Superior War College (La Escola Superior de Guerra)

By:  Leon Panetta
Date: April 25, 2012
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Thank you very much for that kind introduction and bom dia to all of you. It is a great privilege and a great honor for me to be here in Rio de Janeiro during my first visit to Brazil, and my first trip to South America as the United States Secretary of Defense.

This city is known across the world for its great beauty, its beaches, its natural wonders and its vibrant culture. I come from a coastal city in California. I was born in Monterey, California. And Monterey draws its history from a long legacy of Central and Latin America that contributed to its history over the years. As an Italian, I feel a very strong connection to this place and to its people and to its history.

It is especially gratifying to be here at the Escola Superior de Guerra. In Italian we say guerra, so I hope you understand, either guerra or guerra, we know what that's about. I am proud of the support that the United States offered in helping to establish this school in 1949, and I am proud of the connections that have been built between this institution and the United States Department of Defense. I know the National Defense University in Washington is very much looking forward to hosting General Cherem I believe that's next month, and to further enhancing our growing cooperation on professional military education.

This visit to Brazil is very meaningful to me because, like so many in the United States, I have felt a special kinship for Brazil. It is a kinship borne out of common values that we both share, common values that have enriched both of our nations that share abundant natural resources, nations that are made strong by our democratic institutions, and nations that are guided by a shared dream to forge a better world for our children.

Our nations have also been shaped by the common experience of our diverse people, from our ancient indigenous cultures to the legacy of African slavery, to the great many families that made their way to our countries from Europe and European immigration.

My own story is in many ways the story of the United States of America, and in many ways it is the story of Brazil as well.

I am the son of Italian immigrants who left Italy in the early 1930s to make a new life for themselves in the United States. Growing up, I would ask my father, "Why did you travel those thousands of miles to a strange country?" They came from a poor area of Italy, but in the very least they had the comfort of family. And I asked him "Why would you pick up, leave your family and travel all of that distance to a strange country?" And I will never forget his response. He said, "Because your mother and I believed that we could give our children a better life."

That dream, that conviction motivated millions of others to uproot their lives and set out for the New World. Millions came to the United States, and millions came to Brazil. Their story should remind all of us how much the United States and Brazil share in a common experience and common interests, including our common interest in advancing peace and security in the 21st century.

This shared interest in peace and security is the foundation of the strong and vibrant partnership that the United States and Brazil are building together -- a partnership where the goal is as simple as the immigrant dream of my parents: to give our children a better life, to give our children a more secure life.

Today I'd like to address the U.S.-Brazil defense relationship because I believe we are at a critical point in the history of our two nations where we have the opportunity to forge a new, strong, innovative security relationship for the future. We have before us a truly historic opportunity to build that defense partnership -- a strategic partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect, a partnership premised on our conviction that a strong and prosperous Brazil that takes its rightful place as a global leader in the world will be a force for peace and a model for other nations in the 21st century.

This opportunity comes as the United States finds itself at a crucial turning point after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war against al Qaeda and terrorism, a war against al Qaeda and al Qaeda's militant allies, particularly after the attack on 9/11. We have scored significant gains against al Qaeda. We have weakened al Qaeda's leadership and we have weakened their ability to carry out the kind of attacks that they conducted on 9/11. We have brought the war in Iraq to a responsible conclusion. And in Afghanistan we have begun a transition to Afghan security and governance and responsibility, and despite challenges -- and there remain real challenges that need to be confronted, but the reality is that because of the great leadership of General Allen, our commander of U.S. and NATO forces, the strategy that he has designed is working. It's succeeding. The goal of a secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is not a safe haven for terrorists to plan the kind of attacks that they planned on 9/11 -- that goal is within sight.

These transitions have allowed the United States to focus new energy on emerging opportunities and challenges across the globe, including here in the Western Hemisphere.

The international security challenges that confront us are still very real and very threatening. Transnational threats like violent extremism, the destabilizing behavior of nations like Iran and North Korea, we see now rising powers across Asia-Pacific and we see continuing turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa. At the same time, we are dealing with the changing nature of warfare, the proliferation of lethal weapons and materials, and the growing threat of cyberintrusion. The cyber area in many ways, I believe, is a potential battlefield of the future. And here in this hemisphere, we face illicit drug trafficking and natural disasters.

These challenges affect us all: our people, our economies, our future way of life. And the world is so deeply interconnected that they are truly beyond the ability of any one nation to resolve these challenges alone.

