WASHINGTON - In an effort to hit drug cartels where it hurts, the National Guard Counterdrug Program is learning how to follow the money with a new Secretary of Defense program in Counter Threat Finance (CTF) analysis, officials said recently.
Directed and funded by William F. Wechsler, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats the new Counterdrug program will support six law enforcement agency partners.
The partnering departments involved are the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Immigration Customs Enforcement, and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations in various cities across the United States.
They will be tasked with the duties of denying, disrupting, destroying or defeating finance systems and networks that negatively impact U.S. interests.
"This is a start to a whole new effort for the [National] Guard," said Wechsler during a meeting at the Pentagon, Nov. 29, 2011.
This effort the Guard members are a part of will help build a skill base that is going to be a growing part of what we do in the future, he said.
The National Guard Counterdrug Program selected 26 Counterdrug personnel to fulfill the Counter Threat Finance analyst positions. Their duties will include but not limited to conducting financial profiles, suspicious activity report reviews, commodity flow analysis and financial document exploitation.
These duties will complement analysts existing skills in cell phone forensics, link analysis, open source intelligence and report writing. Their job will be to counter financing used by illicit networks that traffic narcotics, precursor chemicals, launder illicit proceeds and related activities that support drug trafficking organizations, narcoterrorism and transnational criminal organizations.
"We are most likely to be confronting adversaries that are irregular and asymmetric in nature, adversaries that are networks with independent sources of revenue," Wechsler said. "In order to confront such an adversary we need to understand first and foremost those resources."
The National Guard Counterdrug Program selected highly qualified individuals to develop an understanding of the organizations that pose a threat to U.S. interests, said Army Capt. Mesha Cichon, Analysis and Fusion Section chief National Guard Bureau Counterdrug.
"Focus was placed on selecting Guardsmen that are problem solvers and have good interpersonal skills, not their [military occupational specialty]," she said.
The Soldier's MOS is immaterial, meaning that a military intelligence background is not required. Many of the selectees have civilian education and work experience related to finance while others have deployment experience in theaters of operation exploiting financial networks.
"This is the kind of mission where the National Guard seems to be uniquely positioned to build out these skill sets," Wechsler said.
In order to set the foundation for the CTF skill set, the new counter threat finance analysts attended a three week training course at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, Washington D.C., Nov. 29, 2011 to Dec. 16, 2011.
The course, designed by the Counterdrug Analysis and Fusion Section, provided a clear overview of DOD and federal law enforcement agency partners in threat finance and money laundering, an in depth instruction on current money laundering trends and analytical techniques, and created a learning environment conducive to networking and relationship building among analysts.
"Excellent delivery of instruction needed for an analyst to comprehend the CTF world and all stakeholders involved; it was a very good source for analysts to obtain contacts and new network nodes," said a course attendee.
Members from the Joint Military Intelligence Training Center, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center provided the instruction and Federal Law enforcement and Military CTF Partners gave presentations.
"This training had the most professional and intelligent instructors that I have ever had," said another course attendee.
In an effort to make the CTF training more valuable, the National Guard Counterdrug Program is in the process of building curriculum that will give Soldiers and Airmen an additional skill identifier that will be applied to the Guard member's job title. The skill identifier will classify the Soldier or Airman as a specialist in CTF. This skill set is directly transferable to federal missions and theater deployments.
"By adding the additional skill identifier to the analyst's job title we are able to track the number of Guardsmen who have completed the training and possess this unique skill set," Cichon said.
The CTF mission is a natural progression for the Counterdrug program. Counterdrug personnel have been working as criminal analysts supporting law enforcement since 1989 when the U.S. Congress authorized the National Guard to perform drug interdiction and anti-drug activities.
Today, over 700 criminal analysts are assigned to 260 Narcotics Task Forces. In fiscal year 2011, analysts supported 65,449 LEA cases.
With the initial Counter Threat Finance training behind them and the potential for a new skill identifier, the CTF analysts are primed and ready to take on the asymmetric nature of threat finance and money laundering.