Here in the capital of the largest country in South America, U.S. and Brazilian defense leaders met for the first time under a new cooperative agreement that will expand an already close military partnership.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim today conducted the first U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue, an initiative established April 9 in Washington, D.C., by U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
“Brazil is a global power. Brazil is a positive force for stability, not only in the Americas but across the world,” said Panetta, here during a weeklong visit to South America, his first as defense secretary.
“For that reason,” he added, “it is a privilege for me to come here to Brasilia to conduct the first Defense Cooperation Dialogue with Minister Amorim, a dialogue that both our presidents signed and supported.”
“We need to be ready for a broader type of defense,” Amorim said of his nation and its 360,000-member armed forces, “and the United States is certainly a very important partner in this process.”
Amorim accepted Panetta’s invitation to visit Washington, adding that a convenient date must be found to continue his and the secretary’s “extremely productive and open” discussion.
After a press briefing with Amorim, Panetta met with retired Gen. Jose Elito Carvalho Sigueira, minister of institutional security and responsible among other duties for Brazil’s cyber security.
In April 2010, the two nations signed the U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Agreement, the provisions of which framed the discussion today.
During their meeting, Panetta and Amorim said they intend that defense cooperation between the nations will focus on priority categories of activity during 2012.
These include cyber security; science, innovation and technology transfer; logistics; communications; humanitarian assistance and disaster response; and cooperation in support of Africa nations.
Panetta said exchanging more information on cyber security will be beneficial in “a whole new arena. I think both of our nations are concerned about … how we can effectively defend against those potential attacks.”
About humanitarian assistance and disaster response, the secretary said Brazil has performed an outstanding role in Haiti since that island nation experienced a devastating and deadly earthquake and tsunami in January 2010.
“I commend them on the work they’ve done there,” Panetta added. “They have learned a lot of lessons with regard to humanitarian aid and we look forward to being able to share those lessons and to build even greater cooperation in this area in the future.”
Panetta and Amorim also discussed a shared desire to expand the nations’ already significant two-way trade in advanced defense technology,” he said.
“We think Brazil is a very important partner in that area,” the secretary added, “and we continue to look for ways to improve the technology we share with Brazil so hopefully Brazil can provide jobs and opportunities for its people as we provide jobs and opportunities for ours.”
The best such example is the United States’ entry into the Brazilian Air Force’s F-X2 fighter competition, in which it will compete with two other contenders.
“We’ve made a strong offer to provide the Super Hornet” Panetta said, a marine strike attack aircraft manufactured by an American company.
“It’s an advanced aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force, and we think it can help provide Brazil with the kind of fighter technology that it needs for the future,” the secretary said.
A key element in the recently unveiled new U.S. defense strategy “is to strengthen our global security partnerships in very innovative ways,” he said.
“That’s why this Defense Cooperation Dialogue is very important for us,” the secretary added, “because it provides a vehicle for Brazil and the United States to build an innovative defense partnership for the 21st Century.”
There was a time in the past when the United States discouraged countries in Latin America and Central America from developing military capabilities, Panetta said.
“The fact is, today we think the development of those kinds of capabilities is important,” he said, “and that if we can use those capabilities to develop the kind of innovative partnerships that I’m talking about, that will … advance the security of this region and the security of the countries involved.”
The secretary added, “We think this is a real opportunity. The United States, just like other countries, is facing budget constrictions with regard to the future. And what we believe is that the best way to approach the future is to develop partnerships, alliances [and] relationships with other countries, [to] share information, share assistance, share capabilities.”
In that way, Panetta said, “we can provide greater security for the future. That’s our goal, and I think that’s the goal of Brazil as well.”