All of this is happening at a time in the United States when we are also confronting a record deficit and a record debt. Defense has a role to play in helping to reduce that deficit, but I do not believe, as someone who has been involved in budget issues throughout a great deal of my career in Washington -- I do not believe that we have to choose between national security and fiscal security, and for that reason at the Pentagon the chiefs of all of our services, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, all of our secretaries were involved in an effort to design a strategy for the United States defense force not just for today, but for 2020 so that based on that strategy we could make the important budget decisions that have to be made in order to create the United States defense force for the future. As a result of that effort, we have put forward a new defense strategy that aims to meet the challenges that I discussed -- in large measure to meet those challenges by reinvigorating our defense and security partnership across the globe.

Let me describe the key elements of that strategy. First, the United States military will become smaller and leaner as we draw down from the two wars, but the great strength of that force will be its agility, its flexibility, its ability to rapidly deploy when called upon, and the fact that it will always be technologically advanced.

Second, we will rebalance our global posture to emphasize the threats in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Middle East, in recognition of the many challenges and opportunities in those regions.

Third -- and this is of particular importance when it comes to this hemisphere -- we will seek to reinvigorate our security relationships throughout the world by building innovative defense partnerships, building alliances, building relationships particularly in Europe, Africa and here in the Western Hemisphere.

Fourth, we will ensure, as we must, that the United States military remains capable of confronting aggression and defeating any opponent anytime, anywhere. We must have the capability to confront more than one enemy at a time, and to be able to defeat them.

And lastly we must prioritize and protect investments in new technologies -- those technologies for the future such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, unmanned systems, space, cyberspace, special operations and the capacity to quickly mobilize when necessary.

This new strategy recognizes that the United States remains a global power, but that more and more nations are making and must make an important contribution to global security. We welcome and encourage this new reality because frankly it makes the world safer and all of our nations stronger.

It is with this strategic outlook that I've just described and this belief in the possibilities of new partnerships that I have come to Brazil. Yesterday in Brasilia, Minister Amorim and I began a new dialogue directed by President Obama and President Rousseff when they met earlier this month in Washington.

The Defense Cooperation Dialogue has the potential to help transform United States-Brazil defense cooperation because it provides a way for our two defense establishments to focus on areas where there is an unfulfilled potential for our two countries to do much more working together.

With Brazil taking its rightful place as a global leader, we recognize that the nature of our relationship in 2012 is and should be fundamentally different from what it was in 1824 when the United States was the first country to recognize an independent Brazil, or in 1942, when Brazil made the decision to enter World War II alongside the United States and later became the only South American nation to send troops into battle during that war. And also different from the 1908s and the 1990s when the U.S. assumed that it alone could provide security for this region.

Today, this is a relationship between two global powers, and we welcome Brazil's growing strength. We support Brazil as a global leader and seek closer defense cooperation because we believe that a stronger and more globally engaged Brazil will help enhance international security for all of us. With our deepening partnership, Brazil's strength is more than ever our strength.

We have already glimpsed some of the benefits in recent years as our defense relationship has moved steadily towards a closer cooperation. Let me give you a few examples.

In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, thousands of United States and Brazilian military personnel worked side by side to provide emergency relief to the Haitian people. It was our countries' largest combined military operation since World War II.

Only a few months after the earthquake in Haiti, the United States and Brazil signed two important agreements to facilitate defense cooperation and the sharing of sensitive military information.

Our two militaries also have expanded joint training and exercises. The United States military has been receiving more requests to participate in Brazilian-hosted military exercises and attend Brazilian military schools. For example, U.S. military personnel are once again training in the Brazilian army's Instruction Center for Jungle Warfare. Our naval personnel are exercising together on a regular basis both near and far, from the shores of Rio de Janeiro to the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Africa. And two years ago, the U.S. Air Force participated for the first time in the Brazilian Air Force's CRUZEX multinational air exercise. The U.S. Air Force looks forward to having Brazil participate in the Red Flag exercise next year.

And these are just a few examples of how much our cooperation has increased, has made our militaries stronger, and advanced regional and global security. I believe our defense relationship is now as strong as it has been at any point since World War II.

And still, I think we can all agree that there is much more we can do together, and that it is in all of our interests to pursue a shared vision of deeper defense cooperation that advances peace and security in the 21st century.

The dialogue that Minister Amorim and I began yesterday I believe will lay the groundwork to deepen cooperation across a range of areas in the future. For example, both Brazil and the United States have outstanding, world-class scientific and research communities that would benefit from an increased sharing of information and joint research in areas of defense. In the spirit of President Rousseff's "Science Without Borders" initiative, I would like to find a way for our defense institutions to improve cooperation on research through exchange programs between our scientific establishments and joint research projects.

