Southern Command looks to stay in Miami, through military realignment and search for permanent base
By Paola Iuspa
As the US Southern Command looks for a permanent home, Lt. Col. Bill Costello said his group wants to remain in Miami despite shrinking responsibilities in the Caribbean.
The Southern Command, or SouthCom, is one of nine unified commands around the world within the Department of Defense and serves as the control room for almost all US military and national security operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Personnel from the US Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard are assigned to the post.
Beginning Oct. 1, SouthCom will no longer have jurisdiction over Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Mr. Costello said. Debuting that day, a new Northern Command will take control over those two regions and operate from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO. NorthCom's area of operations include the US, Canada, Mexico, parts of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The recently created US Department of Homeland Security orchestrated the jurisdictional changes, Mr. Costello said. Southcom's realignment, he said, almost coincides with the arrival of Army Lt. General James T. Hill, who took over the Miami command early this month.
While Mr. Hill has not yet outlined his goals or made public any intention to take a different direction, Mr. Costello said SouthCom plans to stay in Miami once the current lease at 3511 NW 91st Ave. expires in 2008.
"We want to start planning as soon as possible," he said referring to finding a new site and organizing a move.
While all other US commands are based at military bases, SouthCom is the only freestanding command in need of a permanent home. The group moved to the current complex in the Doral area in 1997 after being transferred from a Panama base in Central America where it had been for 34 years.
Mr. Costello's group will have help in its search for a Miami-Dade location big enough to accommodate the hundreds of command personnel gathering intelligence and making decisions. Members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce military affairs committee are working closely with federal officials to keep SouthCom in Miami-Dade County, said Betsy Greene Freeman, chamber vice president.
"We continue working to convince the Department of Defense that they need to stay," she said.
According to the chamber, the Miami military headquarters has a $72 million impact on South Florida.