Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Introduction

“Combating transnational criminal and trafficking networks requires a multidimensional strategy that safeguards citizens, breaks the financial strength of criminal and terrorist networks, disrupts illicit trafficking networks, defeats transnational criminal organizations, fights government corruption, strengthens the rule of law, bolsters judicial systems, and improves transparency. While these are major challenges, the United States will be able to devise and execute a collective strategy with other nations facing the same threats.”

— National Security Strategy, May 2010

In January 2010, the United States Government completed a comprehensive review of international
organized crime—the first on this topic since 1995. Based on the review and subsequent reporting,
the Administration has concluded that, in the intervening years, international—or transnational—
organized crime has expanded dramatically in size, scope, and influence and that it poses a significant
threat to national and international security. In light of the review’s findings, we have adopted the term
“transnational organized crime” (TOC) to describe the threats addressed by this Strategy. While the term
“international organized crime” has been commonly used in the past, “transnational organized crime”
more accurately describes the converging threats we face today. As emphasized in the National Security
: “…these threats cross borders and undermine the stability of nations, subverting government
institutions through corruption and harming citizens worldwide.”

In years past, TOC was largely regional in scope, hierarchically structured, and had only occasional links
to terrorism. Today’s criminal networks are fluid, striking new alliances with other networks around the
world and engaging in a wide range of illicit activities, including cybercrime and providing support
for terrorism. Virtually every transnational criminal organization and its enterprises are connected and
enabled by information systems technologies, making cybercrime a substantially more important
concern. TOC threatens U.S. interests by taking advantage of failed states or contested spaces; forging
alliances with corrupt foreign government officials and some foreign intelligence services; destabilizing
political, financial, and security institutions in fragile states; undermining competition in world strategic
markets; using cyber technologies and other methods to perpetrate sophisticated frauds; creating the
potential for the transfer of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorists; and expanding narcotrafficking and human and weapons smuggling networks. Terrorists and insurgents increasingly are turning to criminal networks to generate funding and acquire logistical support. TOC also threatens the interconnected trading, transportation, and transactional systems that move people and commerce
throughout the global economy and across our borders.

In October 2010, the national security advisors of 44 nations gathered in Sochi, Russia to discuss transnational crime. Representing the United States, former National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, USMC, Ret. warned of the TOC threats to international security and urged immediate international
action, saying:

“In a world full of transnational threats, transnational crime is in an ascendant phase… This lethal nexus of organized crime, narco-trafficking, and terrorism is a threat that the United States, Russia and all of us share and should be working together to combat… Today, right now, we have an opportunity for cooperation not just between the United States and Russia, but among all nations represented here today. It’s up to us to seize the moment…”

The various elements of this Strategy flow from a single unifying principle: we will build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat TOC and related threats to national security and urge our foreign partners to do the same. To this end, the Strategy recognizes TOC as a significant threat to national and international security and emphasizes U.S. planning, priorities, and activities accordingly. The Strategy addresses TOC and drug trafficking as increasingly intertwined threats to maximize the impact of U.S. resources. It also provides a framework to direct U.S. power against those TOC actors, activities, and networks that are determined to pose the greatest threat to national and international security.

This Strategy establishes priority actions in several key areas. It starts by taking a hard look at what actions the United States can take within its own borders to lessen the threat and impact of TOC domestically and on our foreign partners. The other priority actions seek to:

  • Enhance Intelligence and Information Sharing;
  • Protect the Financial System and Strategic Markets Against Transnational Organized Crime;
  • Strengthen Interdiction, Investigations, and Prosecutions;
  • Disrupt Drug Trafficking and Its Facilitation of Other Transnational Threats; and
  • Build International Capacity, Cooperation, and Partnerships.

This Strategy complements but does not replicate the work of other major U.S. security initiatives. It is guided by the National Security Strategy and interlocks with other U.S. strategies and initiatives, to include the National Drug Control Strategy, the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, the International Strategy for Cyberspace, the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, the U.S.-Mexico Merida Initiative, the Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime, the National Strategy for Maritime Security, Countering Piracy Off the Horn of Africa: Partnership & Action Plan, and several other U.S. security assistance, counterdrug, and capacity-building efforts around the world.

The Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) on Illicit Drugs and Transnational Criminal Threats will oversee a whole-of-government approach to implementing this Strategy. Co-chaired by the National Security Staff and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, this IPC will issue implementation guidance, establish performance measures, and receive regular progress updates from the interagency community. This IPC will be informed by and work with other IPCs such as the Maritime Security IPC. With a new Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and an array of new authorities and tools, this Administration is committing itself to ensuring that we rise to the national security challenges of the 21st century and ensure an international order that protects the safety and well-being of our citizens.