.

Finally, one of the take-a-ways from this Dialogue should include a better appreciation of the potential role of the Jamaican diaspora, not merely in the context of the over US$2 billion annual remittances, but the untapped technical expertise and resources of the diaspora, and the potential political impact of diaspora’s input in promoting U.S.-Jamaica relations.

The Jamaican government must recognize the value of the Jamaican diaspora as advocates for U.S.–Jamaica bilateral relations.  Many Jamaicans have familiarity with the dynamics of the U.S. government; understand the dynamics and the respective roles of the Executive and the Legislative branches of the U.S. government; and are no strangers to the halls of Congress.  Successive Jamaican governments have failed to take full advantage of the potential advocacy the Jamaican diaspora can bring to the issues identified. This is a partnership waiting to be developed in the overall interests of Jamaica and the United States in the overall context of U.S.-Jamaica relations.


Prepared by Curtis A. Ward

March 22, 2016