U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta observes a Brazilian Marine Corps demonstration with Adm. Ferando Antonio at Governor's Island Marine Base, Rio de Janeiro, April 25, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 26, 2012 – On the second day of his first official visit to Brazil, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta yesterday addressed a war college audience, watched an amphibious assault demonstration by Brazilian Marines, and paid tribute to Brazil’s fallen heroes of World War II.
Panetta has met so far this week with military officials in Colombia and Brazil on a South American trip that aims to expand defense and security cooperation with countries that are important in the region and, increasingly, the world.
“The United States and Brazil begin with a very important strength,” Panetta told military officers at the Escola Superior de Guerra -- Portuguese for Superior War College. The secretary said the two nations share the same values and respect for human rights and democracy.
“And if, using that, we can begin to develop the kind of cooperative relationship that we have in the security area, I think our countries can not only help promote security in this hemisphere but can work together to try to promote peace in the world,” he said.
“This is the kind of partnership that is the future,” noted Panetta, who fielded questions after his lecture.
A Brazilian Navy fleet captain asked if a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan had reduced the power of the U.S. military and if recent and significant budget tightening represented a transformation or was just a way to save money.
“In many ways,” the secretary replied to the Brazilian captain’s question, “it represents taking into consideration all the factors you just talked about.”
Panetta explained how in a time of fiscal constraints Congress directed the Defense Department to reduce its budget by $487 billion over 10 years.
“My problem is that, even though after 10 years of war we are seeing some successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the war on terrorism, we still [have] major threats to confront in the world,” he said, noting the dangers posed by terrorist groups like al-Qaida, instability in North Korea and Iran, unrest in the Middle East, and cybersecurity threats.
In view of these threats, Panetta said he rejected across-the-board defense cuts in favor of four guidelines. The secretary vowed that the Defense Department would:
Maintain the world's finest military.
Avoid hollowing out the force. A smaller, ready and well-equipped military is better than a larger, ill-prepared force that has been arbitrarily cut across-the-board.
Achieve savings in a balanced manner, with everything on the table.
Preserve the quality of the all-volunteer force and not break faith with the men and women in uniform or their families.
Based on these guidelines and with input from all the services, the department developed “a defense strategy that would meet those goals and provide the force we need not just now but in 2020 and beyond,” Panetta said.
“At the same time we can’t avoid our responsibilities in the rest of the world,” the secretary added, “and that’s where this hemisphere comes into play.”
The United States must work with other countries, including Brazil, to develop innovative partnerships, he said. The United States military, he added, must invest in the technologies of the future -- cyberspace, unmanned systems, and space -- and appreciate the unique capabilities provided by special operations forces.
“We feel very good about the strategy [because] … it was developed not only because of the budget but because of what we felt we needed to put in place to keep our country strong for the future,” Panetta said. “And I recommend to all of you as students, there are elements of the strategy that Brazil and other countries ought to consider as you move forward.”
After the lecture, Panetta visited Brazil’s World War II Memorial here in Flamengo Park, established in 1965 to honor Brazilian troops killed while serving alongside U.S. troops in Italy.
Panetta and other U.S. and Brazilian officials toured a small museum there, and then placed a wreath in honor of the fallen heroes as rose petals released from the memorial structure drifted down onto the solemn crowd.
Later, at the Governor’s Island Marine Base, Panetta and his delegation watched from an observation post as Brazilian special operations troops staged an amphibious beach assault.
During the exercise, two special operations teams used inflatable boats to infiltrate the site of a radar station, “killing” an enemy lookout and reducing the station to splinters with a fiery explosion.
Automatic weapons fire, incoming helicopters, troops, amphibious craft, a tank-carrying landing craft and many colored-smoke-belching grenades completed the demonstration.
Toward the end of the day, Panetta visited the 130-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer, its arms outstretched at the top of the 2,300-foot Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city and the sea.
“In the world of today,” Panetta had said at the war college, “we believe it is important for other countries to develop their military capabilities and provide for security for their people and security for this hemisphere.”
The best way to deal with common challenges in today’s world, the secretary said, “is to work together, not apart.”
“That’s why I’m here in Brazil,” he added. “Because this is an important place to start that kind of relationship.”