Along these lines, I believe that cybersecurity holds great promise for increased cooperation. Cyber, as I said, in many ways represents the battlefield of the future. Cyber has the potential to cripple a nation, to take down its power grid system, to take down its governmental systems, to take down its financial systems. That is a real potential today. Both our nations have critical infrastructure that is targeted every day for intrusion and potential attack. For that reason, I believe both of our nations must leverage our extensive technical expertise and exchange more information on cyber policies, on training and on best practices.

Exchanges of best practices on defense support for civil authorities could also be helpful as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. I know the Brazilian people are very proud that their country will be hosting these important events, and I congratulate you on this achievement. The United States stands ready to share our own experiences and our own lessons learned in providing security for similar events of such global prominence.

Looking not only off the field, but beyond our borders, there are even more opportunities to heighten defense collaboration and cooperation in areas of shared interest. For example, both of our nations have historic connections to Africa and have a strategic interest in the stability of that continent. We should explore ways for our two militaries to work together to assist African militaries, such as by conducting combined exercises and by other forms of training to try to improve their ability to provide better security on what we all know to be a volatile continent.

Another international challenge is the threat of natural disasters, and here the United States and Brazil could move more closely cooperate to better respond when other countries -- particularly in this hemisphere -- call for international assistance in response to a major disaster.

As two economic powerhouses in this hemisphere, our two nations have built a flourishing trade relationship that includes extensive trade in the defense arena, but this, too, is an area ripe for growth. In particular, the United States seeks to increase high-tech defense trade flowing in both directions between our two countries.

I know that the United States export controls have sometimes created the impression that we seek to limit trade, but let me assure you that the United States strongly supports the sharing of advanced technologies with Brazil. In fact, the United States government has approved close to 4,000 export licenses -- requests that were made each year involving the export of significant technology to Brazil, ranging from weapons and aircraft to integrated combat systems for navy ships and submarines. This is on a par with the United States government's license approval rate for treaty allies, for our closest partners. Please make no mistake: we will work with you to advance defense trade.

Perhaps the most prominent example of our willingness to partner with Brazil on advanced defense technology is the United States government's offer to provide our Super Hornet fighter aircraft to the Brazilian air force. This offer, which has the strong support of the United States Congress, contains an unprecedented advanced technology sharing that is reserved for only our closest allies and partners.

But this offer is about much more than providing Brazil with the best fighter available. With the Super Hornet, Brazil's defense and aviation industries would be able to transform their partnership with U.S. companies, and they would have the best opportunity to be able to move into worldwide markets.

We fully understand that Brazil is not looking just to be the purchaser of a fighter aircraft, but rather a full-fledged partner in the development of cutting-edge aviation technology. We share that goal, and I am hopeful that the Brazilian government will ultimately choose to purchase the Super Hornet for the air force's next-generation fighter. We have put forward a very strong offer and it is an offer that reflects how important we believe the partnership is between the United States and Brazil.

From deepening scientific exchanges and defense trade to developing a common approach to meeting international security challenges in this hemisphere and beyond, I believe I will come away from my visit to Brazil deeply optimistic about the future -- the future of our defense relationship and the future of our cooperation and the future of our partnership. And in that light I look forward to hosting Minister Amorim in the next dialogue in Washington.

We understand that we won't agree on everything. No two countries, not even the closest allies, ever do. But I do believe that our common interests, our common values are so great and the possibilities that come from our cooperation are so tangible that we must seize this opportunity to build a stronger defense relationship in the future.

Let me close by telling you about U.S. Army Sergeant Felipe Pereira, a 28-year-old Brazilian who moved to America at the age of 17 to learn English at a Nebraska college and he now serves as a squad leader in the storied 101st Airborne Division.

Sergeant Pereira earlier this month was awarded one of the military's highest decorations, the Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary valor on the battlefield in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In the aftermath of a roadside bomb detonation that killed two of his teammates, Sergeant Pereira drove into enemy fire to evacuate wounded soldiers even though he was wounded himself.

His actions saved the lives of at least two others, and they reflect extraordinary bravery and extraordinary courage. They are a tribute to him. They are a tribute to his Brazilian heritage. And they are a tribute to the close ties of family and affection that bind our two nations together.

May his example guide all of us to work together, to fight together for that dream of our parents' -- the dream of a better and more secure life for our children and for a peaceful and more secure world for both of our nations in the 21st century.

Today the United States, Brazil, and for that matter all of the nations of this hemisphere, share a common destiny -- a destiny of hope, of peace, of prosperity, of security, and of democracy for all of our people.

Thank you very much.